Monday, June 29, 2020

HEKKA BLAKING - On The Virtual Road with AL1CE Tour Report 6/29/2020

“Blaking The Hekka” - On The Virtual Road with AL1CE Tour Report (working title)

Mark Sugiyama
Eclectic Arts

Written on:


“Hekka Blaking” - On The Virtual Road with AL1CE Tour Report


As I sit here on my pandemic era 50th birthday, it is one day after the INSIDE/Out Virtual Tour with AL1CE came to a close. From May 22nd - June 15th (with only Blackout Tuesday “off”), the band accomplished a feat most artists wouldn’t dare attempt - a complete virtual tour with other bands and DJ’s, and some guy opening the shows with interviews from around the arts world. They incorporated every US time zone and also accommodated the Algerian time zone as well during this tour. And they had never attempted something like this before. Ever.

As I told more than one guest during pre-show, they could have made it easier on themselves by just making everything PST/PDT and have the other acts work around that. But in the world of AL1CE they wanted to look at the best show possible, including their old friends and new friends, and make sure they are finding a happy medium that works for all schedules. This included having Eclectic Arts join them on this inaugural virtual tour.

Forgive me if I skip around through the memories but there are just so many, it’s easier to write from what I feel than what I chronologically know. I’m also an old man now so I get to use that lame excuse, too.

May 9th (as I said in my last show introduction on June 15th) was the message from Tash that started this whole thing. Well, actually, it would go back a bit further to the written interview Tash was working on for me. Due to the pandemic, I was looking for other avenues to add content to Eclectic Arts. I had reached out to her about doing a written interview which she graciously obliged. During that process is when the idea came to Tash about including me in this upcoming virtual tour. I believe the wording was a variety show - and having me open the shows would be a great addition.

I initially said I needed to think about it/sleep on it. Why did I say this? There were a few different reasons. One - to be honest, I had gotten into a cycle of really not doing a whole lot during the pandemic. I wasn’t working. I didn’t qualify for unemployment. My schedule was all out of whack, I wasn’t sleeping well, and the thought of doing something with the band was initially quite daunting. I hold them in great esteem so being involved with them meant I knew I would make myself bring my “A” game. And the thought of doing that made me tired all over.

Another reason was that I was applying for “pay the bills” jobs and I didn’t know what my future schedule looked like. I ended up doing a job interview the week the tour started which was kind of funny to think back on as I had my Zoom interview with the employer on the opposite side of my dining room table - basically everything in reverse of how the virtual interviews I did were set up.

But, perhaps the most important reason was that I know how I am. When I commit to something like this, you will get 100% commitment from me. I won’t make excuses and I will give you everything I have. Having been burned multiple times in the past, I have since grown accustomed to doing everything myself (for the most part) when it comes to certain endeavors - like Eclectic Arts. I’m not a control freak and I do play well with others - but I also have a side of me that comes out when things aren’t as good as they could be (details and knowing what’s coming up on any given schedule). So, typically, I will always ask questions ahead of time to make sure I’m able to live up to the commitment of any given project. And add in I am very critical of myself and my work so I can sometimes be my own worst enemy. But, once I say yes, then you’ll get everything I have and then some.

So, knowing all of this, two days later I asked for more clarification about what this virtual tour would look like specific to my involvement. After hearing what Tash had to say, I said to myself, “dude - you’re being asked to go on the road with one of your favorite bands - what’s the matter with you?” Tash made it as easy for me as possible, too - offering multiple ways this could work to accommodate my schedule and needs. At that point I knew I was in for the whole tour. If I was going to be a part of this, let’s jump into the deep end and see what pancakes arise, if any. You know I had to work that in there somewhere!  ;)

At that point, on May 12th I believe, I really didn’t sleep much for the duration of the lead up to the tour as well as during the tour itself. My mind was already spinning in terms of guests to invite, what I wanted this segment to look like, equipment I would need to make do with (I do not have much technology here nor the funds to purchase any since I had no income), and more questions to ask the band. This is typical of me - my mind going into overdrive when it comes to a task at hand. Most of the time it benefits me, every now and then it works against me.

On Friday May 15th, at 6pm PDT, I had a video call with the band. I had not seen them in three and a half years. They were all situated around Steve’s kitchen, coming and going, as they were getting things ready for the tour. I met Carl for the first time and got a peak at what they had up and running thus far. I was getting more excited about this opportunity after that video call but also more anxious as well. But I have to tell you - it felt really, really good to see and hear them again. Everything I felt in 2017 came flooding back and I knew, I knew I had made the right decision.

During the discussion, the band had told me they were doing a dress rehearsal on Wednesday May 20th. It made sense to run through my segment as well which they agreed with. I asked my friends in Paper Nova if they could help out which they did with no hesitation. Before I carry on, I should explain something here.

I have never done a vlog, instructional video, or any sort of “look at the camera” content for YouTube. I never post videos of myself talking on Instagram or Facebook, etc. Still photo selfies - yes - but never video.

I have zero background in theatre, communications, journalism, acting, newscasting, or hosting for that matter. So, the idea of hosting the opening segment of this tour was overwhelming to me. Breaking the fourth wall, having a show introduction (mini monologue if you will), guest introductions, etc - all of this was new to me. The interviewing portion wasn’t new but the format surely was. So, just the hosting portion had my brain in overdrive and it was making me anxious.

