Talking horror with Josh Malerman while blindfolded, going inside our local all-girl moped gang with Autumn Rae, and singing about Merona skirts …on episode 18 of The Saturday Six Pack

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After a week off, The Saturday Six Pack was back on AM 1700 this past weekend, and, while I have a few regrets, I feel pretty comfortable saying that, all things considered, it was a solid outing. We learned a lot. We laughed a lot. And we even sang an impromptu song about Merona dresses, which, we learned from Target employee Jim Cherewick, are presently on sale at the retailer’s Carpenter Road store. [More on that later. I promise.]

Speaking of Jim, the show started with an awesome intro song that he’d just written a few minutes before we went live. Here, if you can decipher them, are the song’s lyrics.

JimsTheme

I didn’t ask Jim, but I think that’s a drawing of me in the bottom, right-hand corner, talking with our first guest of the evening, Josh Malerman, the author of the horror novel Bird Box, and lead singer of the band The High Strung. While not incredibly flattering, it’s still a huge improvement over Jim’s last attempt at capturing my likeness, which resulted in a George Lucas-type creature. So apparently my tirade after episode seven, when Jim showed me his drawing, had a positive effect on the young artist.

Here’s Malerman telling us about Bird Box, which, if I understood him correctly, centers around a woman and two children attempting to escape a deadly epidemic that’s somehow triggered by the visual contemplation some unknown adversary. The idea, he said, came to him with a single image… the vision of a woman and two children, all blindfolded, making their way down a river in a boat, feeling their way along the bank, attempting to escape something that they knew they couldn’t dare risk looking it. [This idea that their adversary could not be looked it, he said, stemmed from something that he’d been told as a kid that really troubled him – that if one were to attempt to contemplate the idea of infinity – they’d go mad.]

JoshMalerman

[Malerman claimed during the interview that his surname, strictly translated from German, means “genius man.” I asked our German-speaking listeners to call in and verify this interpretation. None did.]

Before jumping into the story of Bird Box, how it got published, and the likelihood that it’ll one day make its way to the silver screen, however, we talked about the origin story of his band, which pretty much came into being when his childhood friends Derrick and Chad asked him to start writing songs for them at the age of about 19. [Derrick and Chad, who had been playing bass and drums together for years, knew that Malerman could write, having read his short horror stories, and asked if he could take a stab at writing songs. One of them. I can’t remember which. Also taught him how to play a few chords on the organ.] They didn’t really get serious about it, though, according to Malerman, until they were about 26, at which point they began touring in earnest and cranking out records. [The High Strung have released seven records over the past decade.]

[If you missed the live broadcast, you can now hear the episode in its entirety on both iTunes and Soundcloud. Or, if you want, you can just scroll down to end of this post, where you’ll find it embedded.]

We talked about their constant crisscrossing tours of the United States, and the joy of just traveling without commitments with your best friends. [Three of the four members of the band have known each other since they were 11 year olds living in West Bloomfield.] We also talked about how things are evolving now as they’re getting older, having children, and the like. [Malerman, who is engaged to be married, had told me that he’d be arriving at the studio dressed as a clown, as he’d be coming straight from the first birthday party of a bandmate’s kid. This, however, didn’t come to pass, as said bandmate asked him not to, for fear of psychologically damaging his child. Thus is the life of a horror writer engaged to a face painter.]

And, of course, we talked about his evolution as a writer… Malerman told us how he struggled between the ages of 19 and 29. While a prolific writer, he said he just couldn’t manage to end his stories. Then, late one night, at a coffeeshop in Birmingham, he had a breakthrough. He visualized the end of a story. And, since then, he’s been unstoppable. Between the ages of 29 and 39, he says, he’s completed 20 novels… We talked about his process, how he came to get a publishing deal after a friend saw something that he’d written on MySpace and forwarded it to a literary agent, and what it’s like to now be working with Universal Studios. [Universal hasn’t just optioned the book. They actually have a director assigned, a line-budget in place, and a partially finished script.]

Then, accompanying himself on a vintage organ which he’d brought with him into the studio, Malerman read from the Bird Box, after having bindfolded all of us. [His reading, which runs for about 13 minutes, begins at the 30-minute mark.]

malermanblindfold

We then concluded our interview with a short discussion of the week he spent with The High Strung at Guantanamo Bay, joyfully swimming around, drinking and smoking cigars in a tropical lagoon just yards away from where orange-jumpsuited US detainees were being held, before being taken to entertain the troops and their families at the base library.

Here’s the book. If you should decide to get a copy, Josh recommends the English version, which was put out by HarperCollins, as it contains a novella of his at the end, which the US version doesn’t.

BirdBox

Then, at the 55-minute mark, local historian Matt Siegfried came by to talk about Ypsilanti in 1840s, the impact of the railroad, and just how quickly our this place we call home transitioned from a frontier town of trappers and traders to a proper village with lace-curtained homes, a college, and 20 churches.

