Across the Margin: The Podcast
Episode 162: Madvillain's Madvillainy with Will Hagle
This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Los Angeles-based writer Will Hagle. Will is a co-host of the Connecting The Classics podcast and a great deal of his work can be found on the webzine Passion of The Weiss. He is also the author of the excellent 33 ⅓ book dedicated to MF DOOM and Madlib’s album Madvillainy. The book — which is the focus of this episode — celebrates Madvillainy as a representation of two genius musical minds melding to form one revered supervillain. A product of circumstance, the album came together soon after MF DOOM's resurgence and Madlib's reluctant return from avant-garde jazz to hip-hop. Written from the alternating perspectives of three fake music journalist superheroes — and featuring interviews with Wildchild, Cut Chemist, M.E.D, Walasia, Stones Throw execs, and many other individuals involved with the album's creation — Will’s book blends fiction and non-fiction to celebrate Madvillainy not just as an album, but as a folkloric artifact. It is one specific retelling of a story which, like Madvillain's music, continues to spawn infinite legends. In this episode host Michael Shields and Will Hagle discuss both Madlib and MF DOOM’s origin story while expounding at length what makes Madvillainy such a special and enduring piece of art. They explore the somewhat disputed stories on how MF DOOM and Madlib connected for the project, and dig into how unique it was that Madvillainy existed as an album that straddled the analog and digital eras. They celebrate the song “Accordion,” as one of the most unparalleled songs in hip-hop history, remark on Madvillainy's profound influence in modern music, and so much more.
Grab a copy of Will Hagle’s Madvillainy 33⅓ here — and learn more about Will’s projects at his subtack.
Episode 164: Healing Walls with Larissa Trinder31:55This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with the senior director of the NYC Health + Hospitals Arts in Medicine program, Larissa Trinder. Larissa is one of the talented people behind the project that inspired the new book Healing Walls: New York City Health + Hospitals Community Mural Project (2019 - 2021) which commemorates a brilliant and benevolent three-year Community Mural Project that persists as a flagship of the NYC Health + Hospitals Arts in Medicine Program. Supported by the Laurie M. Tisch Illumination Fund, the Community Mural Project is designed to encourage creativity, lower stress, build trust, and to increase engagement between hospital staff and members of their surrounding communities. The murals also create space for joy as well as healing for patients and frontline medical workers who are always under enormous pressure and were hit especially hard during the COVID-19 pandemic. The Community Mural Project builds upon a mural tradition that began in the 1930s when the Works Progress Administration (WPA) supported the creation of murals in virtually every New York public hospital. Healing Walls — a beautiful coffee table book that was gifted to every H+H staff member who participated — vividly documents the ongoing community project as well as many WPA-era hospital murals with new scholarship and images. What’s best is — 100% of all sales of the book will benefit NYC Health + Hospitals Arts in Medicine programs. In this episode host Michael Shields and Larissa Trinder (and all too briefly editor and author Jan Rothschild) dig into exactly how the Community Mural Project initially came to life while exploring how the gifted artists who are participating in the project were selected. They discuss the cathartic power of art and how decades of research prove that the arts can play a role in “healing the healers” as well as improving patient outcomes and forging community health awareness and partnerships. They talk about the painting parties that occurred when the murals were first erected and the collaborative process that goes into creating each mural that ensures they are strong representations of their respective communities. They talk about the HHArt empathy workshops, a fascinating and important idea known as “Social Prescribing,” and so much more.
