Across the Margin: The Podcast
Episode 163: Steven Bernstein & Sexmob's The Hard Way
This 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.
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Episode 173: Louis Michot's Rêve du Troubadour46:21This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with musician Louis Michot, best known as the fiddle player and lead-singer for the Grammy-award winning Lost Bayou Ramblers. Rêve du Troubadour, the first solo album from Louis Michot and the focus of this episode, is set for release on September 22, 2023. Special guests on these recordings include Nigerian Tuareg guitar wizard Bombino and critically acclaimed singer / cellist Leyla McCalla, among others. Although known as a fiddle player, Michot can be found performing on guitar, bass, T’fer (triangle), samplers, percussions, and accordion on the album. Some of the eclectic, captivating tracks feature him playing every part, while others find him backed by bassist Bryan Webre and drummer Kirkland Middleton of the Ramblers. Middleton also engineered and mixed the album at Nina Highway Studios in Arnaudville, Louisiana with various, talented musicians building on tracks Michot had recorded at his home, houseboat studio. Though Michot has published over 100 songs, he feels that Rêve du Troubadour is his first collection of “writing” as these songs tell their stories in much greater depth than he’s achieved before and utilize words peculiar to Louisiana French which seldom appear in musical compositions. Michot’s passion for Louisiana French and local folklore, and sustainability in the fastest disappearing landmass in the world, are what fuels his career as a musician. With over 20 LPs under his belt, his music career continues to push the boundaries of the Louisiana French music traditions. In this episode host Michael Shields and Louis Michot discuss Michot’s Cajun roots and the varied influences that helped shape his unique musical stylings. They thoroughly explore Michot’s latest album, how it was crafted in his studio which was built in a houseboat dry-docked on his property, and how many of the soundscapes on it were inspired by nature and the ethnomusicologist Alan Lomax. They talk about the amazing guests featured on the album, what to expect from Michot’s forthcoming tour, Michot’s work in scoring films, and so much more.
Episode 172: Jewish Space Lasers with Mike Rothschild28:05This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast features an interview with journalist, author, and conspiracy theory expert Mike Rothschild. Mike has written two previous books, including The Storm is Upon Us: How QAnon Became a Movement, Cult, and Conspiracy Theory of Everything. He has been interviewed by CNN, MSNBC, NPR, the BBC, the Washington Post, and the New York Times, among many other outlets, to discuss conspiracy theories and has testified to Congress on the threat of election disinformation. His latest book, Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories, is the focus of this episode. Jewish Space Lasers: The Rothschilds and 200 Years of Conspiracy Theories is a deeply researched dive into the history of the conspiracy industry around the Rothschild family — from the “pamphlet wars” of Paris in the 1840s to the dankest pits of the internet today. Journalist and conspiracy theory expert Mike Rothschild, who isn’t related to the family, sorts out myth from reality to find the truth about these conspiracy theories and their spreaders. Who were the Rothschilds? Who are they today? Do they really own $500 trillion and every central bank, in addition to “controlling the British money supply?” Is any of this actually true? And why, even as their wealth and influence have waned, do they continue to drive conspiracies and hoaxes? In this episode host Michael Shields and Mike Rothschild explore just how the Rothschild family originally became the focus of countless antisemitic conspiracy theories while considering how the story of the Rothschild conspiracy theories is the story of modern antisemitism. They talk about the “myth to end all myths” involving the Battle of Waterloo, how authentically dangerous the Rothschild conspiracy theories are, how George Soros has become the present-day stand-in for the Rothschilds, and so much more.