I decided to use several talk shows as a guide and prepare accordingly. Have some sort of opener that doesn’t change, something that identifies with the audience and respects them. I don’t remember how much time I spent on the eventual opener of, “Good evening, good morning, good afternoon….” but it wasn’t much. It just felt natural since anyone in the world could be tuning in, regardless of what time the show started. Saying the name of the tour and introducing myself was no brainer branding as well. I had written the opening down on a piece of paper but transferred it to two sticky notes (see my social media - those are the actual post its I used for the duration of the tour). I still have the original paper I wrote it down on as well.

I am also a planner. I always look down the road, even for things as simple as, for example, if I’m going to need cash for a show this weekend (pre-pandemic) then earlier in the week I will plan to get some at the grocery store, credit union, etc. My parents are both like that and they instilled that in my brother and I. This works well for me - but it also can be a nuisance when I’m working with others. If I’m in charge of the task, then I can do what I want for the most part. If I’m not, however, then I need to back off and let the chips fall where they must before moving forward with my own plans. This is a constant work in progress.

Back to the dress rehearsal. I was nervous. Let me tell you - I’ve had to do trainings with over 175 people in attendance for two hour stretches and those were a complete cake walk compared to talking into the camera for 30 minutes. Crazy I know - but it’s very, very true. We did the practice interview and I ended it about 8 minutes short. I figured I had the lay of the land and could work things out before Friday the 22nd - the start of the tour. I think in hindsight I also just wanted to be done with it. I felt kinda good about the process but that didn’t last long.

I had been thinking about different potential guests in my head before we even did the video call. I have been incredibly fortunate to know and maintain friendships with some of the local artists here in Seattle. I immediately reached out to a few of them and even without having a day or time, seven of them committed to being on the show. That made me breathe a little easier, but not much. The way I looked at it was as long as I got the first four or five days scheduled, then I’d be good. I can always lock down more guests during the course of the tour (but that wasn’t my preference being the planner that I am).

Then I started to think, oh shit, what if those initial seven can’t do the beginning of the tour (I had explained to each of them that the tour was from 5/22 - 6/14 (I didn’t know it was going through the 15th until a few days later). So, I started to ask more folks about coming on the show just in case so I could fill in those early dates. I didn’t want to cast a wide net at all - which made things tougher - but ultimately for the best. I mentioned in the one of two Tea Times I attended that I was very intentional with my guest invites.

I wanted a wide array of artists. Musicians of course. Dance/ballet. Authors/journalism. Film/TV. Theatre. Musical theatre. Opera if I could find someone. Craft beer (beer was in the first issue of Eclectic Arts). Food. Art. A truly eclectic range of artists.

Then the sub-categories were female representation. People of color. LGBTQ+. I did not have a big board with a map on it of potential artists. Instead I wrote a few people’s names down on a small notepad and then started thinking “who do I know, who do I know”...most of this was done late at night while trying to fall asleep.

I would constantly look at my list as new people confirmed and make sure I wasn’t overlapping too much. As the list came together, I decided not to play it safe (the band wasn’t with this venture so why should I - again intention and following their lead) and reached out to people that had followings, people I had little to no contact with previously, etc. As I mentioned in a few of my show introductions, I used how I felt about AL1CE as a band and as people, and that helped drive my invitations. I may ask an artist who seemingly has very little to do with the band but when you meet them and hear them interviewed, they should exhibit similar qualities to why I think so highly of AL1CE. If you watched most or all of the interviews, then you know I brought this fact up whenever a parallel between a guest and the band came up during the interview. “That’s similar to AL1CE, you know one of the members of AL1CE said the same thing, etc” Building bridges, bringing people together.

On Tuesday the 19th I had booked Jim from Foggy Noggin Brewing to be on the show. Overnight the thought popped into my head about product placement. I have absolutely zero shame when it comes to promoting a product I actually believe in. So, I reached out to Jim about being a product sponsor for my segment of the tour. No money involved - only product. He liked the idea so we agreed to meet on Thursday the 21st to pick up the goods.

Now, let me tell you all this, I have an old car, it’s a 1991. Yeah, it’s old - just like me. The morning I drove out to Foggy Noggin Brewing, when I got there, I noticed some steam coming from the front of my car as it idled. Oh no. I picked up the goods (curbside pick up as I have a compromised immune system) and attempted to drive back home. The temperature gauge almost went back to normal for a stretch but then it started to overheat. I was 10 minutes away from my normal garage so I chanced it and barely made it there without having a major issue with my car. So, with all the work to do getting ready for the tour, the pandemic, no income, and now car issues, I was feeling the stress to put it mildly.

Fortunately, I have family that lent me their car so I could drive home and use it until my car was fixed. Money to fix my car was another matter but you get the point - it just added more stress.

