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Monday, September 30, 2013

Q&A with Larry Costa

It is my pleasure to have the opportunity to do a Q&A with the talented, charming and debonaire singer and actor, Larry Costa. Larry has taken on many compelling roles in real life, as you're about to discover, and has a remarkable story to tell about his breakthrough into show business. So, without any further ado, I present my interview with the one and only Mr Larry Costa:

Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: Larry, thanks so much for blabbing it to Beaverhausen. Our readers and I want to learn more about you. Are you a native New Yorker? And can you tell us about your growing up?
Larry Costa: I only moved to NYC in the 1990s. I am from North Florida. I’m a hillbilly, except there were no hills. The Florida sunshine and fresh fruit makes it a great place to raise children. When I first moved to NYC, I lived on E.14th Street in a studio apartment with my friend Krissi Dimartino. We shared the bed, she had the mattress and I had the box spring. There was a window missing, and a huge hole in the wall between the neighboring apartment, and a dog on the floor below us that would attack. We had to carry dog biscuits and throw them down the stairs so we can escape to get out of the apartment.

DBB: What made you decide to be an entertainer? Who were you mentors? Who were your idols?
LC: You know what, I was "discovered." I was invited by my friend Richard Skipper to see his off-Broadway show he was starring in and I was seated next to Joe Franklin, the original TV host and discoverer of Barbra Streisand, Bette Midler and others. He tapped me on the shoulder and asked me, "are you an actor?" At the time, I was not, I was a business owner in midtown Manhattan. However, he looked at me and said,"With that smile I insist that you become an actor." So, I did. Just for fun, I answered an ad on craigslist for a film that needed a Devil. They chose me and I was in my first speaking role in a movie. 
I remember the day I decided to be a professional singer like it was yesterday. I was at a cabaret show and the entertainer sucked. I was so pissed off. The venue was beautiful and well known and also $89.00 a person. When I looked around the room and saw the audience smiling and clapping and laughing and then a standing ovation at the end, I was floored. I thought to myself, what the hell is wrong with this picture, has the public forgotten what beautiful songs sounded like? Well, I made a vow right there and then to bring back the classics and sing them in the way that they were supposed to be sung -- with feeling, intent, love, passion, desire, greed, and pain. The rest is history. Oh, by the way, I only had two singing lessons in my life. Growing up, I loved to listen to Barbra Streisand, I think she must be the biggest influence in my singing. It's also a curse, if I am singing one of her songs, it's so difficult to get her out of my head and replace my voice with hers to make the recording.

DBB: Tell us about your much talked-about short film, Larry Ravioli, that you co-wrote and co-directed with Gabe Rodriguez.
LC: The character Larry Ravioli is naive and ambitious with a relentless zeal for stardom as a crooner. He has a knack for getting himself and his appointed sidekick Gina into trouble whenever the Mafia sends him out on assignments to repay a loan. His movie star smile, charm, and singing save him… most of the time! We are already in the planning stage of two full-length sequels, Larry Ravioli Meets The Ghost and Larry Ravioli Gets Drafted. 

DBB: I see you're also in an upcoming film, The Cold Winter. Could you tell us a little about that? 
LC: Wow, I forgot about that film, I play the Dad of a teenage runaway girl that becomes a hooker. I think that I used to give her money as a child and she believes that all men should give her money for love. [Chuckles.] I did 18 films that year, but I think one of my favorites is called The Sickness; it was written for me, well, I really can’t say written because the entire film is improvisational, the same goes for all Joe Ciminera films. We had a guideline to go by and it was up to the actors to come up with the content. I play myself. However, in the film, I am a washed up singer that has taken to the bottle…. It's really fun with a twist ending. The Sickness can be found on YouTube and watched for free.
Also coming out is Apex Rising, in which I play a CIA agent named Bradley; this film is already gaining tons of press due to the controversial content. Producer and director Jim Terriaca of Big Thunder Productions wrote the character into the film for me. I even get to fly a plane and sing in this film.