Episode 171: Mike Baggetta & mssv's Human Reaction25:52This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast presents an interview with musician Mike Baggetta, one third of the experimental rock/punk band Main Steam Stop Valve (mssv). mssv recently released their second studio album, Human Reaction, a captivating collection of songs that is the focus of this episode. The band, composed of guitarist Mike Baggetta, Stephen Hodges on drums, and Mike Watt on bass, creates music that is an unimagined hybrid of a punk power-trio and a dreamy experimental rock band, though they prefer the term “post-genre.” Recorded mostly on May Day immediately following their last tour, Human Reaction traverses a deeply broad sonic landscape, as expected from this nearly unclassifiable group. With inventively churning drum textures from Hodges (an instantly identifiable sound honed in his days with Tom Waits and David Lynch) and the full-steam-ahead all-in attitude from Watt, (as he’s displayed throughout his storied career with MINUTEMEN, fIREHOSE, and The Stooges), there is still the impression of “pressure, combustion, power, and hissing clouds of sonic poetry,” as Premier Guitar puts it. Also evident is the more fearless exploring that comes from a band that has spent a lot of time together crafting their vision. In this episode host Michael Shields and Mike Baggetta discuss the origins of mssv before diving in deeply about how their second album came to life on the road. They discuss the band’s lyrical awakening featured on the album, working on music with Nels Cline, the forthcoming 58 date fall tour, and so much more.
Episode 170 : To Catch A Killer With Doug Greco32:46This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with author and political organizer Doug Greco. Greco has organized for over 15 years in Austin and San Antonio with the Industrial Areas Foundation, the nation’s largest and longest-standing network of faith and community-based organizations. Before that, he served as Director of Programs with Equality California, the nation’s largest statewide LGBTQ organization. His book, To Find a Killer: The Homophobic Murders of Norma and Maria Hurtado and the LGBT Rights Movement, is the focus of this episode. Despite monumental gains in legal equality over the past decade, the LGBTQ community still faces harsh disparities in physical and mental health, economic status, racial stratification, and hate crimes victimization. These factors compound for LGBTQ persons of color, low income individuals, immigrants, and members of the transgender community. In To Find a Killer — a finalist in the Writers' League of Texas 2021 Manuscript Contest for Nonfiction — Doug Greco explores the next phase of the LGBTQ rights movement and how issues of race, class, sexuality, gender identity, and economic status often intersect producing negative outcomes for members of the LGBTQ community. Beginning with a gripping, firsthand account of the 2011 anti-gay murder of twenty-four year-old Norma Hurtado, a student the Greco taught in an Austin high school ten years earlier, To Find a Killer employs a mix of narrative nonfiction and political analysis to uncover the intersectional nature of the disparities impacting the LGBTQ community. Drawing from his fifteen-years' experience as a grassroots organizer in Texas and California, Greco argues for the types of political organizations and public policies necessary to address these challenges. To Find a Killer charts a robust but pragmatic course for the LGBTQ movement today: investing in grassroots leadership development, rooting organizations in local civic and religious institutions, and focusing not just on legal equality, but a wider set of socio-economic issues.
Episode 169: The Beggar with Michael Gira (Swans)40:34This episode of Across The Margin : The Podcast features an interview with singer-songwriter, multi-instrumentalist, author, and artist Michael Gira. Gira is the founder of the band Swans, in which he sings and plays guitar. He is also the founder of Young God Records and previously fronted Angels of Light. The focus of this episode is on Swans latest release, a terrific album entitled The Beggar. Michael Gira founded the groundbreaking NYC band Swans in 1982. Initially notorious for their relentless, brutal, high-volume onslaughts of sound, the extreme, abject imagery of Gira’s lyrics, and his thundering vocals, Swans latest album, The Beggar, is a sprawling, sonically dizzying, and thought-provoking work of art that showcases the extreme abilities of a legendary frontman and band that somehow still sounds at the height of their talents. In this episode host Michael Shields and Michael Gira discuss the themes abounding in The Beggar and the influence Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges had on the album. They give a hat tip to the talented instrumentalists that were part of the project while exploring how birthing The Beggar during the pandemic affected the entirely captivating work of art. They dig into the ins-and-outs of the 44 minute track on the album entitled “The Beggar Lover” (Three)” where, in the episode, Michael reads a section of poetry found within the all-encompassing journey of a track. They also talk about what to expect from the upcoming tour, how Jim Morrison has inspired Michael throughout his life, and a whole lot more.
