Category Archives: music


Sometimes things just come together perfectly.  A year ago, in February, I brought together a group of six extremely talented young women to make a music video for a song on the about-to-be-released Matt Ryan record. Everything about “(I Just Died) Like An Aviator” rocked.  It’s one of my favorite shoots, one of my favorite videos. You can watch it here.

Then, last Wednesday, I read that Matt would soon be releasing an unadorned acoustic version of the same album.  He sent me a copy, and I immediately turned on the acoustic “Aviator” and before the song was over I knew what I had to do.

The texting began. I started with my Matt Ryan-impersonator Chloe Barczak as she would have to carry so much of the idea I had in my head.  She was in.  Then co-producer Charlotte Beatty to handle the organization.  And the first video’s guitarist Carina Begley, as the guitar was (except for a few piano notes at the very end) the lone instrument.  An acoustic version of the same team, so to speak.

Then I told Matt we were again making a music video of “Aviator.”  He never even asked what we were planning, and instead got American Songwriter Magazine to agree to premiere the video sight unseen.  He sent me the chords and even a video for Carina on how to play a few of the guitar parts.

By Friday of last week we had a schedule and a location.  The same location as the original video.  We all met at 8:45 AM on Sunday, loaded up my Jeep with almost all of my gear, and drove the two tenths of a mile to the home of Dean and Shellye.

As Carina got used to the feel of my Martin acoustic, Charlotte and Chloe helped me set up lights and camera.  By 10:30 we were filming, buzzing from a lot of Willoughby’s coffee, Coke-a-Cola, and salted-caramel Orangeside Donuts.

But this time around Chloe and Carina had their work cut out for them.  My concept was to present the video in one long take.  No cuts.  Just a perfect performance and some precise rack focusing. No sweat.

We worked on blocking the first half dozen times through, as Chloe worked on her emotional delivery.  She felt this version of the song was really sad.  Desperate.  Depressing even.  Both Charlotte and Carina agreed.  I was not about to argue.

We got the blocking just right, the lighting perfect.  And by the twelfth take I started noticing tears in Chloe’s eyes.  That was when I knew we had something special.  We knocked off one take after another, with barely a pause between, and she nailed it.  Take sixteen was fucking brilliant.  Take eighteen was perfect.  We did a few more.  I had a B-camera rolling just in case my impossible one-shot idea would not work.  And after the twenty-fourth take we wrapped.

I got home around 1:30 PM.  I copied the footage onto a drive as I put away the gear.  Then I started editing, going back and forth between takes 16, 18, 12 and 24…but ultimately the fucking brilliant won out.  It would be take 16.  I added titles, the slightest color correction, some film grain, and I exported the timeline.  By 4:30 PM I texted Matt, Chloe, Charlotte, and Carina a private viewing link for the video.

This is what Matt Ryan wrote to me after seeing it for the first time: “My god she’s killing me. I seriously have tears in my eyes.  I love it.  Breaks my heart.  It’s beautiful  Please tell them I love it.  Thank you for thinking to do this.”

His appreciation was appreciated.

Matt stripped down a beautiful song, and allowed us to do the same to the original video.  But this video is unadorned in other ways as well: void of ego, attitudes, rude people (unlike most of the rest of my past few weeks, hell, unlike most of the world we live in). It was just four people working together, all doing what they need to do, having fun doing it, turning a beautiful song in a visual work of art.

Thank you to Chloe, Charlotte, and Carina, my brilliant cohorts on this project. Thank you to Dean and Shellye for again letting us invade their home.  Thank you to Matt Ryan and American Songwriter for the blind trust.

And here it is:  American Songwriter Magazine

Sometimes things just come together perfectly.


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Record Store Day

When Kristine and I moved to New Haven in 1989 so she could run the about-to-open Sam Goodys on Chapel Street (whose 20% off Saturdays are still legendary), we were on the verge of having seven record shops in a town of roughly 120,000 people. Think about that. We have one now. Most towns this size have none.