DBB: In your photos, you're always the tallest person in the shot. How tall are you exactly?
LC: What an interesting question. I was always shy about my height and therefore slouched all the time, then one day, I decided… oh, what the hell, stand up straight for Christ sake! That day, I went from 6’ to 6’2”. When I take a deep breath, I am 6’3”.

DBB: You're an excellent singer, an accomplished actor, director, writer, composer. Of all these many hats, which is your favorite to put on? And do you consider yourself a modern renaissance man?
LC: You forgot to mention: twice published author on the New York Times best seller list, chemist, former undercover agent, skincare developer, ballroom dancer, soap maker, and massage therapist. So, choosing just one will be impossible. I loved being each and every one of those people. I live my life compartmentalized, meaning, for any given time period, I make a decision on who I want to be and then become that person. When I was a retail business owner, I had to take on the persona of boss, caregiver, trend-setter, and payroll supplier and do all of these to the best of my abilities; now that I have decided to be an entertainer, I am blessed to have the life experiences needed to draw from for my performances in song and in film. When I was working undercover, I was able to be different people all the time, this was so natural for me and now I get to do the pretty much the same thing but in front of the camera.

DBB: Tell us something about who you loved working with. Who you didn't. 
LC: I love most of the people that I work with. I love working in the experimental film and indie film networks. You always see a lot of the same talented people on different sets, its like we are one big happy family and it keeps growing. There isn’t one person that I do not like to work with, but rather a type of person. A person that gets nervous in front of the camera irks me beyond anything. If you want to be an actor, you cant be nervous, it takes away time that is valuable to the director. Just take a breath and relax. The camera is your friend.

DBB: You're in the documentary, "Chasing Gaga." Tell us a little about it. And are you a Gaga fan? 
LC: I really enjoyed being in this, I played myself in this film as the skincare developer and a performer. This docudrama followed the early career of Stefani and how she utilized her business training to create the Gaga product. So, as a result, entrepreneurs such as myself would develop their own brand of Gaga products. Set just before she got shot out of the canon, you know, she is still the same nice girl that she was before she was famous. I also included my friend Denise S. Anderson in this film.

DBB: You were also on a BBC tv series called "What Not to Wear."
LC: I was also on another BBC series that aired in the UK called "Facejacker," a sketch comedy. My part was a weekly spoof on The Apprentice, only at the end, everyone got fired. [Laughs.] What Not to Wear was so much fun! I was on that show four times the first two seasons and they even filmed a few other segments at my Day Spa that I owned in Chelsea, New York City. I loved being on that show; I became friends with every one [in the cast], and we still remain friends today.

DBB: What was the experience of appearing on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno like? 
LC: Nothing compared to when I was on Dr. Oz. I had to propose marriage so that I could sing on the show. I worked with the segment producer for a week beforehand, I had to write an original song, score original music overnight for her, I had to get the ring, I had to get the outfit, I had to get musicians together to record the backing track to sing to on the show... and low and behold! The producer screwed me. She never played the song. Well, I was standing there but the music never started, so then just got on my knees and proposed… all dressed up like Prince Charming… ha! Oh, the engagement is off.

DBB: What do you consider your proudest professional achievement? 
LC: Winning “King of Indie Films, 2012,” hands down my proudest entertainment field achievement to date. I don’t have any kids, otherwise I would say… my beautiful children, but no kids for me. I have a cat named Popcorn, and she’s too much sometimes, too. It even makes me crazy to play the “Dad” in films, especially when the kids are in their 20s. I played the father of a son that gets plastic surgery in a Japanese TV show, they dubbed my voice with Japanese voice over, such fun to watch.

DBB: Most people would not only consider you very talented but describe you, I think, as tall, dark and handsome. When you look in the mirror, what do you see? And do you have a special diet that keeps you fit? I know it probably isn't ravioli-based. 
LC: You make me blush. But, thank you. All I do is try to stay one step ahead of trends and eat right and exercise as much as I possibly can without overkill. I do, however, have one interesting hobby that keeps me in shape. I stack rocks. Yes, I know... but, I really do. I have some mountain-top land and I collect the rocks from the property and make walls with them. Not to mention, I have some great friends that actually are responsible to help me not stray from good and smart choices. Oh, and, by the way, yes I like ravioli but only with spinach filling. Then maybe a cannoli... or two. [Laughs.]

