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E7: On the road (at home) with tour manager Daniel Herbst

Hometown friend Daniel “Cappy Dee” Herbst has been a concert tour manager for major acts for over 30 years. Dan talks about going from schlepping gear for Uncle Tupelo to managing tours for music icons like Wilco, David Byrne, LCD Soundsystem, Alabama Shakes, Ray LaMontange, Gary Clark Jr. and the post-Covid outlook for live music. 

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E06: Stranded in paradise – riding out Covid in SE Asia

When Covid-19 first walloped the world, I was on a short vacation in Cambodia from my job in China. Deciding whether to go back to where I had called home for the past few years or take refuge in Cambodia or Vietnam during a pandemic wasn’t as easy it at sounds.

When Covid-19 first walloped the world, I was on a short vacation in Cambodia from my job in China. Deciding whether to go back to where I had called home for the past few years or take refuge in Cambodia or Vietnam during a pandemic wasn’t as easy as it sounds.

Listen as I recount some of the places and people I met and the process of dealing with the corona virus that broke out during my short Chinese New Year vacation. I ended up staying in Cambodia a bit before going to Ho Chi Min City and eventually buying a bicycle and attempting to ride to Hanoi.

E05: Dave Sperling – the man who launched a thousand expat careers

Here’s the scoop behind this ESL legend’s own life as an early internet entrepreneur, teacher, traveler, tech geek and family man and how he created the website that seems frozen in time.

If you have ever taught English in a foreign country, there’s probably no way you don’t know all about Dave Sperling and his Dave’s ESL Cafe, the website that “launched thousands of careers”. Here’s the scoop behind this ESL legend’s own life as an early internet entrepreneur, teacher, traveler, tech geek and family man and how he created the website that seems frozen in time. Even if you don’t know Dave from Adam’s house cat – you’ll want to hear about the site that has helped legions of young native English speakers get their first jobs in foreign lands and set them off on life-changing journeys.

If you like Rootabaga, your reviews mean A LOT. And please follow on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Youtube and help spread the word if you like what you hear.

Links to music in the podcast:

Special thanks to Light Organ Records for letting me use the music of We Need Surgery and to Zion Train and Cha Cha for I Believe!

Fall – We Need Surgery – Light Organ Records

Lion – We Need Surgery – Light Organ Records

I Believe – Zion Train Feat. Cha Cha (I saw Cha Cha perform at a small venue in Shanghai. Amazing performance melding her hypnotic voice with elements of reggae, R&B, electronic and hip hop. Check out my other faves: Swimful by Shanghai Blue feat. Cha Cha and You Me (Downstate Ya’nan Mix) by Hamacide and Cha Cha.

All songs used with permission 2019

E04: Traversing a world of words with Jordan A.Y. Smith

California native (Dr.) Jordan A.Y. Smith talks about his prolific life in Japan as a professor, translator, poet and sometimes rapper, about poetry as an antidote to loneliness, the key to surviving multiple 5,000-mile moves with his multi-cultural family, creating poetry for BBC Radio 4 with three Japanese poets in Mt. Fuji’s legendary Sea of Trees, and some of his new music and poetry.

Check out more about Jordan wordSmith’s work with the Sea of Trees: Poetic Gateways to Aokigahara project at BBC Radio 4 and Tokyo Poetry Journal. Thanks to Jordan for all his time and awesome music and poetry. And to Light Organ Records for letting me use the music of We Need Surgery in each episode. Listen to Jordan’s full songs and other original music featured in Rootabaga episodes on SoundCloud.

And Jordan shared links to some of the Japanese poets he has worked with or been inspired by. Check it out if this episode has made you curious about Japanese poetry.

Yumi Fuzuki catranslation.org & poetryinternationalweb.net
Hiromi Ito poetryinternationalweb.net
Mizuta Norikopoetrykanto.com
Tokyo Poetry Journal

If you like this podcast, your reviews mean A LOT. Please leave reviews. And please follow on FacebookTwitterInstagram, and Youtube and help spread the word if you like what you hear.

Music in the podcast:

Fall – We Need Surgery – Light Organ Records

I Want Magic – Lyrics/vocals Jordan A.Y. Smith, Music d. dahlinger

Not the Point of No Return – Lyrics/vocals Jordan A.Y. Smith, Music d. dahlinger

Red Threads and Blue (poem) – Jordan A. Y. Smith, from Sea of Trees: Poetic Gateways to Aokigahara (Smith, et al) originally written for BBC Radio 4

Naked Angels Didn’t Descend – Lyrics/vocals Jordan A.Y. Smith, Music d. dahlinger

Mukūhaku: Clearly Not Merely a Blank Space – Lyrics/vocals Jordan A.Y. Smith, Music d. dahlinger  (originally published in √IC: Redux (Tokyo: ToPoJo Excursions, 2018)

All songs used with permission

E03: Marc Chavaneau – a violin maker from Orléans, France with deep roots in South Korea

When luthier Marc Chavaneau left his 15th century violin workshop in Orléans, France in 1997 for a one-year contract to make and repair violins and cellos in South Korea, he never expected that he wouldn’t be returning for good. Find out how that one year working for a dodgy employer in a work-visa black hole would change this craftsman’s life forever.