Episode 163: Steven Bernstein & Sexmob's The Hard Way36:03This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with musician trumpeter, slide trumpeter, arranger/composer and bandleader from New York City, Steven Bernstein. Steven is best known for his work in The Lounge Lizards, Sexmob, Spanish Fly, and the Millennial Territory Orchestra. He has released four albums under his own name on John Zorn's Tzadik Records and he has performed with jazz giants including Roswell Rudd, Sam Rivers, Don Byron, and Medeski, Martin & Wood, as well as musicians ranging from Aretha Franklin to Lou Reed, from Linda Ronstadt to Digable Planets, from Sting to Courtney Love. Steven was a member of Levon Helm's Midnight Ramble band, playing in Helm's Woodstock home, as well as touring with the band. As an arranger he has written for Bill Frisell, Rufus Wainwright, and Elton John, just to name a few. He has composed for dance, theater, film and television, and with composer John Lurie, arranged the scores to many feature films, including Get Shorty. While Steven is prolific with his output, this episode centers on two of his projects, Sexmob, which just released a terrific new album called The Hard Way, and The Millennial Territory Orchestra, which recently released four excellent records, in one day, on the Royal Potato Family label. Sexmob’s latest release is a bit of a departure for the band, as with producer Scotty Hard at the board, The Hard Way skews decisively electronic. On it, Hard’s beats and soundscapes provide Steven, saxophonist Briggan Krauss, bassist Tony Scherr and acoustic/electric drummer Kenny Wollesen, all the stimulus they need for further compose and fearlessly reinvent. With each offering, and certainly with The Hard Way and its rich electro-acoustic groove canvas, Steven and crew reveal a modernizing impulse, but also an equally strong foundation in the roots of jazz and American song. Funky, bluesy, with a tattered dissonance conjured up by Krauss Throaty saxophone tone, the distinctive wail of Steven’s rare horn, and the swagger of Scherr and Wollesen’s rhythm section grind, Sexmob continues to chart new paths in 21st-century creative music. In this episode host Michael Shields and Steven Bernstein talk about Sexmob’s new direction sonically found on The Hard Way while exploring the production process behind this captivating work of art. They converse on producer Scott Hard’s influence on the album, the unique art house label that The Hard Way was released on called Corbett vs. Dempsey, and the four albums Steven recently released with The Millennial Territory Orchestra. They even discuss Sexmob’s forthcoming tour with Laurie Anderson, the many “gifts” Steven received in his career from renowned producer Hal Willner, and so much more.
Episode 161: Shielded with Joanna Schwartz37:12This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast features an interview with Joanna Schwartz, a professor of law at UCLA, where she teaches civil procedure and courses on police accountability and public interest lawyering. Her writing, commentary, and research about police misconduct, qualified immunity, indemnification, and local government budgeting have been featured in The New York Times, The Washington Post, The Wall Street Journal, Forbes, Christian Science Monitor, ABC News, NBC News, CBS News, CNN, NPR, and elsewhere. Her latest book, Shielded: How the Police Became Untouchable, is the focus of this episode. In recent years, the high-profile murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and so many others have brought much-needed attention to the pervasiveness of police misconduct. Yet it remains nearly impossible to hold police accountable for abuses of power. The decisions of the Supreme Court, state and local governments, and policy makers have, over decades, made the police all but untouchable. In Shielded, Joanna exposes the myriad ways in which our legal system protects police at all costs, with insightful analyses about subjects ranging from qualified immunity to no-knock warrants. The product of more than two decades of advocacy and research, Shielded is a timely and necessary investigation into why civil rights litigation so rarely leads to justice or prevents future police misconduct. Weaving powerful true stories of people seeking restitution for violated rights, cutting across race, gender, criminal history, tax bracket, and zip code, Schwartz paints a compelling picture of the human cost of our failing criminal justice system, bringing clarity to a problem that is widely known but little understood. Shielded is a masterful work of immediate and enduring consequence, revealing what tragically familiar calls for “justice” truly entail. In this episode host Michael Shields and Joanna examine the legal principle of Qualified Immunity as well as Section 1983 of The Civil Rights Act which has been methodically made less powerful by the Supreme Court over the last five decades. They discuss the varying barriers to accountability that exist within the legal system and the myths that act as the backbone of justifying the protection of police misconduct. They explore changes that are occurring that might hint at a days ahead with more robust civil rights enforcement, and so much more.Grab a copy of Shielded: How The Police Became Untouchable here!