Along the way Sasha asked if I felt up to it, could I try cutting a bumper to use in between segments on the live stream. Again, I have never done anything like this before. But, I gave it a whirl. Sasha liked the first attempts so I did a second attempt wearing a different t-shirt and then a third attempt wearing a red dress shirt (which ended up being the ones used during some of the livestreams). I stayed up plenty late trying to do those last ones as I would flub lines, venture off on some weird tangent, or do something behaviorally that I didn’t like. I didn’t use a script - only Sasha’s general notes and then I winged it. But it was also good practice. I needed to get used to talking to the camera lens and not the screen on my device before Friday.

If you look at my Instagram (eclecticartsmedia), that week before the tour kicked off, I posted one video a day promoting the tour. I did this as practice, as promotion of course, and as something for me to look back on later (review and learn from).

Things were coming together as Friday May 22nd approached. I remember staying up late that night practicing my hosting talk into the camera. Eventually, I was like there’s only so much you can do - let’s just go with what we got and see what happens tomorrow.

An aside - once the tour opener was getting closer, I made a few videos for the guests to explain lighting and audio. Kinda funny since I had issues with both at some point during the tour but I digress. I junked the videos and instead just used still photos that I embedded in an information document for the guests to read. Each guest was emailed this document that changed as the tour went on.

The original information sheet was way, way too long. I tried to shorten it, got feedback from Paper Nova, and adjusted it as much as I could. I geared it toward a potential guest that was quite bizarre with his replies to me when initially trying to set something up with him. I figured if he could understand it, anyone could. Btw: I never booked that guest who shall remain nameless.

I made a basic spreadsheet so the band could see what guests I had booked, where the holes were, etc. The band had asked about possibly doing an interview with some of the dancers from the “Ordinary World” video since they were in it and it made sense on the opening night since that was the premiere of the video. I said sure - two would be my preference so I can go more in depth - but I can roll with more. As you saw we had four talented ladies for that first interview.

All of this so far may seem like a lot of work but it was small compared to what the band were dealing with. I often said they’re doing the heavy lifting, I’m just following their lead. And with that if I had questions, I tried to keep them to a minimum. I knew they had a ton to do so I didn’t want to add to their plates unless it was something that I really needed to know or if it would affect more than one of my scheduled guests.

As I type all of this it's just unreal that I haven’t written about the start of the tour yet. Goodness.  I’m going to jump to guests if you don’t mind? I’ll do it by show.

Friday 5/22 - the tour opener with Lennon, Nichelle, Kasmira, and Sheena. I was a nervous wreck. And I’m not exaggerating. I remember I had to do some errands that morning and I was doing ok. By the afternoon I started to go over things, practice, write my show notes, guest notes, topics, etc. I changed into my “interview” clothes for the night. By the time we got to like an hour before we went live I was already sweating (and I don’t sweat much normally). We did tech 30 minutes before show time. The guests were all logged in and everything looked good. They all knew each other so they were talking and catching up. I meanwhile didn’t say anything to them (which was horrible of me and the exact opposite of how I approach interviews) but I was just trying not to pass out as I reviewed my notes and my process I had planned in my head for the interview. I remember I even said I’m not trying to ignore you as I fumbled around through my things. Probably the last five minutes or so I said a few things to them as a group.

I haven’t watched any part of that interview - yet. I will once I edit it out of the livestream. But I can say I think it went better than I thought it did at the time. The ladies were great and having four of them meant I had less work to do (compared to one guest).

This was also a hard day for me as my friend’s mother had passed two days prior. I dedicated the show to her memory before we launched into the interview. Only one of two dedications I did the whole tour. I choked up the first time I practiced saying the dedication that afternoon. I thought about scrapping it for the actual show but left it in. I’m glad I did.

Saturday 5/23 - Eva Tavares (Phantom Of The Opera). I had promoted Eva Tavares’s appearance heavily. I honestly didn’t think she was going to agree to be interviewed. When she said yes, I was over the moon - but I also started to over think her appearance a bit. The one plus was that the first show was now done so I felt at least 50% of the anxiety leave my body once Friday’s show was done.

I took a picture of my show notes for Eva and posted them on Instagram (which became a daily ritual for every guest). I dressed up since I was going to the theatre to see her perform in Phantom Of The Opera (figuratively of course).

Instead of asking Eva to tech/pre-show chat 30 minutes ahead of time, I thought 15 minutes would be enough since it was just one guest tonight. Bad idea, Mark.

She logged in right at 15 minutes prior to us going live as asked. I only had an email for her so it wasn’t like I could text her or FB message her instantly (I try to give my guests as much privacy as possible). Scott said he could see her logging on to the Zoom room but she kept dropping off. Breathe, Mark. That 50% less anxiety on Saturday was now back up to 100% and climbing past the century mark.

As we got to the start of the show and Scott was working with her to figure out the issue, we kept eating into her segment. If I had asked her to join 30 minutes earlier, this wouldn’t have been an issue. Now we were 14 minutes late. During this time texts were coming to my phone (that’s what I used for every interview - not a desktop, laptop, tablet, etc) so those were annoying me and making me sweat that much more. I should have turned off my notifications. Fortunately, Scott figured out the issue with her connection (which was Zoom on her phone I believe) - and we we’re off and running. I had to scrap my show intro and go right into her intro so I wasn’t at my best. My jacket was all bunched up weird by my shoulders because I forgot to straighten it out due to my nerves and if you watch the interview again, you’ll see what I mean. My voice was kinda higher pitched than normal from nerves and, goodness, what a mess I was. She was so awesome - and as you all know now - gracious enough to come back a second time to make up for the short session. Believe me, she easily could have said no, but she didn’t and that made me so very happy and grateful. But, I had a lot of work to do on my end as I had to get command over my nerves before the third show.