But on this national day of celebration (I’m sure many would think of it as a national day of mourning), I prefer to talk about the great majestic record shop of my impressionable years. Of a store that started in a second floor apartment on Bank Street in Waterbury, Connecticut. I’m guessing on the year here, but thinking 1978, give or take. It lasted there for only a year or so, then moved up the block into another second floor apartment over the Thom McCan shoe store on that same street, then after a few years in that location, moved into a sprawling space on the third floor of another Bank Street building that housed a jewelry store on its first floor, and an Arthur Murray dance studio on it’s second. Its original name was Cheapskate Records, and sometime during its run at its third location (yes, there would be a fourth, and now a fifth) became Phoenix Records. But it always remained Cheapskate Records to me.

Cheapskate was started and run by a silver-haired gentleman (gray way before his time), with crazed and brilliant eyes, and the ability to print in 6-point type. He was one of the funniest, most sarcastic people I’ve ever met. The missing Monty Python. His name was Professor Morono. Or simply The Professor to those who knew.

If anyone in my life has deserved the title of “professor” it was this man. He influenced my career, my art, as much as Holy Cross’ Sister Noreen who handed me Vonegut’s “Breakfast of Champions” and Brautigan’s “In Watermelon Sugar” during my Junior year of High School. As much as Donald Spotto who made me marvel at the wonders of Alfred Hitchcock during his course at the New School for Social Research. This Professor would on a weekly basis hand me the vinyl eucharist that would make me believe, make me see, make me into who I was destined to become.

Where should I begin? (Where could I begin!) The “I Will Dare” 12-inch from The Replacements, and later “Let It Be,” all the early Elvis Costello, it was where I bought “London Calling” for Christ’s sake. The first R.E.M. EP, Nick Lowe’s “Jesus of Cool,” The Sex Pistols, the Dead Kennedys, Pere Ubu, Devo, Siouxsie, Tom Waits, countless picture sleeved import singles, live recordings (that amazing Springsteen boot from the Bottom Line). At one point before moving to New Haven, I had a wall of vinyl that measured about 15 feet wide and 6 feet high, with another few dozen crates in my grandfather’s basement. Don’t know how many albums that is exactly. But it’s a lot. And a good part of them came from Cheapskate.

But it was more than just about vinyl. It was about the friendship. The never-ending dialog. The Professor and his cohort, the lovely Diane. Music was our politics, our religion. And no one was a republican or a democrat. We were Clash fans or Pistol fans. Punks or lovers or modern rock, or even hard core. Hell, even heavy metal, or old time country. We were old school, new school, any school. It was about the music. The music was all that mattered once you walked through that door into the collection of crates packed so tight you had to remove a dozen albums just to be able to flip through. The walls lined with those breathtaking 4×4 posters. Could I possibly fit another on my apartment walls? But how could I resist Paul Simonon smashing that bass in 4-foot-square glory? (Quick answer: I couldn’t. And damn I wish I still owned that now.)

When time came to write my first novel, “The Second Greatest Story Ever Told,” I made The Professor a fictional character (as I did The Replacements), one who would have a profound effect on the Daughter of God during her teen years. Turning her on to what was truly important on this planet: Patti Smith (that opening line to “Gloria” so made her laugh), the aforementioned Costello or The Replacements, and of course Husker Du, and with a song called “Green Eyes” how could they not appeal to our lovely green-eyed savior? The Professor was her John the Baptist. Perhaps he was mine as well.

I miss those days. When traveling around with my Replacements documentary “Color Me Obsessed,” the one stop I always make in any strange town is at a record shop, if one even exists. A couple of them, if I’m lucky. I’ll buy something from a local band. And I’ll think back to the days when I’d walk in to one of those less-than-glorious locations — okay, they were glorious to me, Cheapskate Records was a cathedral. My church of rock ‘n’ roll. I’d be handed a stack of vinyl. It was what The Professor had for me that day. A respite from life. Or perhaps the gift of life. A little salvation. And a whole lot of inspiration.