DBB: Where would you like to be in five years? 
LC: Just singing. I get great enjoyment out of singing. I can’t explain it. My body transforms when I sing, it’s sort of an out of body experience for me. I become someone else, I become the teller of the story, the lyrics becomes my words and I feel each emotion from each word as it comes out of my mouth as a song.

DBB: Larry, thanks so much. Look forward to seeing you at one of your NYC performances and, again, thank you from me and from my readers for this fabulously entertaining and delightful interview! 

Friday, September 27, 2013

Q&A Spottiswoode with a Little Help from His Enemies

It was two years ago, around Halloween and while my life was in a tumult, that I made it to The Lower East Side and caught Spottiswoode and His Enemies at The Living Room.  Wow! Memorable night and great show that lifted my spirits. Thanks to Bernadette Quigley, the band's press agent (and an amazing actress of stage, screen and television as well) for arranging this Q&A with the band's Jonathan Spottiswoode, drummer Tim Vaill (Enemy #2), trumpeter Kevin Cordt (Enemy #4) and pianist/accordian player Tony Lauria (Enemy #6). They will be performing at The Living Room (dates below) scheduled to close next month on Ludlow Street.

Dj Buddy Beaverhausen: You will be finishing your residency at The Living Room on the Lower East Side as that club is closing. Which I find very sad. When did you start your residency there and what are your own feelings about the wind-up of The Living Room?
Jonathan Spottiswoode: This particular residency will start on September 29th. Four shows: Sunday, Sept. 29th 9pm; Saturday, Oct. 5th 11pm double set; Monday, Oct. 14th 8pm; Saturday, Oct 26th 9pm. I think we played our first show at the Ludlow location in 2004. I also played numerous shows and at least one residency as part of the duo, S&M (Spottiswoode & McMahon) at their first location on Allen Street. I remember the duo participated at a best of the Living Room show at the Knitting Factory well over a decade ago. At that time, I remember saying that the Living Room was this century's equivalent of the 60's Bleecker Street scene. That has definitely been proven true. I'm convinced The Living Room has affected the kind of music much of the world listens to today. Norah Jones is just the tip of the iceberg. The Living Room had a vision to promote singer-songwriter music at a time when singer-songwriters weren't trendy. The good news is that they'll hopefully find a new location soon. So I'm not too worried about the wind-up on Ludlow even though I have some wonderful memories of the place.

DBB: In the meantime, what new gigs await?
JS: Besides the Living Room residency, we're playing about another half dozen shows on the East Coast this autumn, including a return to Washington DC where many of us once lived: our debut show at The Hamilton on October 3rd. Next spring we'll be releasing our sixth album, English Dream, so there should be a lot more shows and touring then.

[Friday, Sept 27th, 8
Spottiswoode & Two of His Enemies
The Stage at Rockwells
Pelham, NY

Saturday, Sep 28th, 8pm till late
Spottiswoode & Most of His Enemies
Main Street Pub
Philmont, NY

Sunday, Sep 29th, 9pm
Spottiswoode & His Enemies (full band)
Lounge Set
Living Room, NY

Thursday, Oct 3rd, 9:15pm
Spottiswoode & Most of His Enemies
The Hamilton
Washington, DC (A great bill of  Spottiswoode friends: Victoria Vox opens at 7:30, Jelly Roll Mortals at 8:15pm)

Friday, Oct 4th, 9pm
Spottiswoode & Most of His Enemies
Liberty Public House
Rhinebeck, NY
(Spottiswoode's good friend Steven Pague opens)

Saturday, Oct 5th, 11pm classic double set till very late
Spottiswoode & Most of His Enemies
Living Room, NY

Sunday, Oct 13th, 8pm
Spottiswoode & Most of His Enemies
The Carriage House
Ithaca, NY
A double bill with Bronwen Exter