Sunday 5/24 - Paper Nova. You would think interviewing my friends band, and the dress rehearsal subjects, would make me at ease. And it did to a degree. But I wasn’t about to assume anything so I only hoped things would go well. Oddly enough they were both super nervous for the interview they told me during the pre-show (or after our interview, I forget which).

The interview went well - I lasted the whole 30 minutes - and I felt like I was finally on the road to getting a handle on these interviews. When I re-watched it, I didn’t like the “host” behavior I had practiced. It didn’t seem genuine and it just wasn’t me. So, I made a mental note to change that for the fourth interview. When it was me making self deprecating remarks about my lack of hair or what have you during the interview, that seemed like me. So, I used that experience to shape the interviews moving forward.

I remember after our interview, I FaceTimed them to get feedback so I could improve. Again, I’m always looking for ways to get better - push, push, push.

Monday 5/25 - Mike from Mike’s Drum Tracking. We used to go to high school together but we weren’t close friends. We had friends in common in the band room so we would always see each other around campus. I hadn’t seen Mike since high school or so (maybe a brief stop a year or two after high school) until fast forward to 2018 when through a mutual friend we met up at a concert here in Seattle. So it’s been two years since I had seen or spoken with Mike before the interview. This was the interview where I felt like I was becoming more of myself and I wasn’t so caught up in the host business or how to portray myself live. After I re-watched it, I was like, yeah, this is what I should be doing from here on out.

Tuesday 5/26 - Mariah Belgrod. Mariah and I had done an in person interview in January of this year (check it out on my YT channel). It had been in the works since August 2019. I had only seen her perform once and that was enough for me to want to interview her. So, I was glad she could find the time to do the virtual interview. As you saw in the interview, she is very down to earth, very “present” when spoken to, a really talented young lady, etc. A positive force that I hope does big things in the years to come. I enjoyed our interview and thought, aside from the audio issue, I was still on the right path. Earbuds would be used for every interview moving forward to improve the audio.

Wednesday 5/27 - John Krauser. John was one of the guests I had had zero interaction with prior. I only knew him from a FB group that he helps moderate. I liked his responses, his comedy, and his kindness toward the members of that group. So, when this opportunity arose, I decided to reach out to him to see what he actually does and when he told me, I invited him to come on the show. I’m glad I did as he was also very genuine, funny, and a good guy. I’d have him back on in an instant.

Thursday 5/28 - Tony Kay. This one was for me first, for the viewers second. I wanted a journalist and interviewer that was a direct influence on how I conduct my own interviews. If you saw the interview, then you know this was discussed from the get go. Tony is an amazing writer, interviewer, and film historian. Without him, I don’t know if I would have even thought of doing guest introductions, let alone in the manner in which I did them. Thank you Tony!

Friday 5/29 - Wade Murff. I had never had any interaction with Wade prior. I only knew him from social media because I followed him. I had interviewed Doyle three times in person but had never met or spotted Wade at any of the gigs (the two that he was a part of) unless he was on the stage. So, I honestly didn’t know what to expect from Wade. This particular day was just all around hard for me. The culmination of everything going on with this tour, personal matters, and the build up to the protests and the world outside just hit me and kept me down the entire day. Fortunately, when we did the pre-show talk we found we had things in common, were feeling the stress of the current events going on, and by the time we went live, the interview was arguably one of the best ones of the tour. I wasn’t the only one that picked up on this fact as people wanted me to get Wade back on. Fortunately, he obliged.

Saturday 5/30 - Eva Tavares II. I was so happy that Eva agreed to come back on and do a proper thirty minute interview. Her pre - show talk was one of the ones I hold dear to my heart but I won’t divulge what was discussed for privacy’s sake. Her appearance was one of my favorites. I’ve re-watched it more than a few times.  I loved hearing the behind the scenes stories, especially about  her first night on stage in Vancouver, BC.  She is such an engaging personality - I was very fortunate to get to spend the time with her that I did.

Sunday 5/31 - Tobias The Owl. One of the first artists I thought of when this opportunity came my way. We have history together and this one was also an opportunity to let more people out there know about this fantastic artist and human being. We played music together a few times in the old days. I was very glad he could come on as he was an early supporter of Eclectic Arts and vice versa. The fact he had worked 58 days straight or something crazy like that is a testament to his dedication to his field (radiology). He is one of the most fascinating people I know.

Monday 6/1 - Erica Vincent. For some of these arts areas, I knew I wanted to pick one guest - provided they agreed to come on the show. Erica fit the bill in several ways. One was that I admire her work. Two she’s in L.A. Three she’s a female photojournalist in a field filled with males. And fourth - I didn’t know much about her other than being at some of the same shows in the pit. As I said earlier in this report, I was intentional with the guests I invited. Things were crazy at this point everywhere in the world with the fringe looters and firestarters. It was a tense time and we both could feel it as we talked pre-show. Erica used to work as a nurse for a decade or so - and her empathy is very evident. I think it’s one of the reasons we get along so well. When I was having a shit day during the tour - she reached out privately to ask how I was and if I needed anything. I’m so very glad she was a guest on the show.

