Ralph Carney talks BoJack Horseman, bass trombone, and Nicholas Cage

If you’ve watched Netflix’s first original animated series BoJack Horseman, you probably noticed that the opening credits sequence totally rules. Maybe you also happen know that one of the composers of the theme music is Patrick Carney, drummer for the Black Keys.

But I bet you didn’t know that the co-writer of the track and the guy who layered all that sweet saxophone on it is his uncle and local musician Ralph Carney, who you may have seen around town playing with Gaucho, the Cottontails, and Serious Jass Project.

Oh, are those acts a little too underground? Well then maybe you’ve heard his past work with Tom Waits, the B-52s, Elvis Costello, and They Might Be Giants.

Once, Harvey Pekar wrote a comic about him:

Ralph is a rare jazz musician who brings something that it’s sorely needed to the genre: a sense of humor. You can’t help but smile every time you see him play. But it’s not a gimmick, it’s in his DNA. Tom Waits once described him best: “He’s guided by some other source of information. He’s like a broken toy that works better than before it was broken.”

We chatted with Ralph recently about the theme song, and other pretty interesting stuff:

MM: So how did you get approached to do this project?

Ralph Carney: Patrick from the Black Keys was asked to do a theme for the show and he sent them this track that we already finished last November. It was his first tune from his newly built home studio. The producers loved it. They edited it down from 4 minutes to 30 seconds or so.

It was a lucky break. Patrick and I have been trading files on and off since around 2007 but nothing had ever come of any of it till this.

MM: So you had no idea you were writing something for a show about an anthropomorphic horse?

Ralph Carney: Haha nope. It wasn’t really composed for the show, but it worked for them. I got a text from Patrick in April saying, “I think we have a sync deal.” I thought he meant something about plumbing.

MM: It’s awesomely sax-heavy. When I first heard it I thought it was a lead guitar. Then other parts of it sound like a guitar chunking out power chords. How many tracks of saxophone are on there?

Ralph Carney: There are 3: tenor, soprano and baritone. The soprano didn’t make the theme but there is some in the 4 minute version that will be out on iTunes soon, I hear. And one bass trombone part.

MM: Haha awesome. Can’t wait to hear the whole thing. Patrick Carney has been pretty open about your influence on his musical career. Did you encourage him a lot as a kid?

Ralph Carney: Well I know he liked the Tin Huey record on Warner Brothers, and as he got older he thought it was cool he had an uncle who was on a record. Not sure if I musically influenced him, though.

I turned him on to weird children’s records and the Shaggs when he was in high school and came to visit in 1996 or so.

MM: Oh yeah, the Shaggs influence is clear.

Ralph Carney: His first musical output which I have on cassettes is pretty out there. That is why I was kinda surprised when he played me the first Black Keys stuff. I thought Dan was an African American. Also, I didn’t know he (Patrick) was a drummer. The rest is history, I guess.

MM: How long have you been in San Francisco?

Ralph Carney: Since 1995. I moved to Oakland in 1989, two weeks before the earthquake.

MM: Glad that didn’t scare you off. Do you think there’s been much opportunity for the working musician here?

Ralph Carney: It depends on what you are trying to do I guess, I think it is harder for young people in rock bands. Too expensive. But as far as the kind of gigs I do, it is not so bad, plenty of restaurants and bars to play old music.

You have heard it all before from Patti Smith, David Byrne, etc. Meaning here, NYC, etc. are no longer cheap like in the mid to late 70′s.

MM: Maybe I’m venting now, but it also seems like the going rate for the working session musician hasn’t changed since the ’60s.

Ralph Carney: Agreed! I sometimes wonder what I was thinking and then a thing like BoJack comes up.

MM: What else do you have going on musically these days?

Ralph Carney: Just recording stuff for various singers in my home studio. And then local gigging.

(Editors note: Ralph is being modest. “Various singers” includes St. Vincent. Here is his playing on the track “Digital Witness” on her record from this year.)

Ralph Carney: I just played a wedding for Roman Coppola. That was exciting, seeing Nic Cage yell at his kid.

MM: Haha the goth kid?

Ralph Carney: Hahaha, I don’t think he was there. They were a lot younger and not goth. There was a lake and Cage yelled to be in the water where “I CAN SEE YOU!!!” (in his best Nic Cage impression)

MM: Yeah, plus goths don’t swim.

Ralph Carney: Hell no!

MM: Where are you playing these days?

Ralph Carney: Well I play all over S.F. and now suddenly Alameda.

(Editor’s note: More Ralph vagueness. I happen to know Ralph blows on his bizarre assortment of horns every Wednesday 8-10pm at Amnesia with Gaucho, and every 3rd Sunday at the Riptide with the Cottontails. Also various nights here at there at the Rite Spot Cafe under his own name.)