Monday, Oct 14th, 8pm
Spottiswoode & His Enemies (full band)
Columbus Day Americana set
Living Room, NY

Saturday, Oct 26th, 9pm
Spottiswoode & Most of His Enemies + special guests Kenny White & Martha Redbone
A celebration of the last night of the Living Room on Ludlow Street
Living Room, NY

DBB: Wikipedia describes your sound as "eclectic" and "with songs ranging from rock to folk to jazz and even gospel." How would you describe yourselves?
Tim Vaill: Lunatics with instruments.
Kevin Cordt: A little bit of this, a little bit of that, a pot, a pan, a broom, a hat.
JS: I always use the word "expressionists." We express ourselves! and there's a lot to express! Would you call The Beatles eclectic? Perhaps. But it wouldn't be the first adjective to come to mind. They wrote songs on many different themes and in many styles but it all made sense. "Rock to folk to jazz and even gospel" could equally apply to them. I've always liked Robert Altman's words: "People ask me to describe my style. But it's not about style, it's about personality. And I'm not the right person to ask what my personality is."

DBB: Fall's settling in. Won't be long before the holidays are here. Let's discuss "Chelsea Boys," kind of an international cult Christmas hit. The song describes an event. Real or fictitious? Of course, the song has its gay following. Anything you might care to say to my blog's LGBT audience?
JS: Thanks for asking! I'm very proud of that song and I'm grateful to you for championing it. I wrote it about a decade ago while spending Christmas in Manhattan. I was single at the time and, alas, I didn't find myself dancing on 22nd street or singing along with a gay street choir. But at heart it's a true song, if that makes sense: A love song about a boy and a girl on a date in Chelsea, dancing in the snow and then spontaneously singing Christmas songs with some gay strangers on the street. It sounds corny as I describe it, but it's a strangely moving song to sing.
I have wonderful memories of playing Christmas shows and getting the audience to sing along (no matter their sexual orientation). Of course, three band-members are gay so it does work as a band anthem, although I wasn't thinking about Candace, Kevin or Tony when I wrote it. 
TV: Rock your leather, rock your tights, listen to Spttiswoode on cold winter nights.
KC: Kevin is single.

DBB: Could you discuss what it's like to be an indy rock band dealing financially in the environment of today's music industry? Are you ever tempted to "sell out"? You're an amazingly talented group. What do you think prevents you from breaking into the mainstream? And is that something you even desire?  
TV: It's a miracle we're still here and it's not getting any easier. Even in the best of times, making money as a musician is a massive challenge. I don't think we're too worried about mainstream success. Sometimes being the right size is better than being the biggest.
JS: I don't really feel like we're part of the music "industry." It's much more feudal than that. We rely on patronage! I would sell out tomorrow if I could. I'm just not sure what that would mean. If we were all twenty, then I suppose it might make sense for us to sing a One Direction cover while twerking our butts off, but I don't think we'd get too many buyers for that at this stage. Several reasons we haven't broken into the mainstream; we were already in our thirties when the band formed; we're not easily pigeon-holed; we're a 7-piece so we're not that portable. I'm not sure if "mainstream" is what I desire, though I certainly wouldn't say no. Tom Waits, Nick Cave aren't exactly mainstream but they have successful careers and have created an amazing body of work. Good role models to have. The challenge is to keep growing as an artist. In the meantime, hopefully you somehow find a larger audience.

KC: We have had so many amazing adventures playing together, I'm just psyched to see what happens next.

Check out the video for the band's new song: 
DBB: What is your view of the state of rock and pop today, and with what tops Billboard and is heard over the US radio?
JS: Even when I was a child, I didn't pay much attention to the Billboard charts. I can't really comment. Every generation needs its mating dances.