When luthier Marc Chavaneau left his 15th century violin workshop in Orléans, France in 1997 for a one-year contract to make and repair violins and cellos in South Korea, he never expected that he wouldn’t be returning for good. Find out how that one year working for a dodgy employer in a work-visa black hole would change this craftsman’s life forever.

Big thanks Marc and his family for the nice meal and time together for the interview.

 

Gratitude to Wendy Tennery for her support and contribution to editing this episode. And to Light Organ Records for letting me use the music of We Need Surgery in each episode. Listen to full songs in the links below.If you like this podcast, your reviews mean A LOT. Please leave reviews. And please follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube and help spread the word if you like what you hear.

Songs in the podcast: (click to listen)
FallWe Need Surgery – Light Organ Records
Why’s It Gotta be This Way – We need Surgery – Light Organ Records
You Won’t Be Alone (demo) – Brandon Butler

All songs used with permission

E02: Linus Kim’s long road to Bama-style BBQ in Seoul

Rootabaga offers up its first ever full episode with a trip from Hong Kong to Seoul, South Korea to interview Linus Kim.

Linus is a fellow Alabamian who went from a job in Hollywood (no, really), to a gig in finance, only to end up serving his Alabama-style barbecue to the starving masses in South Korea (with a few other gigs along the way). Linus is one of many guests on Rootabaga who seized on that certain kind of freedom and inspiration that the expat life can provide to find his niche and finally do something he really had a passion for.

If you are in Seoul Check out Linus’ Bama Style Barbecue. They don’t have a website but here’s a glowing review and here’s their Facebook page.

Big thanks to Light Organ Records for letting me use the music of We Need Surgery as a the theme in each episode. Listen to full songs in the links below.

Also, each episode would be a hell of a lot more boring without the awesome tunes contributed by my friends. The groovy and sonic instrumental vibes (MK ii demo) in mid episode are compliments of Valentino Avignoni in Tokyo, who has an EP on the way soon, and the custom outro diddy is from the prolific Miso Stefanac in Toronto. There’s a bonus song (not in the episode) by Miso Stefanac – an old demo he made called I’ll Never Win – over at Rootabaga’s SoundCloud page. 

If you like the podcast and the concept, your reviews mean A LOT. Please leave reviews. And please follow on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and Youtube and help spread the word if you like what you hear.

Songs in the podcast in order of appearance: (click to listen)
FallWe Need Surgery – Light Organ Records
MK ii (demo) – Valentino Avignoni
Lion – We Need Surgery – Light Organ Records

All songs used with permission

E01: A little taste of Rootabaga

Episode 1 of Rootabaga takes you on a little tour of upcoming interviews with some of the more creative and interesting expats I’ve met in my 23 years living in South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong, Vancouver and mainland China. You’ll meet musicians, craftsmen, entrepreneurs, digital nomads, and assorted colorful characters who chose to call foreign countries home. You’ll also hear some great original music along the way.

Special thanks to Wendy Tennery for all her contributions, hard work, and ideas. Huge thanks to all the interviewees who gave their time and energy to help me out. Thanks to all the friends and colleagues who supported and encouraged the idea.

Huge props to all the people who are letting me use their music in this podcast. I get so much of a buzz editing the parts with their songs that it makes me want to do a podcast dedicated to the music I love. I am seriously honored to know so many talented musicians and I got more music sent to me than I can actually use – for now.

And a big thanks to Light Organ Records, which is letting me use the music of We Need Surgery in each episode.

If you like the podcast and the concept, your reviews mean A LOT. 

Check out our SoundCloud page for links to some full versions of songs you hear in episodes.

Songs in the podcast in order of appearance: (Click to listen)
FallWe Need Surgery – Light Organ Records
Why’s It Always Gotta be This Way – We Need Surgery – Light Organ Records
Wasting (Demo) – Valentino Avignoni
Money Is Your Answer – Paul Johnson/Steve Johnson
My Turn – Lim Jungkyu/Mineri
Fall – We Need Surgery – Light Organ Records
All songs used with permission

From China Girl to China

or how my first band helped inspire my long expat career

…or how my first band inspired me to move halfway around the world

This morning I realised that my very first band had played an unlikely role in my becoming (so far) a permanent expat. I was listening to Bowie’s China Girl and remembering a blistering (if sloppy) version done by the very first band I played in in about 1984 in Birmingham Alabama. I was still in college and realized that Birmingham had a pretty cool music scene at the time with bands playing some really cool music influenced by the artists I loved. I wanted to be part of it so I answered an ad for a drummer in a local zine, even though I hadn’t ever played in a band before.

I drove down to the local hipster area, Southside, to a cool old apartment building to meet a John Lennon doppelgänger born with a rock star’s name – Perry Leopard, and his songwriting partner guitarist David Langston. I remember it being the kind of beautiful spring day that makes you want to be in a rock band, and they put on some vinyl Stones, Bowie and Lou Reed. I was stoked at the prospect of playing with these guys. I borrowed Lou Reed’s The Blue Mask LP from Perry – and, hyperbole alert, I think it changed my life. I went out and bought Berlin soon after from Charlemagne Records.