Episode 168: A House Made of Splinters with Simon Lereng Wilmont30:36This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with director Simon Lereng Wilmont. Simon’s first feature documentary film, The Distant Barking of Dogs (2017), premiered at IDFA and was awarded Best First Appearance. It has since gone on to win 35+ awards worldwide. His latest documentary, A House Made of Splinters, the focus of this episode, made its world premiere at the 2022 Sundance Film Festival where it won the Best Director prize in the World-Cinema Documentary competition. The celebrated film was an Academy Award Nominee for Best Documentary Feature Film for the 2023 Oscars® and has continued to be a word-of-mouth success and essential to dialogues around crisis-caregiving amid the Russian-led invasion of Ukraine. A House Made of Splinters explores how the most vulnerable are caught up within institutional bureaucracies, generational traumas, and international flexes of power beyond their control and limits of understanding. It’s a film, as Simon Lereng Wilmont tells it, about “the long term, less visible, but no less devastating consequences that war has had on many of the small communities situated along frontline of the war in Eastern Ukraine. It is also a story about love, compassion and hope. This is what powers the dedicated, big-hearted caregivers working tirelessly to try and give the children a better future, and what makes these incredible children still want to reach out and dare to try and form close human connections despite the tragic circumstances of the broken families that they come from. In this episode host Michael Shields and Simon Lereng Wilmont discuss the psychological and emotional trauma that is inflicted upon children in times of war. They discuss how profoundly special the shelter at the heart of the film and those working there are. They talking about the generation cycles of trauma caused from war, coping mechanisms that kids are drawn to in dire situations, the power of hope , and so much more.
Episode 167: The Age of Insurrection with David Neiwert49:47This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with journalist, author, and an acknowledged expert in American right-wing extremism, David Neiwert. Neiwert has appeared on Anderson Cooper 360, CNN Newsroom, and The Rachel Maddow Show and is the Pacific Northwest correspondent for the Southern Poverty Law Center. His work has appeared at Mother Jones, The Washington Post, MSNBC.com, and many other publications. His previous books include Of Orcas and Men: What Killer Whales Can Teach Us, And Hell Followed With Her: Crossing the Dark Side of the American Border (NationBooks: Winner of the International Latino Book Award for General Nonfiction), and Alt-America: The Rise of The Radical Right in The Age of Trump. He has won a National Press Club award for Distinguished Online Journalism and his latest book — The Age of Insurrection: The Radical Right’s Assault On American Democracy — is the focus of this episode. From a smattering of ominous right-wing compounds in the Pacific Northwest in the 1970s, to the shocking January 6, 2021 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, America has seen the culmination of a long-building war on Democracy being waged by a fundamentally violent and antidemocratic far-right movement that unironically calls itself the “Patriot” movement. So how did we get here? In his book, The Age of Insurrection, award-winning journalist Neiwert — who been following the rise of extremist groups since the late 1970s, when he was a young reporter in Idaho — explores how the movement was built over decades, how it was set aflame by Donald Trump and his cohorts, and how it will continue to attack American Democracy for the foreseeable future. In this episode host Michael Shields and David Neiwert get to the bottom of exactly how dangerous the radical right is at this juncture of American history. They break down the components of Trump’s Army while pondering how extremism has gone mainstream in a variety of ways. They talk about Steve Bannon’s role in spreading authoritarianism internationally, how the police have been infiltrated by the radical right, how organized the alt-right attacks are on democratic institutions at every level including local, state, and federal targets, and so much more.