Episode 160: Future Sea with Deborah Rowan Wright30:32This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast features an interview with Deborah Rowan Wright, an independent researcher, ocean advocate, and marine-policy researcher who writes about marine conservation. She has worked with the UK NGOs Whale & Dolphin Conservation, Friends of the Earth, and Marinet. Her work on marine renewable energy, ocean governance reform, and public-trust law has been published by the International Whaling Commission and the Ecologist, among others. In 2010, her policy document The Ocean Planet formed an integral part of Marinet’s Common Fisheries Policy reform campaign, and it won her Friends of the Earth’s Communication of the Year Award. The world’s oceans face multiple threats: the effects of Climate Change, pollution, overfishing, plastic waste, and more. Confronted with the immensity of these challenges and of the oceans themselves, we might wonder what more can be done to stop their decline and better protect the sea and marine life. Such widespread environmental threats call for a simple but significant shift in reasoning to bring about long-overdue, elemental change in the way we use ocean resources. In Deborah’s book, Future Sea, she provides the tools for that shift. Questioning the underlying philosophy of established ocean conservation approaches, Rowan Wright lays out a radical alternative — a bold and far-reaching strategy of 100 percent ocean protection that would put an end to destructive industrial activities, better safeguard marine biodiversity, and enable ocean wildlife to return and thrive along coasts and in seas around the globe. Future Sea is essentially concerned with the solutions and not the problems and it shines a light on existing international laws intended to keep marine environments safe that could underpin this new strategy. Deborah gathers inspiring stories of communities and countries using ocean resources wisely, as well as of successful conservation projects, to build up a cautiously optimistic picture of the future for our oceans. A passionate, sweeping, and personal account, Future Sea not only argues for systemic change in how we manage what we do in the sea but also describes steps that anyone, from children to political leaders (or indeed, any reader of the book), can take toward safeguarding the oceans and their extraordinary wildlife. In this episode host Michael Shields and Deborah Rowan Wright discuss the bevy of threats facing the ocean and the countless reasons why protecting the oceans is so crucial. They consider how the oceans aid in fighting Climate Change, how the Public Trust Doctrine might be employed to help protect our oceans, small solutions we can all do to safeguard our seas, the magnificent sea creatures who call the oceans home that need our protection, and much, much more.
Episode 159: Mike Dillon & Punkadelick's Inflorescence32:52This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with prolific percussionist, vibraphonist, bandleader, and vocalist Mike Dillon. How many artists have been praised as a “punk rock provocateur,” “jazz vibraphone visionary,” and “percussion virtuoso”? There’s only one: Mike Dillon. Whether through his affiliation with artists like Les Claypool of Primus, Rickie Lee Jones, Dean Ween Group, and Ani Difranco, and collaborations such as Nolatet, Garage a Trois, The Dead Kenny G's, Critters Buggin, or bands he has led, including Mike Dillon Band, Mike Dillon's New Orleans Punk Rock Percussion Consortium, Billy Goat, and Hairy Apes BMX, the Texas-native has set his own standard for three decades now. Over the past decade, Mike Dillon has released a number of acclaimed albums, intertwining a range of influences from Zappa-esque eccentricity to Fishbone punk funk, D.C. Go-Go to Milt Jackson-influenced vibraphone majesty. His latest project, a trio that goes by the name Punkadelick, features Brian Haas (Jacob Fred Jazz Odyssey) on Fender Rhodes, piano, bass Moog and melodica, and Nikki Glaspie (Beyonce, Nth Power) on drums, cymbals, and vocals. Punkadelick’s latest album, Inflorescence, is an expansive 10-track collection, focused and fearless, representing a world where Duke Ellington and Augustus Pablo rub shoulders with crate-digger exotica, the freak-funk of Parliament, and the 'anything fits' outsider ethos of acid-fried punks like The Meat Puppets. In this episode host Michael Shields and Mike Dillon discuss the genesis of Punkadelick and what it’s like creating music with phenomenal talents such as Brian Haas and Nikki Glaspie. They discuss the botanical influence behind the album’s title, life on the road amid their current tour, the forthcoming tour with Les Claypool and The Fearless Flying Frog Brigade, and so much more.
Episode 158: Sentenced with Connor Martin & Tony Kriz45:09This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast features an interview with Director Connor Martin and Executive Producer Tony Kriz, part of the team behind the eye-opening new documentary Sentenced. Each year millions of kids are sentenced to a future they don’t deserve because of their inability to read, and Sentenced shines a bright light on this devastating problem. The motivation behind the film is simple — over 43 million Americans can't read well enough to get a job and support a family. The film posits there are actually no illiterate children, just children who haven't learned to read yet. Sentenced exposes this tragic reality and presents a solution for overcoming failing systems and preventing kids from disappearing into society's margins. Filmed from the point of view of ethnically diverse adults and children who have never learned to read, Sentenced is a powerful yet tender tale of how literacy can free children from the cycles of generational poverty. In this episode host Michael Shields, Connor Martin, and Tony Kriz discuss the staggering number of adults in the United States who score low in literacy while considering the small window of time that children are afforded the opportunity to learn how to read. They discuss the role of a parent or adult in learning to read and write, how experiencing trauma early in life affects a child’s ability to process information, how illiteracy is passed down through generations in families, and so much more.