Wednesday 6/3 - Heather Edgley. Heather and I were working on a written interview when I asked her about this new opportunity. We had known “of” each other but had never met in person, only the occasional social media comment here and there. I saw her sing backup with Tobias The Owl like three years ago - that was my only “interaction” with her. With her new EP coming out, and her being local, it was a great opportunity to get to know her better and for her to get her music out there.

Thursday 6/4 - Michael Leavy. Michael had reached out to me after I reviewed a film he was in called, “Penance Lane” (a film I enjoyed btw). He had directed a film called, “Abnormal Attraction”, and asked if I would review it. I said yes and long story short - I didn’t like the film. I told him as much before he read my review. Being a fellow creative, I told him I had no problem taking the review down if it was going to hurt his future projects. Before he could respond to me, I took it down anyway. I didn’t feel good about having a negative review online from an independent artist. The other thing was that I liked some of his other work. Instead of being defensive about the whole thing, he was professional and accepting of my critique. That in and of itself spoke volumes about what kind of person he was. I knew I wanted to ask him to come on the show as soon as I started scheduling folks. Great guy and I enjoyed our interview - can’t wait for the new film he’s working on, “Stream”.

Friday 6/5 - Wade Murff II. Keep in mind this whole week from the 29th of May through to this day, the protests were going on all over the world. So, in one short week, things really intensified everywhere. Our pre - show chat covered that and it bled into the live interview because it really needed to. I said it more than once during my show introductions that it didn’t feel right to just start off all hunky dory without at least acknowledging how I felt about what was going on in the world. I felt the stress just like everyone else. I also found out prior to this interview that Wade sang which I didn’t even know before the first interview. So, the demand for another appearance coupled with these other facts, made it an easy decision - and this was another great interview. I plan on inviting Wade back for a new interview at some point, hopefully soon.

Saturday 6/6 - Zarah Mahler. I wrote a review of the hit film, “The Wretched”, back in late April I want to say or early May. She replied to it online as I mentioned how her performance was a stand out in my review (it is if you haven’t seen the film yet, go watch it). I followed up with her about doing a written interview which she was interested in doing. Then Tash contacted me about this virtual tour opportunity and we all know the rest of the story. ;)

I told Zarah that I had this new opportunity instead of doing the written interview and she gladly accepted my invite.

Upon doing my research for her interview, here was another person I had never met and had no interaction with other than scheduling the interview. She was a musician which I found very interesting, as well as her theatre/Broadway background. Her music was very personal and intense the first time I listened to it. I actually was a little apprehensive about what she would be like as a guest because there wasn’t much out there on her, interview wise. Upon doing the first interview, I found her genuine, engaging, with a personality that was intriguing - someone that wouldn’t be afraid to go beneath the surface in an interview. I could tell she was cut from a different cloth.

We had a nice quick chat during the pre-show and that chat dictated a deliberate change in my course for the live interview. Again, I won’t go into details here, but the changes made were the right ones for the live interview. I was so glad she had time to come back as I wanted to explore her beautiful music after I had time to live with it more (which I did) and that depth further.

Sunday 6/7 - Conductor Lawrence Loh. A first for Eclectic Arts as I had never interviewed a conductor of any kind. I had seen the maestro conduct three times and afterward I believe it’s actually been four times. I approached the interview from a mainstream point of view. I didn’t want to geek out on music questions as the average person would be bored by that. So, I went the general audience route and I think that was the right decision. An amazingly talented man.

Monday 6/8 - Jim Jamison from Foggy Noggin Brewing. Jim is a great guy, doing great beer, and it was a pleasure catching up with him and talking beer over a pint. He hasn’t changed one bit and I hope he never does. If you’re ever in the area, he’s always worth checking out (just check his socials and his website to make sure you know when/if he’s open).

Tuesday 6/9 - Anisa Sinteral from the Olympic Ballet Theatre. Behind the scenes morsel - she was supposed to be a 15 minute interview coupled with another 15 minute interview with a different guest. The other guest offered to still do her spot but if Anisa was ok with doing 30 minutes, the other guest was going to respectfully bow out (too much going on with the state of the world, etc, which I understood). Anisa was wonderful. I loved that her personality came out in the interview (we had never met - we had only done a written interview - which is on my site) and she was a lot of fun to talk to. I think she dispelled some of the preconceived notions people have about ballet dancers. We’re planning on doing a follow up in July - but not an interview. Watch my socials for what we’re up to. ;)

Wednesday 6/10 - Danny “the Count” Koker from the hit tv show, “Counting Cars” on History. I for whatever reason was really nervous before this interview. I had done a phone interview with him in 2012. I had also done an in person video interview with his entire band in 2018 (which he mentioned during our interview).