Thank you, Professor. For everything.


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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 7

Somehow almost a year went by, as I needed to finish up the tax credit paperwork (don’t get me started) for FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS), complete the film, do the sound mix, begin submitting to film festivals, then actually hit the road on the festival circuit. (I could blog about that, but instead watch the amazing indie film OFFICIAL REJECTION, and you’ll learn more than you will ever need to know about film festivals.)

But in August 2009 I posted an ad on Craigslist stating that I was looking for a co-producer. I got one worthwhile response from Jim Leftwich, who not only wanted to learn about production but was a huge fan of The Replacements. We sat down over pizza at Pepe’s and hashed it out. Jim would work the East Coast interview schedule.

I believe Adrian Correia, my cinematographer on FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) had always been on board. I had been turning Adrian on to new bands since hiring him to shoot that last film. Despite no up-front pay, Adrian jumped at the chance to work on CMO.

Sarah, Jan, Jim, Adrian…that was my crew at the start. It would change as we moved along…but for now, everything clicked.

And…yes, no up-front pay. Everyone including myself would own a chunk of the back end. If the film did well, we all did well. I did not want to spent months (or more) looking for investors. I didn’t want to do all this work on another film, and then when it finally sold not see a dime. And luckily a new web startup would help me achieve that goal.

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The making of COLOR ME OBSESSED – part 6

I knew I would need help in the making of this film, specifically in finding the right people to interview, and arranging what would hopefully be a grueling schedule. A good but small and dedicated crew would be essential. Finding the right crew who could understand and would support my vision.

I started with a poster, as having an image, then getting a website up quickly, is more important than I could possibly explain in a short blog entry. It’s like this: if you don’t have a site, you don’t exist. So as soon as I began talking with Hansi, I turned to Sarah Hajtol who designed my FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) poster. Not only was she interested, but she asked if she could design the CMO website as part of her thesis. She didn’t have to ask twice.

Then during the summer of 2008 (August 21st, to be precise), I contacted an old friend, Jan Radder. At the age of 15, Jan worked as a production assistant on my film PSYCHOS IN LOVE. You can read his account of that gig on his blog (and hopefully one day in full detail in his memoir). Many years back, Jan moved to Minneapolis, but we’ve always stayed in touch, having music as a common bond. At first I asked him simply to get a photo of the Let It Be house that Sarah might manipulate for the poster.

That poster idea didn’t work, but within a month I wrote: “I want to talk to you as well, as I feel you have a lot to offer on this, if you want to come on board in a co-producer fashion.”

To which Jan replied: “Wow. I’d totally be interested. Let me know what you’re thinking.”

Little did I realize at this point just how important Jan and Sarah would become to the film…

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The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 2

Friends (with benefits) shot for a total of 18 days, beginning on April 18th, 2007.  So, we’ve really been editing it, tweaking it, playing with the song selection, and score, and titles, and color correction, for going on two years now.  (The original assembly was 125 minutes without end credits, the final cut runs 94 minutes complete.)  Doesn’t seem like that long has passed, but then again perhaps it does.  I think once you see the film, you’ll understand why so much time was spent on editing.  We tried to do something a little different here.  (The producers rep who ultimately took on the film called the editing “ground breaking.”  And while I don’t know about that, we’ll certainly take the compliment!)


As a novelist (my website, has all the info you could possibly need on that), I thought we’d bring a little of that feel to the film, thus in my mind it’s “a novel with moving pictures.”  While all films on DVD are broken into “chapters” I thought we’d take that one step further and actually break the film down into real chapters.  But no one wants to watch a book.  So, how to make it move fast . . . real fast? 


Well, originally I wanted the film, especially the dialog, to movie at a breakneck speed, like “His Girl, Friday.”  But there are two truisms in film.  The one that fits here is, and I’m paraphrasing: “There’s the film you write, the film you shoot, and the film you edit.”  Anyone who’s ever directed a film knows they are three very separate beasts, each with a mind of their own.