DBB: Where do all the members of Spottiswoode & His Enemies hail from? And where do you now reside in NY (i.e., which borough)?
JS: Me: London, England
John Young: Seattle (now in NY)
Tim Vaill: Born in L.A., now in Brooklyn
Candace DeBartolo: Chicago (and Florida?)
Kevin Cordt:  born in Kansas, lives in DC
Riley McMahon: Pittsburgh
Tony Lauria: From Long Island
Tony Lauria: Living in the West Village.
JS: All of us (except Tony) met in Washington DC in the 90s. Kevin still lives there. I moved to manhattan in '97. During the last couple of years I have split my time between London and New York. Until this spring, my official address was Manhattan Mini Storage. I'll be staying in Brooklyn this fall.

DBB: How did you decide on your band's rather cheeky name?
JS: Many of us had been in a successful band together in Washington. When it broke up, I decided I needed to put my name on the next band so that my career could continue more easily after the next band broke up. I never imagined it would still be together after fifteen years! The first question was whether to give myself a different name. For various reasons I decided not to. It felt quite strange and egotistical to use my name in the first place so I felt it was essential to at least acknowledge the existence of the band. The Spottiswoode Septet? Nah. At the time "& His Enemies" seemed like the obvious choice. Most bands end up hating each other and certainly their bandleaders, so I thought I'd just state the inevitable. The name of the band is also about the Enemies within. A lot of my songs are little psychodramas.

DBB: Jonathan, who influenced your singing? What vocalists would you consider yourself a fan of, growing up?
JS: So many people have influenced my singing. My favorite singers growing up? John Lennon, Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Jim Morrison. My favorite singers since: Billie Holiday, Bob Dylan (the most underrated singer of all time -- except when he's doing an unwitting caricature of himself), James Brown, Frank Sinatra, Curtis Mayfield, Stevie Wonder, Bill Withers and many many more. Alas, the only singer on that list who is a baritone is Jim Morrison. Leonard Cohen influenced my singing because he's more in my range and I used to favor writing conversational songs. However, about a decade ago, I finally realized that real "singing" can be cathartic so there's less Leonard Cohen now. It depends on the song. On a few of my "jazz" songs I'm very aware that I can phrase a line like Billie Holiday, but I'm not sure if anyone else would notice.

DBB:  What made you all decide to make music your career? Have you ever worked "day jobs" to survive? What were they?  
TL: I never "decided to pursue a music career." I just needed a day job to pursue my other insane line of work, theater. Or was it the other way around?
KC: Enemy #4 designs gardens in DC as a day job. Feels super lucky to have another creative outlet. Gardens rock, too.
TV: I think what was inspiring was just the mystery of how music happens and that it can sometimes become a separate thing which changes reality in a positive way (hopefully). Yes, I've had many day jobs: paperboy, record store, teacher, drum shop, temp, busboy, residential irrigation specialist.... Oops, I mean ditch digger.
JS: At the age of about 23, I decided not to go to grad school and instead to become an "artist." What made me decide? I was convinced that if I did anything else, I would live my life in regret so it was a no-brainer. In hindsight, I'm sure it was my mother's influence. She's a singing teacher and she wanted me to take risks. I've done many day-jobs:  furniture hauler, court reporter, mortgage researcher, conference staffer, production assistant, non-equity theater performer, commercial voice-over artist, etc.

DBB: Your last album was Wild Goosechase Expedition in 2011. Do you have an upcoming album planned by any chance?
JS: This spring, we're releasing English Dream… 14 songs about England and nature and childhood and stuff.

DBB: You've covered so many genres of pop music. Have you ever thought about doing a kind of nouveau disco number we could dance to?
JS: I would love to do a whole nouveau disco record, but I imagine it being more of a studio creation with a dance track producer than a live Enemies thing. Sorry. I have a tune for some lines by Samuel Beckett - of all people - that I've always thought could be turned into a club hit!
DBB: Actually, classic disco was orchestral before electronica moved in; just something to think about. But I love the idea of Dancing for Godot.

DBB: Any last words to impart upon our readers?
JS: Enemy # 4 is single. But I think he's already told you that.

DBB: Many thanks for this interview! Will see you closing night at The Living Room, 9pm, Saturday, October 26.
TV: See you at our show!
KC: Thanks for listening! Stay tuned.
JS: Thank you very much.... Looking forward to seeing you.