Episode 166: Americonned with Sean Claffey30:53This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with director Sean Claffey who has more than 25 years in the film industry spanning feature films, industry documentaries, and commercials. His latest film, Americonned, is a documentary about income inequality in the U.S. and the tragic destabilizing effects it has on Americans. Radical inequality has led to radicalization at every level of society, and this powerful documentary depicts what happens when America hits its tipping point. Americonned looks back through American history at similar critical moments of instability and notes that the labor movement of the past was born in times like these. Despite an increase in productivity in recent decades, compensation for the American worker has been stagnant. In addition, 47% of American jobs are at high risk of being lost to automation and A.I. by the mid-2030s. In the United States, there has been an upward redistribution of over $50 trillion from the bottom 90% to the top 1% over the last 40 years. Politicians on both sides of the aisle have created a protection racket for the rich, and corporations are deliberately crushing unions. Americonned takes a hard and important look at a critical problem facing the United States and offers hope, through real life stories of those fighting back and working towards a rebirth of labor that is happening in America right now. In this episode host Michael Shields and Sean Claffey discuss Chris Smalls inspiring movement to unionize Amazon workers for the first time. They talk about just how rapidly the income inequality gap in America has grown in the past 40 years and the nefarious tactics many in power use to increase their own wealth while drastically eroding the middle class. They explore how A.I. will contribute to increased wealth inequality, how the wealth gap contributes to Democratic instability, and much more.
Episode 165: Scream of My Blood with Gogol Bordello's Eugene Hütz48:43This episode of Across The Margin: The Podcast presents an interview with Ukrainian-born artist, songwriter, and frontman of International punk band Gogol Bordello, Eugene Hütz. Hütz is a rare musical force, raucously illuminating stages alongside System of a Down, Rancid, and Dropkick Murphys, dueting with Regina Spektor, and cutting albums with Rick Rubin & Steve Albini. A lifelong lover of the punk scene growing up in Ukraine, Hütz found himself where he felt he belonged, in New York’s Lower East Side in the late 90s, where he went to shows and later performed at the legendary CBGB. Crashing at friends’ apartments and playing acoustic sets in NYC Ukrainian bars, his group, Gogol Bordello, steadily grew to an 8 piece multicultural band, combining Eastern, Western and Latin traditions. Hütz is a tireless advocate for Ukrainian solidarity, partnering with Nova Ukraine and ArtDopomoga, as well as putting together benefits with Patti Smith, The Hold Steady, Suzanne Vega, Magnetic Fields, Matisyahu and more. Hütz has also appeared in arthouse films such as Liev Schreiber’s Everything Is Illuminated with Elijah Wood, Filth and Wisdom helmed by Madonna and the documentary Gogol Bordello Non-Stop. On June 13th, a new documentary about Gogol Bordello, entitled Scream of My Blood: A Gogol Bordello Story, premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival. An intimate, career-spanning portrait of punk legend Eugene Hütz, Scream of My Blood chronicles Hütz’s childhood journey to the U.S., his rise to fame with Gogol Bordello, and his defiant return to Ukraine after the Russian invasion. Through never-before-seen photo and video archives spanning two decades — including concert performances, backstage moments, and intimate interviews — Scream of My Blood follows the epic journey of Hütz as he uses music as a rallying cry for the cultural identity of Ukraine while it continues its fight for sovereignty. Born in Ukraine to a family with Romani roots, Hütz fled his homeland during the Chernobyl disaster. Now, after years of exercising demons through his music, he journeyed home to face down the biggest demon of all. A wild punk-rock-doc that explodes off the screen, Scream of My Blood is a testament to the power of speaking your truth, no matter the cost. In this episode host Michael Shields and Eugene Hütz discuss what fans can expect from the new Gogol Bordello documentary and how the career-spanning look into the band found within Scream of My Blood came to life. They converse about Hütz’s early days in New York City and the band’s remarkable rise to prominence while exploring the bands that inspired Hütz’s unique sound, what Hütz thinks about the war in Ukraine and his recent visit to the front lines, wild stories of life on the road, and so much more.The song which closes the podcast, entitled “United Strike Back” is a Gogol Bordello collaborative charity Song For Ukrainian soldiers featuring Tre Cool (Green Day), Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys), Joe Lally (Fugazi, The Messthetics), Roger Miret (Agnostic Front), Monte Pittman (Ministry), Sasha (Kazka) & Puzzled Panther.