Posts Tagged ‘Duncan Sheik’


My Most Fascinating Interviews of 2010

January 1, 2011

I don’t spend a lot of time in the past. Sometimes I think “reminisce” is another word for “can’t get on with life.”  Show me the person who’s always talking about the “old days” and I’ll show you someone who’s stuck there.

But I also know there’s a place for taking stock of what’s happened in life, how we dealt with it and pinpointing what we learned from it.

And here it is New Year’s Day, 2011, and I’m feeling strongly about the year just ended.

I interviewed some memorable talents for ON THE SCENE who left an impression on me.  In 2010, the show became more in depth, the interviews more revealing than ever. To get there, I demanded more of myself, extended myself, and dived into creative risks that I know I wouldn’t have just a couple years ago. Now that’s progress.

Maybe it’s natural I would do those things because the artists I interviewed who impressed me most are those who went outside their comfort zone and moved their careers into new directions.

For starters, David Bryan. For almost 30 years, now, the keyboardist in Bon Jovi.  But in 2010 he became a triple-Tony Award winner for “Memphis,” the musical which he wrote and co-produced. I interviewed him at his New Jersey beach house on a sweltering July afternoon. It was shortly after the Tony awards and he was reliving the winning moments. We also talked about how life altering it was for him to step outside Bon Jovi and helm a project in his own right and how it’s forever changed his career.

Oscar winners Geoffrey Fletcher, who won the Academy Award for writing the screenplay for “Precious,” and Roger Ross Williams who received his Oscar for directing the documentary, “Music By Prudence,” both saw their long efforts pay off in 2010. When I interviewed Geoffrey he described how just a year before “Precious,” hit the screen, agents would hang-up on him. Suddenly, they were calling him. I interviewed Roger (and the subject of his film, Prudence Mabhena) on stage for an audience q and a after a screening of his film. After a long career producing and directing television news and entertainment programs, he headed to Zimbabwe and shot this documentary for theatrical release. Look where it led.

And there was refreshingly honest singer Duncan Sheik, who went broke after scoring a big hit with “Barely Breathing,” then came back strong writing songs for “Spring Awakening” (another rocker turned Broadway success story).

Joy Behar was the year’s lightning rod. God, the hate mail. And that was before the interview even aired.

That’s only a few. Read the blog archives for more on these interviews and many others if you’re interested,  and there are interview photos in the gallery of

Now let’s see what we can make happen in 2011. All of us. Happy New Year.


Interviewing David Bryan of Bon Jovi and “Memphis”

July 9, 2010

Today I got one of those unique, wonderful surprises that being an interviewer brings: meeting a performer from my favorite…and one of the world’s most famous..rock bands. Ok, the interview was not a surprise. I knew I would be taping a conversation with David Bryan, the keyboardist of Bon Jovi, at his New Jersey beach house, it had been in the works for a couple of weeks.

The surprise came in the impression he made on me. For more than a quarter century he’s been in the shadow of larger than life frontman Jon Bon Jovi, and to some extent guitarist Richie Sambora in particular his headline grabbing marriage to and divorce from  Heather Locklear. I’ve seldom heard David say a word, so his personality was a mystery to me.

But suddenly he is stepping into the spotlight in his own right, winning three Tony Awards last month for writing lyrics,  orchestrating and producing the Broadway musical, “Memphis.” At age 48, he has a new aspect to his career that is clearly rejuvinating  him. “I could talk about this show all day” was one of the first things he said to me.  He was effusive about it.

We spent the better part of two hours at his home in a wide ranging conversation about “Memphis,” and Bon Jovi. He showed me how he’s been using a champagne tote purchased at Harrods in London to carry his Tony Awards from country to country while Bon Jovi is on a world tour.  The “Tony tote.”

But what I noticed most was his passion in how he talked about “Memphis.” When I interview someone I can tell the difference between when the artist is simply “selling” the show or pushing tickets, and when they believe what they’ve done has real quality.  He talks about “Memphis” in personal terms, a nearly nine year journey from script to stage. I also noticed his broad based knowledge about musicians and the industry (every performer I happened to mention in conversation, from Tony Bennett to Duncan Sheik to Keb’ Mo’,  he had an opinion about their work). I also have personal admiration for anyone willing to  take professional risks, in his case,  to go outside his comfortable rock genre and take on musical theatre. It all points to a creative intelligence and musicality that I have to believe has been a glue holding Bon Jovi together all these years. And I don’t think the public or critics have always noticed that.