So, while that breakneck pace seemed great in concept (and even in rehearsals), the realities of casting and filming got in the way.  Until editing, that is.  We threw out the rule book.  And decided that we would not allow the audience time to blink (at least for a part of the film…when need be, as a director I am a big believer in giving the performances room to breathe.)  


(FYI: I never used the rule book when writing my novels, hell, I flunked English 101 in college, and likewise, for any of you who’ve seen my last feature YOU ARE ALONE, you know I don’t “do” the “master/over-shoulder/over-shoulder reverse” coverage.  It’s boring, it’s lazy, it shows not one iota of originality or belief in your script, or your ability as a director…it’s movie-of-the-week.  Really, just put a bullet in my head and shoot me now.  So, yeah, I certainly wasn’t going to start following the rules now.)


The Friends (with benefits) secret weapon?  Split screens.  If two stories were happening concurrently, why not show them?  Adjust the timing here and there, and let the characters on the right answer the characters on the left.  It was just an experiment at first.  Tried it in one bar scene where two male characters are conversing about the same subject as two female characters.  What do you know?  It clicked.  It worked.  Jokes came faster.  You didn’t have time to blink and you were laughing again.  Or in a few cases, the inherent sadness of a friendship perhaps destroyed was given an even greater emotional impact.


Watching and using the split screens, co-editor Ashley McGarry and I just knew in our guts this was right for the film. 


And that’s what it comes down to for me.  That gut feeling.  Whether holding on someone’s expression for a beat longer than you might think necessary, because in reality sometimes we need that extra moment of reflection.  Or inserting a list of “rules” as a text scroll to make a scene go where it needed it to go.  Or dozens of other little examples in this film.  (Some big examples: cutting a huge emotional scene down to one line because I felt the rest made one character just a hair less likable, cutting scenes because I found an actors blocking distracting, sacrificing a few amazing shots that ultimately did nothing to move the story along, or reducing characters down to a few lines because either the story wasn’t really about them, or I felt their performance distracting.)  You go with your gut.  In the end, as director, it’s your name signed at the bottom of the canvas.  And after a horrible bigger-budget filmmaking experience back in 2002 (read the blog entry titled “Just say no to Billy Zane” from September 2008), I promised myself I would never again sign my name to a film or book I wasn’t proud of. 


Well, I’m ready to sign my name to Friends (with benefits).  Come see it at the Seattle True Independent Film Festival on June 12th, and you’ll see why.


P.S. An aside.  OK…I did not sign my name to my last novel UNWOUND.  It was published under the pseudonym Jonathan Baine.  But not because I wasn’t proud of the book.  I actually love the book.  The name change was quite simply to trick the computers at Barnes & Noble.  See, the big chains, like B&N, preorder copies of your new book based upon the sales of your last book.  Now, most of my novels have had a first printing of between 5,000 and 20,000 copies.  The first printing for UNWOUND was going to be 146,000 copies. Thus the publisher wanted the B&Ns of the world to order a lot more than what they ordered and sold of my previous titles.  Smile.  You just learned something about the publishing business.

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The making of FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) – part 1

As both the completion of my newest feature, FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS) …and the start of its film festival run nears, I thought now would be a good time to turn the main subject of this blog over to the making of my newest film.


I start with BRAD’S RULES.  Or at least 99 of them.  The rules were not a part of the original script.  They were born out of necessity, when during the editing process we needed to get from point A to point F in a very long scene that was just slowing down the first act, and do so in a way that was both organic to the script and also funny.  And since Brad, one of the main characters in the film, was always mouthing off about his rules, we thought inserting those rules into the film might just work.  Thus the actual list of 100 rules was born.


You’ll have to judge for yourself, but I think they provide one of the biggest laughs in the film. 