Thanks Ralph! I should also mention that all the fantastic character design in the show was done by the Bay Area (now LA) artist Lisa Hanawalt, but that, as they say, is another interview… hopefully!

Calling all rudeboys and rudegirls: Too Much Pressure at thee Parkside tonight

Well, hopefully my sharkskin suit still fits. Tonight at thee Parkside, Too Much Pressure, an all star 2-tone ska tribute band is gonna be playing skankable hits from the ’80s. What constitutes all-star? Well here are a few of the singers:

  • Mike Park – Skankin’ Pickle, Asian Man Records
  • Karina Denike – Dance Hall Crashers
  • Jesse Wagner – the Aggrolites

As well as a backing band made up of the awesome members of Let’s Go Bowling, the Phenomenauts, and Bad Manners. 3rd wave meets 2nd wave! The early 2000s rudie in you is completely stoked, just own it.

Here’s a shot Jesse took of rehearsal:

Latest ‘Call of Duty: Advanced Warfare’ gameplay video blows up the Golden Gate Bridge

Holy crap! I guess the Sausalito ferry is gonna be extra packed for a while.

[via kotaku]

‘Waiting for a Train’ the Toshio Hirano documentary now online!

If you know him, you love him. Toshio Hirano has been charming the hell out of Mission audiences with his country yodeling and hilarious stage banter for over a decade.

In 2009, director Oscar Bucher made a short documentary about how this fella from Tokyo fell in love with early country music and followed that passion to the United States. It had limited screenings, one of which I was lucky enough to catch then.

Finally, the film has been posted online for the rest of us, so check it out:

http://www.windriderforum.info/waiting-for-a-train/

Toshio still performs at Amnesia on 2nd Mondays and the Rite Spot Cafe on the 4th Tuesdays.

LOL Look at this weird old dude eating hipster ice cream

[via Humphry Slowcombe's twitter]

Adam Savage’s secret lair

Adam Savage, a Mythbuster/Mission resident, recently gave a tour of his workshop and boy is it something else. This is your chance to see it before AE’s Hoarders catches wind of this video and sends in their crew:

His prop replica collection is incredible. He’s built every kind of costume, weapon, and helmet from every movie you can think of. What’s next, vehicles? I wouldn’t be surprised if he’s working on a Millennium Falcon down there.

Also, here’s one thing that you can tell right away: dude has his workflow on lock. He designed and built custom toolboxes, cases, and shelves. His tool racks are on casters, and designed to make sure every tool is immediately accessible without moving anything else. It’s seriously impressive. I can’t even organize the icons on my desktop.

Adam mentions that there’s a virtual tour on Google Maps, but the entrance is hidden as a manhole cover in the Mission, so I dug up the link for you. Let’s just say it’s probably not the actual location of the workshop, so don’t try to go down there in real life. Look how well that worked out for those kids who died looking for Ninja Turtles in the ’80s (ok maybe that was an urban legend):

Google Maps link (spoiler alert!)

Update: Called it. He is building a Millennium Falcon, along with an R2 unit:

Closed Contact

Looks like Clothes Contact is gonna peace out within 60 days:

$14000 / 2000ft² – Great Ground Floor on Valencia (mission district)

Great Frontage on Valencia and 16th. Nice three story building with great potential. Space will vacate approx 60 days… Possible to double space with full basement. Shown by appointment only.

Guess you gotta sell thrift by the ounce, not the pound, in this economy.

[via Craigslist]

Update: The gone-in-60-days figure may be inaccurate, according to current employee Travis:

Alright, I work there right now, and the truth is, it’s gonna be around at the very least until the end of the year. After that, we’ll have to wait and see what happens. But it’s sure as hell not closing in 60 days. Come in, you’ll see.

Godzilla film takes some liberties with BART and Muni logos

Hollywood be all like, “here, lemme redesign that for you” (Godzilla, 2014):

After all, who would want these pieces of shit searing the eyeballs of America:

[via 99percentinvisible]

Hey no big deal but here’s Terry Zwigoff and Robert Crumb getting down to Craig and Meredith

Craig Ventresco and Meredith Axelrod are San Francisco legends in my book. Glad to know I’m in good company with Robert Crumb and Terry Zwigoff. Why don’t you join this elite club of ragtime, early jazz, and blues fans and get down to Atlas Cafe on Saturdays 4-6pm?

Don’t forget we interviewed inverviewed Mr. Zwigoff in 2012! He was a delight.

Why it’s a bad idea to try to rob Viracocha

Judging from the music video of latest from Atmosphere, security seems pretty tight at Viracocha on Valencia and 21st. Keep that in mind next time you’re thinking about shoplifting that moss-covered log with the Edison bulb screwed into it.

[via Mission director and dumpling enthusiast Pete Lee]

Vic Wong

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Email: vic (at) missionmission.org

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Biographical Info:

Vic was born in Oakland. He is a software engineer. He plays jazz guitar. Vic owns a sword.