We also discussed criticism of “Memphis” that the music is too pop, some of the songs too “light” for Broadway and you’ll hear what he has to say about that many more things in two weeks when the next ON THE SCENE episode airs, times to be announced next week.

I love days like this.


Time To Exhale (Sort Of)

June 4, 2010

We did it! It’s done. A marathon-non-stop-no-time-to-blink day long edit session is over and the next ON THE SCENE installment is ready to premiere Saturday morning. My editor, Shannon Gillece, is astounding, we both focused like lasers, as I often say, and got this job done!

Hard work and a job well done is the best feeling.

And exhausting.

The reason today was so much work is a new graphic design look was created to update the show’s appearance (something I had wanted to do for a while) and it involved much more effort in editing, but was so well worth it.

So I spent the day with Duncan Sheik, Joy Behar and these two incredible Iraq War veterans who’ve discovered creativity can help overcome a difficult transition back to civilian life. (Well, at least watching them on video as we put the show together.)

Now, I’m calling it a day…but the weekend is barely going to give me a free minute it’s looking like…I’m off to a film festival tomorrow and Sunday and will tell you more about that later..


Seriously Under The ON THE SCENE Gun

June 3, 2010

Ok, the new ON THE SCENE episode debuts 7 AM Saturday and replays five more times this weekend. It’s good. Very good. Take my word.

But if I wasn’t steady as a table about things I would be freaking out bigtime right now. One piece is not completely edited, “Art Of A Soldier,” and it’s a complicated, emotional story. Then all of the  ON THE SCENE elements need to be edited into show form. The new graphic design is being completed as we speak, and just today I taped my host segments on location bridging everything together.

Fortunately, I have an exceptional video editor and we work like laser beams in the edit suite so this show will make air and you’ll all learn more about Duncan Sheik, Joy Behar and the Combat Paper Project, the program “Art Of A  Soldier” is about. 

But this is television. We work down to the wire so often and that’s part of the thrill. Like an actor right before opening night, when the lines aren’t flowing naturally yet, the paint on the set is still wet, and three props are missing. And yet somehow it all comes together, always. 

And this will too!


Choreography By John Bathke

June 1, 2010

I am not a choreographer. I am a television interviewer, correspondent, host, producer and writer depending upon which hat I’m wearing at the moment.

But when it comes to putting together ON THE SCENE, I think like a choreographer. My sense of rhythm kicks in…pacing, action, stillness, nuance, balance, spectacle, point of view…everything that makes for a compelling dance concert is what I draw upon when working with a video editor to pull together each episode.

I’m thinking about this because this weekend another new ON THE SCENE airs and we are busy…very busy…editing against the clock. (The show airs at 7 AM, Noon and 4:30PM each day if you’re local). As with each show, this one is incredibly diverse. It includes my interviews with Joy Behar, singer (and Tony and Grammy winner) Duncan Sheik, and a piece we’re calling “Art Of A Soldier” about Iraq War veterans who are creating art from their old military uniforms as a means to work through conflicted feelings about the war.  So you can see with such varied content, it takes a little finesse to make it all flow.

We’ve had some esteemed choreographers interviewed ON THE SCENE including the fascinating Bill T. Jones, Dwight Rhoden and Desmond Richardson of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, both of whom I liked very much when I met them, and Heidi Latsky. (Our segment on Heidi’s show “GIMP” recieved an Emmy Award nomination this year and she attended the awards ceremony with me, actually, she is a talented risk-taker).  What I like best about doing these interviews is the watching…seeing how the choreographers interact and  how all the elements come together to tell a story and keep people interested. And over the years I’ve seen how it has influenced my approach in the edit suite.

And that’s the coolest thing about this job…being exposed to such a variety of artists and the opportunity to absorb even a little of what they do.


It’s All In The Prep

March 13, 2010

I called-up Bill T. Jones yesterday. He was getting ready to fly off to Europe last night but he took a few minutes to chat about an artist he recently worked with to great acclaim, and who I am about to interview: Duncan Sheik.

They both won Tony Awards for the  musical, “Spring Awakening.” Jones did the choreography and Sheik wrote the music. I wanted to know more about Sheik’s work and Bill T. Jones is brilliant when it comes to synthesizing the creative process…his own and everyone around him. (Jones is the most eloquent person I have ever interviewed. He was an ON THE SCENE guest four years ago, when the show was in it’s early days).

Anyway, I learned some interesting background on “Spring Awakening” and Sheik’s contributions which will be helpful Thursday evening when he and I sit down for a conversation.

It’s all in the preparation, you know. The more I understand about the person I’m interviewing, the more it becomes a conversation about interesting topics, and not some ol’ standard Q&A.