I could not have been happier with how this interview went! What you see is what you get with Danny. He is exactly the same way he is on the television show as he is in real life. Engaging, charismatic, and he genuinely cares about the people he interacts with - all of them. I am going to take him up on his offer to do a follow up as I could shoot the shit with him for hours.

I can also mention that he logged on like 4 minutes before we were to go live - which added to my massive anxiety that day. Our contingency guest plan was on deck if he didn’t show - but thankfully he did!

Thursday 6/11 - Tigerlily of Bleachbear fame. I’ve known her and the band for five years. I've met mom and dad more than once, met aunt and grandma, you get the idea. They were early high school age at that time. And, yes, that is actually her name. It’s been great seeing how the band has evolved and how they have grown as people. A trip down memory lane catching up with her. One of the local artists I will always support. July 15th her single comes out.

Friday 6/12 - Clint Carney. The band had asked if I could find time to possibly interview Clint since he had directed their new video. I said sure and once I looked him up, I knew this was going to be fun as we had many things in common. And, I was right. The interview was great and Clint is a really cool cat. Behind the scenes tidbit - this was supposed to be on the last night of the tour - but the video got bumped up to the 12th from the 15th - so I had to see about a guest exchange since I had a guest booked for the 12th already. Everything worked out fine as George Varghese swapped out Friday for Monday.

Saturday 6/13 - Leah Ingram. I love Leah’s voice. I love it! I was so happy that she could come on and chat with me during this tour. She did a great written interview with me a month prior (again - check it out on my blog/site) and I really hoped I could get her on to let others know about this amazing singer and musician. Her state had just re-opened some businesses including hers as a stylist - so her schedule went from completely open to oh shit. Thankfully, there was a day and time that worked for both schedules.

Sunday 6/14 - Zarah Mahler II. I am proud of every interview I did on this tour. Some stand out a bit more than others for a variety of reasons. Arguably, this interview has got to be toward the top because we got rather personal with this interview. And I actually would've gotten more personal had time allowed. But, interviews are always a two way street. I was fortunate that Zarah was willing to discuss her music and everything else on a deeply personal level. Just because I would like to go beneath the surface doesn’t mean the guest wants to meet me there. She was one of the exceptions. I am extremely proud of this interview.

Monday 6/15 - George Varghese. Poor George had to talk to me while I was wearing that stocking cap -haha. He’s such a positive energy kind of guy. You can feel it when you talk to him. I had met George 4 years ago. I kept meaning ever since to go check out his studio but never did. So, I was so glad he accepted my invite to come on the show. He was the perfect guest to end the tour with. Once it’s safe, I’m heading over to Verge Studios.

Changing gears - again.

The way this tour guided me into my 50th year was really special to me and completely unplanned. It just happened that way. I have so many memories from this tour. The first of which was the first set from AL1CE.

I of course wanted to watch their set and approached it like I was manning the merch booth while they were playing live in a club for nearly every show of the tour (only two shows come to mind where I didn’t watch their set - that Friday when I was having a horrible day and the night Danny Koker was on…). The sound issue was obviously a problem. I had no way to directly get a hold of the band other than through Messenger. Clearly that was fixed for the second set and beyond with the help of the dedicated fans in the Twitch chats and the occasional text from me.

I got a chance to watch the dress rehearsal so I knew what was coming in terms of the visuals and everything. I (along with Paper Nova) were blown away by what we saw and heard during the dress rehearsal. I got even more excited for the tour and that I was super lucky to be involved with it.

And switching gears again.

Let’s talk about my background with interviews as well as my approach to interviews for a bit.

I started off doing written (email) interviews for Eclectic Arts back in 2011. I also did my first phone interview that same year. I started doing in person audio-only interviews in 2012. My first video interview was in 2015.

So, I have always done interviews more than anything else (reviews, concert photography, critiques, etc).

It’s funny but people think interviews are easy to do, that anyone can do them. A “good” interview in my opinion is a lot of work on the interviewer’s end. It starts with respect across the board. This means you do your research prior to the interview. And depending on the guest and how well you know their work, this may take hours of your time. Your communication with the artist and/or their people must be timely and professional. In this case, writing out an introduction is a show of respect to both the guest and the host (in this case AL1CE). Your questions or topics should also be respectful, not clickbait grabbing topics. And, yes, there are plenty of interviewers that are only looking for an attention grabbing headline.

Second - listening. I'll repeat that - Listening. This is a constant work in progress. You have to listen to your guest. Always. Sometimes I talk too much during my interviews but for the most part on this tour, I shared the air with my guests. The viewers don’t want to hear from you unless it can add something to the discussion. They want to hear from the guest. Some interviewers don’t understand that. Whether it’s ego or what have you, there are many interviews I’ve watched and attended where I just wanted the interviewer to shut it. I always keep that in mind. Plus, if you’re listening to your guest, the course of the interview can take some unplanned turns - usually for the better.

It’s my job to make my guests feel comfortable. That I am providing a safe space to make them look good but also come across as genuine. If a guest came off looking bad then much of that is my fault in my opinion. And believe me - it’s not easy - especially during a pandemic with civil protests going on in society. Many of the guests wanted to talk, to unburden themselves from all the stuff going on, before going live. Some were having bad days. Some had personal issues going on. All of this is why the pre-show talk was really important - and it doesn’t matter if I knew the guest or not. I will read my guests during the pre-show, listen to them, and watch their body language. And then I adjust my vision for the interview accordingly before we go live. It’s a skill I’m constantly working on improving.  Of course this happens during the live interviews as well. I pivot constantly depending on the energy the guest is giving off and based on what they are saying.