Episode 157: To Pimp A Butterfly with Sequoia Maner52:23This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Sequoia Maner, Assistant Professor of English at Spelman College. She is author of the poetry collection Little Girl Blue (2021) and co-editor of the book Revisiting the Elegy in the Black Lives Matter Era (2020). Her poem “upon reading the autopsy of Sandra Bland” was a finalist for the 2017 Gwendolyn Brooks Poetry Prize. Her essays, poems, and reviews can be found in venues such as Meridians, Obsidian, The Langston Hughes Review, The Feminist Wire, Auburn Avenue, and elsewhere. Sequoia is also the author of the 33 ⅓ book dedicated to Kendrick Lamar’s seminal album To Pimp a Butterfly, which is the focus of this episode. Breaking the global record for streams in a single day, nearly 10 million people around the world tuned in to hear Kendrick Lamar's sophomore album in the hours after its release. To Pimp a Butterfly was widely hailed as an instant classic, garnering laudatory album reviews, many awards, and even a canonized place in Harvard's W. E. B. Du Bois archive. Sequoia’s book takes a deep dive into the sounds, images, and lyrics of To Pimp a Butterfly to suggest that Kendrick appeals to the psyche of a nation in crisis and embraces the development of a radical political conscience. Kendrick breathes fresh life into the Black musical protest tradition and cultivates a platform for loving resistance. Combining funk, jazz, and spoken word, To Pimp a Butterfly's expansive sonic and lyrical geography brings a high level of innovation to rap music. Kendrick's introspective and philosophical songs found on this brilliant work of art launched him into another stratosphere of stardom and influence. In this episode, host Michael Shields and Sequoia Maner explore how a trip to South Africa, and the great Tupac Shakur, inspired the themes and soundscapes of To Pimp a Butterfly. They discuss the impact the empowering track “Alright” had on the protest movement and Black Lives Matter, the collaborative effort it took to bring such a complex album to life, and so much more.Grab a copy of Sequoia Maner’s To Pimp a Butterfly 33 ⅓ here!
Episode 156: The First Step with Louis L. Reed & Brandon Kramer36:33This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast features an interview with Louis L. Reed who organized a national grassroots network of reform activists after serving fourteen years in federal prison, and Brandon Kramer, a Washington, DC-based filmmaker and co-founder of Meridian Hill Pictures. Brandon directed City of Trees. and the Webby Award-winning independent documentary series The Messy Truth. Brandon won Best Director at the 2016 Chesapeake Film Festival and Indie Capital Awards, received the Audience Choice Award at the 2015 American Conservation Film Festival and was a 2015 DC Commission on the Arts & Humanities Individual Arts Fellow. He has directed over 30 short documentaries commissioned by public agencies and nonprofits including AARP and US Institute of Peace. Before starting Meridian Hill Pictures, Brandon served as a teaching artist for the John F. Kennedy Center’s national media education program. Brandon’s latest documentary, The First Step, finds activist and famed CNN correspondent Van Jones, in a divided American, controversially working across party lines on landmark criminal justice reform and a more humane response to America's addiction crisis. Attempting to be a bridge builder in a time of extreme polarization takes him deep into the inner workings of a divisive administration, internal debates within both parties, and the lives of frontline activists fighting for their communities. Facing fierce opposition from both political parties in a climate where bipartisanship has become a dirty word, Jones and his team enlist the support of justice-impacted individuals, faith leaders, grassroots activists and cultural figures — including Kim Kardashian — to pass legislation that would fix some broken aspects of the justice system and bring thousands of incarcerated people home early. The bill’s champions immediately find themselves navigating a high-stakes game of political chess in Washington, D.C. Their quest brings them face-to-face with progressive champions like Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, U.S. Senators Kamala Harris and Bernie Sanders, as well as conservative figures like U.S. Senator Rand Paul, Kellyanne Conway, Jared Kushner — and ultimately, Donald Trump himself. While trying to pass a bipartisan bill through a deeply polarized Congress, Jones is condemned by the right for his progressive beliefs — and by the left for working with conservatives. The film reveals an intimate portrait of an activist’s isolation and internal struggles, what it takes to make change in a divided nation, and everyday people in both political parties drawn into a historic fight for freedom and justice.The First Step is screening this weekend (2.17.23) at The Justice Film Festival. The Justice Film Festival is the premier showcase for films that shine a light on social justice and affirm the dignity of all people. Learn more about the Justice Film Festival here, including showtimes and schedule of all events.