But here now are the rules…live by them, and life will be good (which I guess is a rule in and of itself):


100. Friends don’t let friends fuck ugly people 

99. Try everything twice, the first time you might have been doing it wrong 

98. Fat girls give the best head because they’re always hungry 

97. Cologne: overrated…Deodorant: a must 

96. Blondes are usually too dumb to realize they’re having more fun 

95. After puberty, that’s not “baby fat”

94. ATM = the Holy Grail 

93. All hippie chicks deep throat, but few vegans swallow 

92. Women like shoes. They will look at yours; purchase accordingly 

91. BBBJ or why bother? 

90. Women cannot parallel park 

89. If you wanna fuck it, you’ve got to be willing to lick it

88. Ass, stomach, legs, boobs – in that order 

87. If it’s not dirty, you’re doing something wrong 

86. If a friend’s apartment is running low on toilet paper, you’re required to use it all 

85. Cheerleaders are overrated 

84. Under no circumstance may two men share an umbrella 

83. Never allow a conversation with a woman to go on longer than you are able to have sex with her 

82. Other than in February, the 14th of every month is Pizza and Blowjob Night 

81. Dogs are better than cats…period 

80. Bigger is never better when they’re fake 

79. Don’t leave the house if you’re not camera ready

78. A period does not equal a week off from sex 

77. Mustaches and hunting are gay 

76. Sucking your best friend’s dick, that’s priceless 

75. You are not accountable if you bring ugly people home, unless you fuck them again in the


74. If her mom isn’t a MILF, chances are she won’t be one either 

73. Fake orgasms count, as long as they’re not yours 

72. The G-spot does not exist 

71. There is NOTHING sexy about pregnant women 

70. Persistence gets you laid 

69. Never give yourself a haircut while drunk 

68. No panties = a good night 

67. Drinks hard liquor = a great night 

66. Tongue piercing = God loves you! 

65. Saliva isn’t always the best lubricant, just the most fun to apply 

64. White cotton panties and knee socks.  Enough said!

63. Never lend money to friends 

62. Never lend books, CDs, or DVDs to anyone 

61. The month you finish paying for your car, it will break down 

60. Elvis is not dead 

59. Lee Harvey Oswald did not act alone 

58. What’s good for you does not always taste better.  Example: processed peanut butter vs. the all-natural kind 

57. People who don’t use turn signals deserve mandatory prison sentences 

56. Never let a girl shave your balls 

55. Porn saves lives 

54. Republicans are better at…well…nothing 

53. If you’ve never had New Haven brick oven pizza, you’ve never had pizza.  There is no pizza in New York or Chicago.  Don’t argue, you’ll just sound foolish 

52. Old country = cool  Alt-country = really cool  New country = sucks 

51. Condition your hair once a day 

50. Masturbate twice a day 

49. Eat three square meals every day 

48. Women should never cut their hair, unless they’re going to play for the other team 

47. Crying is blackmail 

46. Your choice: spay or neuter your pet…or yourself  

45. If she sleeps in your bed, sex is a given 

44. If a girl leaves her dirty panties lying around, she wants you to sniff them 

43. There’s no such thing as giving 110% 

42. Halloween is the only holiday that matters 

41. Sympathy sex trumps make-up sex 

40. Body hair just gets in the way 

39. Rip bread, don’t slice it 

38. Every man should learn how to dance, but no other man should know he can 

37. Men have no right to speak on the subject of abortion 

36. Every decade gives us only one great double album: The White Album, Exile On Main Street, London Calling, Being There, and Cold Roses. 

