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.
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.
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Songs in the podcast in order of appearance: (click to listen) Fall – We Need Surgery – Light Organ Records MK ii (demo) – Valentino Avignoni Lion – We Need Surgery – Light Organ Records
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.
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) Fall – We 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
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 theIggy 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:
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?
One of the cool things about doing this podcast about interesting expats is that it brought me to home turf for the first time in years and connected me to some old friends I haven’t seen in 20 or 30 years. One being @fyicary, who invited me to contribute to the mural in his amazing Buckhead, Atlanta loft. @rootabagapodcast logo, hand chalked by me. 😁 And great IPA-fueled hang.
What a crazy trip to Korea. So much jammed packed in I haven’t had time to share any proper photos, videos, stories. Will have to do it from the US. But in 16 days I interviewed several old friends and acquaintances for Rootabaga, I met up with tons of old friends, hung out with an actress, a model (impressed yet? 😎), an old rock star I was a fan of in the 90s, ate amazing meals, drank more than I should have and saw remote places I’d never been. Can’t wait to share more soon…
Been trying to choose a logo for Rootabaga. It’s tough. But at least the office is comfy – on the island of Koh Rong Samloem, Cambodia. After quitting my job in Hong Kong, I needed a little vacay before starting more interviews in Korea and the US. This was the perfect spot.
No podcast episodes planned from Cambodia but it is a stop along the way – and I did run into an old colleague who, like myself and a couple of upcoming Rootabaga guests, hails from Alabama. He’s a long-term expat – a small-town Alabama lawyer who ended up teaching in Asia and eastern Europe and resides part of the year in Cambodia with his wife. Had a few too many Angkor beers and forgot to take a photo together but did manage to take a few shots of Phnom Penh the last few days.
Inspired by my decision to quit my job last week (Jan 8 2018) to work on the Rootabaga podcast full time, I made this little video of my commute from my little village in the Outer Islands of Hong Kong to my office in the city. Figured I’d want to remember it on down the line. Enjoy…
More videos soon sharing the making of the podcast.
Music – Mui Wo to Central Blues by me made on Garageband