I mentioned during the last week or so of shows that I could have talked to each guest for longer than 30 minutes. I also mentioned I figured out why this was happening. In-person interviews I am typically at the mercy of the publicist, management, and the artist. So, 10-15 minute interview slots are standard, sometimes even less. There are exceptions if I know the band well, or if I’m the only media that day, or if the band has extra time in their schedule, then things may go longer. But that’s the exception, not the rule.

So, I was in that head space when I approached these virtual interviews. Be efficient, over prepare like usual, and get in and get out. Well, the more comfortable I became on the tour (which took three or four days), the better listening I was doing, the better follow ups I was asking, and I was really deviating from my topics lists. But also - knowing I had twice as much time I could also dive in a bit deeper with my guests. It’s always a great sign when I run out of time. That means the guest was comfortable, they opened up, and the conversation was good.

Funny thing is I remember asking Tash before the tour started if I could do two 15 minute segments on some shows because the thought of doing 30 minute interviews with some guests that I didn’t know was daunting to me. She told me I could do whatever I wanted within that time frame. So, I made the decision to open it up to some of my more reserved guests to do either a 15 or a 30 min interview. I had three days with this sort of schedule worked out - two 15 minute interviews.

I ended up doing none like that and I’m glad. It told me that I was wrong in my initial thinking and that moving forward I needed to re-evaluate what these sessions should look like and don’t compare them to in-person interviews.

I’m trying to finish editing out my interviews for further viewings on YouTube. I have four left to do out of twenty four. My apologies for the first four shows and not using headphones/earbuds. That Zoom audio slap-back is annoying as all get out. Now I know better - glad someone said something early on in the tour in the Twitch chat. I’m not a tech-y.

It hasn’t even been a full week since the tour ended and it already feels like it was at least two weeks ago if not longer. I think part of that is I’ve been decompressing more and more each day.

Side note - the last five interviews to get edited and uploaded were not last because of content but because they were on YouTube and seemed to stay there VS the twitchy Twitch channel where I lose access to them and/or they disappear. So, I went after the Twitch interviews first. Just so you all know.

You just never know where life is going to take you - I just said that during John Krauser’s interview. So very true! “Hey Mark - you’re going to be on a virtual tour with AL1CE leading up to your 50th birthday. You’re going to do 24 virtual interviews in 25 days.” If you had told me that a year ago, I would have laughed at you as beer came out my nose. And now - in 2020 - here we are (or were).

I have no idea why I know what I know. When a Seinfeld reference came up in my mind during Zarah Mahler’s first interview - remembering the Snackwell cookies when she mentioned her dad played the character of the gossipy rabbi. I don’t know why I can remember something from 25 years ago yet can’t remember what I did two months ago.

I’m on the last video interview to edit which is Tony Kay. And I keep stopping to watch and listen. This is fun re-watching these VS as I did them.

I am at a total loss as to what I can do to make this report make sense. Here’s another random fact.

When I sat down to write my final show introduction on June 15th, I was not prepared for just how hard it was to put my feelings into words. I started some time in the afternoon and I would just sit and stare and think about everything that had happened. Finally, what I read on the air pretty much poured out of me. I re - read it and got choked up. I’m serious. I was thinking to myself, “oh man - how am I going to get through this when we’re live tonight”..... I wiped my eyes and took a break. About 30 minutes before tech, I re-read it again and did much better. It’s fine being emotional but I also had an interview to do and I didn’t want my guest to feel uncomfortable if I became a blubbering mess. Fortunately, the audio issue we had at the beginning of my segment was actually a blessing as it snapped me out of any emotional state I was in and I was able to read my show introduction with zero issues. I also looked goofy with my sleep attire on so I think it may have been hard to have any sort of real impact emotionally while reading that show introduction.

I do remember that once the final show was over, I knew I would go into the Tea Time and see what was going on. I was very quiet that night - too many feelings and emotions going on for me to be chatty. I’m not very good at goodbyes or see you laters or whatever you want to call them. So, I just sat and listened. BTW: I do like Disney films - I just couldn’t think of one Disney song that I hum in the shower, etc. I tend to sing old 80’s songs if you must know. I did cover the Broadway Princess Party in 2019 though if that counts?

As I write this - the cat is out of the proverbial bag - if you’re a part of the Mad Hatters group on Facebook. I had teased it on Friday and Saturday via short video clips on my Instagram - and was waiting for the band to publicly say something before I spilled the beans, too. So, tomorrow, Sunday, I can officially spill the beans on social media. Maybe. I might wait until Monday the 22nd which would be one month after the tour started.

So, when did this all happen? My birthday - the day after the last show. So, no, I did not know I would be invited to the next round of interim shows. All of this was news to me - and it happened organically through some messaging with Sasha (and Tash and Scott). I am thrilled to be a part of the new shows - in a longer format - and I’ve been reaching out to many new artists to see who would like to be interviewed. One is confirmed, that’s it as of this writing.