35. Chivalry is not dead, but she has to earn it 

34. Watch Carnival Of Souls at least once in your lifetime 

33. If your pubic hair is blond or red, shaving is optional 

32. You can cheat on girls with hairy legs 

31. If they don’t answer, it means yes 

30. Never turn down a chance to sleep with a celebrity 

29. Sex is better in warmer climates 

28. Emo guys = gay; emo gals = easy marks 

27. Never trust people who don’t drink coffee 

26. Springsteen really is The Boss 

25. If there’s a problem, talk it out 

24. If you can’t talk it out: fuck, then try again 

23. Never lease what you can buy 

22. Never break up using a post-it note, her biker friends will hurt you for it 

21. Never say “no” to a green-eyed girl 

20. Live life as if The Catcher In The Rye were your bible 

19. Don’t lie, you will get caught 

18. Admit that the 1986 Mets were the greatest baseball team of all time and life will be easier

17. Know the legal age of consent in every place you visit 

16. Wild animals belong in the wild, not in zoos, fairs, or roadside attractions 

15. Pussy farts are charming 

14. Only wear a bra if you’re going to offend me 

13. Beauty is in the eye of the beer-holder 

12. It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye 

11. Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups 

10. When in doubt, mumble 

9. Masturbation is overrated 

8. Small boobs are misunderstood

7. Better to be feared than loved, but even better to have your love feared 

6. Handcuffs are the ultimate sex toy 

5. If you can’t convince them, confuse them 

4. Quiet girls are the most likely to toss your salad 

3.  Women do not understand remote controls, there is no exception to this rule

2. Never overthink 


Of course, if you want to know the number one rule, you’re gonna have to watch the film.


The official website is: 


Check back often for more stories from the front lines of making FRIENDS (WITH BENEFITS)…


Friends (with benefits) POSTER

Friends (with benefits) POSTER


P.S. Remember my horror/comedy PSYCHOS IN LOVE will be released on DVD (complete with a boatload of extras) next Tuesday, April 28th.  You can get it at BestBuy, Netflix, or preorder it here at


I guess in a way, PSYCHOS IN LOVE had its own set of rules:


I hate grapes.

I can’t stand grapes.

I loathe grapes. 

All kinds of grapes.

I hate purple grapes. 

I hate green grapes. 

I hate grapes with seeds. 

I hate grapes without seeds. 

I hate them peeled and non-peeled. 

I hate grapes in bunches, one at a time, or in groups of twos and threes.

I fucking hate grapes.


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Lily Allen’s cover of STRAIGHT TO HELL by the Clash – a review

OK…first off, the 5 stars are for Lily Allen’s cover of STRAIGHT TO HELL.  And so you know where I am coming from.  I am not a huge fan of Ms. Allen.  Don’t really know her music.  Not my cup of tea.  I am however a huge Clash fan.  Saw them live 15 times from their first US gig to their last tour.  I’d rank them as one of the two greatest bands of all time.  (The other is the Replacements.)  Their music to me is sacred.  It should be respected, never covered.  And STRAIGHT TO HELL is one of my three favorite Clash songs.  Having said all that…


Ms. Allen cover of STRAIGHT TO HELL on the WAR CHILD PRESENTS HEROES compilation cd is the best song we will hear this year.  She and Mick Jones have taken his and Strummer’s brilliant melody, riff and lyric and somehow (I don’t know how) taken it to a level where few musicians ever get to even see, let alone attain.


From the opening da-da-da-da’s which sound so much like Strummer (I wish I knew for certain if they were, or if it was Jones), through to Ms. Allen’s phrasing, which is Billie Holiday-perfect, as are the production and the instrumentation, the song had been reinvented, re-envisioned.


And when Ms. Allen hits the bridge and sings “so mamma-san says” and the da-da-da-da’s start up again, I find the goosebumps coming and the tears welling. 


This really is the song she was born to sing.  It will make everything else that follows this year seem unimportant and unoriginal. 


As for the rest, well honestly I’d give the cd 2 stars out of 5 at best.  What we have are really bad covers of great songs (The Hold Steady, whom I like, doing injustice to ATLANTIC CITY), just misses (The TV On The Radio cover of HEROES is close, as is Beck doing Dylan), a number of what-were-these-people-thinking (really, you never cover the Ramones or Blondie, not because they’re the greatest songs ever written, but because you sound stupid even trying), a few that make you want to hear the originals and how they’re really done (The Kinks and the Costello songs) and the rest is just who-cares?


But all that said, listen to the Lilly Allen/Mick Jones track.  And genuflect in the presence of genius.

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