Them Thievin’ Crows

We had a dumpy but awesome little practice pad on 20th Street near the 1st Ave railroad tracks. I had a crappy kit that I had never learned to play properly. There must have been a dearth of drummers at the time… … Those guys came up with a name – Them Thievin’ Crows – and we scraped together a little set of some wicked originals by Perry and David that I guess might be called alt country art rock – and a bunch of covers by the same bands we listened to on that first meeting. I still have some of the shows we did and jam sessions captured on cassette tapes in storage in Northern California. I need to digitise those before they go up in flames.

We had some high energy shows where I would swear we must have been channeling Velvet Underground. I felt like I really was waiting on my man. And I can honestly say that I felt like I loved that music so much at the time and felt jilted by fate at not having been part of either that NYC scene or maybe the Doors L.A. scene that I think I started acting out like I was part of those scenes. Mainly just in terms of drinking my face off. But it was a wild and fun time for an Alabama kid.

Anyway – one of my favorite songs that we covered was China Girl. That was my first time to hear someone freak out so hard with guitar pedals when David played a smoking hot extended solo with tons of ‘verb and echo and I-don’t-know-what-else. It sound nothing like China Girl on Let’s Dance! (I didn’t know that day about the Iggy Pop version, which was what were aiming for I later figured out.) So after hearing the live Bowie version this morning (incl. great story about the song told by Bowie) I remembered that Perry had had a blog about Them Thievin’ Crows from way back so I looked to see if our China Girl was on it. Alas it wasn’t but there are links to a bunch of other TTC recordings. Check it out here with a click of the link:

Blog post about 1980's Birmingham, Alabama rock band Them Thievin' Crows, a band that may inspired my expat life
Blog post about Birmingham, Alabama rock band Them Thievin’ Crows

From China Girl to China – and a few stops along the way

What does this have to do with Rootabaga? Two things came to mind: First, I just never dreamed while in that scrappy little band in Birmingham, Alabama in 1984 or 85 that I’d go from playing drums to a Bowie song called China Girl, to 20 years later playing drums in Korea, in a band that would go on to get a record deal in Canada (episodes on that coming soon) – and 30 years later living and working in China. Is there a China Girl in my life? No, but there was. She just wasn’t Chinese. She still qualified but that’s another story. So anyway, I still think it’s fun to find those threads that connect my point A to my point C, and D and beyond and the threads that connect me to everyone else. 6 degrees. Astrality.

More importantly, Rootabaga is about lives lived as expats and I know for sure that my then band mate Perry Leopard is one of those people who inspired me and taught me very early in my adult life that the world was indeed my oyster and there was nothing keeping me tied to one place. This was because Perry was always talking about moving to Paris and it just blew me away. Paris?! Why the fuck does a kid from Alabama think Paris needs him for anything other than a few tourist dollars. But it still sounded cool as fuck. And Perry was serious and did move to Paris not long after.

I know it must have made an impact on my decision to move abroad several years later. (Side note: Perry writes in his blog below about our gig at Birmingham’s legendary dive bar The Nick (“Friends of the drummer, Brandon, made a lot of noise and brought him beers“). I saw Jane’s Addiction at the Nick later on the Nothing’s Shocking tour and Perry Farrell told the audience after a very very short set “Do yourselves a favor and get the fuck out of this shit hole” before walking off stage and leaving for good. I like to think Perry Leopard was more of influence on me than Perry Farrell.

And speaking of “astrality”:  Perry started his career in Paris an editor of a French publication I believe – I would go on to become a financial editor in Hong Kong for almost four years. (I have not been in touch with Perry for years but a quick Google search tells me that he is a “writer, editor, musician and wannabe theatre impresario… and performs regularly in Paris with his band, Los Caballeros Simpàticos.”  Wow.. that’s how you do “expat”! 

I never really picked his brain about what motivated him to move to France. Looks like a trip to Paris is in order?

The home stretch was a long one

It’s been about six weeks since I left my job and life in Hong Kong to complete this little podcast project and completion is getting close. Four countries, six or so new interviews, and uncountable cities (and craft beers) later, I am finally here in Atlanta with Wendy – a major motivator, contributor, editor and sometimes combator (made that one up to keep ’em rhyming). A couple of weeks of intense audio fiddling (and learning how to make a podcast) and we should have a product for you.  Until then we’ll be posting some previews and other random content to keep your curiosity piqued (we hope) – starting with this little compilation of some of the highlights of my journey…

From Hong Kong I went straight to Cambodia and Vietnam for some much needed R&R after three and a half years of a high-stress banking job with much-too-short vacations.

 

 

 

Colin?? Echo etc?

 

Then it was back to Korea to finish up some interviews.

 

Then Los Angeles for…..

Paul, Dave, Elaine,

 

San Francisco…

Dave

 

Coloma…

 

Atlanta