As always, I’m keeping things eclectic - I am also reaching out beyond my normal purview as these are unprecedented times so a few exceptions can be made in terms of what I consider art. We’ll see what transpires from my invites.

I kind of feel that if you saw a few of the shows or all of the shows, you already know how things went down on the tour. My perspective is from the inside to a degree and from a fan as well.

Eclectic Mark - that’s my working title for these upcoming interviews. I only changed it to reflect the exceptions I may make in booking guests that don’t necessarily fit under the “arts” umbrella. For instance, I’m a sports fan. I have never bothered booking an athlete as that just doesn’t fit what Eclectic Arts is. Ditto pets and animals. But, for now, in addition to what I normally cover I may throw a curve every now and then with something that is either topical or of interest to myself, the band, and/or the fans. We’ll see. Things are slow right now but hopefully I start to hear back from a few more folks by later on Monday. The plus of these interim shows is that I have a lot more time to book the guests with only two show days a week VS the tour where I needed a guest every single day.

I also realize now that I should perhaps write about things as they happen, especially when on tour, as this is just too much to write about after the tour. The interim shows “should” be easy to try this idea out on and see how it goes.

Tomorrow it will be one week since the tour finished. I swear it feels like it was a month ago. So freaking bizarre. My head is definitely in a different space than it was back on May 22nd.

I purchased the, “For Dead” and “Love Is Forever” singles from Bandcamp on Friday - June-teenth. Listening to both right now as I type this.

I’m not a music streaming type of person. Only recently have I ever even opened Spotify. I open PR links when I need to but that’s through private streaming services. Just not my thing - figured at some point I’d hop on the bandwagon - nope. Still prefer hard copy items. Yes, I’m an old fart. Get off my lawn.

Second “spin” through “Love Is Forever” - and I’m reading an article about a writer/comedian who watched her mother die from COVID19 via an iPad - just awful. It made me tear up. Wear a Goddamn mask people!

I think I have some unresolved post-tour syndrome to deal with emotionally. Even though things are continuing - which I’m beyond grateful for - I don’t think I gave myself time to truly process everything from the tour, my 50th birthday, the state of the world, and personal things that happened while on the tour. Keeping that poker face on that I do so well. I wish I was bad at that sorta thing.

Onto “For Dead” now as I think I hit the nail on the head with the above paragraph. I think trying to write this is actually premature. It’s like going for a jog when you’ve been sick and not fully recovered yet. I need to get “well” before I can get this thing to make sense. I think.

The purposeful part of me is telling me to get this thing done before the interim shows start. Just trying to be practical knowing that once those shows start, this thing will fall further and further into the background.

I’ve tried writing this report every day since the tour ended (see the dates at the top). And it’s been fighting me - every - step - of - the - way. Bastard.

Leah (Stenger) Ingram playing now. And this is counterproductive because now I’m listening to her amazing voice and not typing.

On to Zarah Mahler - same thing. “Archery” is a beautiful song. Just so amazingly personal. I would love to be able to write a song like this.

Okay - have another new guest interested in scheduling a date. I just reached out to the first guest (from the last tour). I wasn’t sure I wanted repeat guests back on so soon but then I decided I wanted what would make for a good interview in a longer format. So, off we go. We’ll see. These interim shows are lasting for about a month anyway - so it could be any time during that period.

I’m so scatterbrained right now and it shows in the writing. Hekka scatterbrained.   ;)

I woke up this morning (Monday) to some really good news. Replies from one artist that I had just contacted. Yay! The other really surprised me - as the publicist actually forwarded my email to the artist and he replied directly to me and said yes! And two other artists said yes as well. There are only 10 of these interim shows so I have purposely decided to stop contacting people until I know where things stand. I’m looking at these shows as the 1.5 leg of the tour - their own thing. I also want to invite at least one more local artist.

As you can see I’m no further along in terms of making this a cohesive report. I just keep scribbling in here every day and not much has changed.


Well, shit, I think I’ve decided to just put this thing out - warts and all. I made edits tonight and it’s a little better but not much - heh.

I’ve taken my own advice and started doing daily entries after these new interviews are done. Sasha’s smart to do her tour diaries this way (in installments, not one long report). I’m clearly not. But I’ve learned and adapted moving forward.

When I think back about the virtual tour now that it’s exactly two weeks old, what stands out to me are certain guests, certain songs that AL1CE performed, a few new music artists that I didn’t know before, reading the Twitch chats, meeting some of my fellow fans, and the overall feeling of accomplishment. While it was going on, it was like a blur. But now that I can look back on it, some days I’m like, dayum, that was a lot of interviewing. Something I’ve never done before.

It brings a smile to my face knowing I was a small part of this inaugural virtual tour with AL1CE. I’m proud, grateful, and appreciative of the opportunity the band afforded me.

We’re now two shows into the “new format” interim summer shows and those are already something different than the tour shows - in terms of my segment. Besides the length, the whole feel to them is different to me. But you’ll have to read about my thoughts on those once the ten shows are actually over. ;)

Thanks for reading,

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