And, when Matt left, we played the most recent musical submission from our correspondent in Kenya, Dr. Peter Larson, who, by the way, may be dropping back by the studio later this summer.

Next up, at 1:10, was local gang member Autumn Rae, who rode her moped up to the studio doors and bounded in to tell us about the two clubs she’s affiliated with – the Ypsi NoNos [No Fucks Given, No Shits Taken] and the Femme Pedals – and the upcoming I Built It Myself moped rally in Milan that members of both will be taking part in. She told us about gang life, how she and her crew celebrate the start of “gang season” each year, and what it’s like to jump a moped over fire. Here’s Rae responding to criticism that, despite their claims to the contrary, numerous shits are taken by the NoNos, as evidenced by the “poop mountain” that was left in the wake of last year’s big rally. [Rae assures folks that there will be more than one porta-potty at this year’s event.]

AutumnRae

We talked about the importance of getting girls interested in “wrenching,” as it builds confidence and self-esteem. And we talked about the work she does through the Femme Pedals to raise money for Alternatives for Girls, a Detroit-based non-profit dedicated to the empowerment of at-risk girls. We also talked about her secret clubhouse in Ypsi, why she recommends wearing a helmet, and the fact that she identifies as an “Ypsilitist.” [It had never occured to me to mash-up “Ypsilanti” and “elitist,” but it’s pretty awesome.]

And, for some reason, we ended our conversation with a discussion of the Scientology practice of “silent birth,” which I’m pretty sure came about because L Ron Hubbard didn’t want to hear the screams and moans of female cult members in labor. Here’s Rae showing off her wrench tattoo. [note: I hope to have Autm back on the show sometime to see if, as she claims, she can pick out people blindfolded based on the sounds of their mopeds.]

wrenchtat

And then, when Rae left, things like of got weird, as Jim Cheerewick [at the 1:44-mark] got promoted to the guest chair and we began a bonus round of PBR tallboys that I’d smuggled in beneath the six pack of the day, which had been Short’s Soft Parade. [note: The Soft Parade and Good Humans shows are always the weirdest.]

Oddly, during this segment we received a call from a man who claimed to be listening in his car nearby. Jim and I corrected him on the pronunciation of Ypsilanti, and, in return, he shared with us that he’d just purchased to a home on River Street that was 1.25 miles from the radio station we were broadcasting from. If I understood him correctly, he sold his house in Pittsfield Township, and moved to Ypsilanti, because of the radio program. If this is true, it’s one of the weirdest things I’ve ever heard. [It blew my mind when I heard that someone drove out from Ann Arbor to have dinner at Red Rock on a Saturday night just because they wanted to look in the window and watch us do the show. If it’s actually true that someone actually bought a home in Ypsi because of the show, I think it’ll kill me.]

And, at the 2:10-mark, having discovered that people outside the studio could hear us, I decided to start reading excerpts from the Derrick Evans classic How to Pick Up Topless Dancers, hoping that it might help one of the men making their way in DejaVu, the strip club next to the AM 1700 studio. [You’ll have to listen if you want to know all of the secrets, but here’s one of my favorites. “When you go to a club, dress like a biker with lots of leather. Dancers love leather!”]

And we ended on a high note, with a discussion about Jim’s job at Target leading to my suggestion that he should start singing about the products on sale over their PA system. Sadly our levels were all wrong, and I ended up ruining the song by singing my part way too loudly, but we came up with a pretty awesome song about Marona dresses. [One day, Jim, if you’re reading this, we’re going to have to go into the studio and record that song properly. Next time you’re in the studio, let’s start a Kickstarter to make it happen. We could do a whole record about products on sale at Target. Sound good?]

I could go on, but you should just listen for yourself. It really was a good, solid show.

Thanks, as always, to AM 1700 for hosting the show, Brian Robb for running the board and keeping the bills paid, and Kate de Fuccio for documenting everything that happens. [All the photos above come courtesy of Kate.]

If you like this episode, check out our archive of past shows at iTunes. And do please leave a review if you have the time, OK? It’s nice to know that people are listening, and, unless you call in, that’s pretty much the only way we know.

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7 Comments

  1. Eel
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 6:28 am | Permalink

    Jim should be blindfolded for every show. It suits him.

  2. idea man
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    If Malerman puts blindfolds on people when he talks about Bird Box, he should put black hoods on them when he talk about Gitmo.

  3. Kim
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    Enough about hoods and blindfolds. Who designed the tat?

  4. SST
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 9:23 am | Permalink

    When will the Femme Pedals be rolling through Deja Vu? I’d like to be there.

  5. Em
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 12:34 pm | Permalink

    Stay strong, and good luck fighting the mighty Beal monster, Jim.

  6. Autumn
    Posted June 4, 2015 at 12:49 pm | Permalink

    The tattoo was designed by Jessica Beth at Eternal Tattoo in Eastpointe and the NoNos will be hitting up the Vu Saturday the 13th around 4pm.

  7. B
    Posted June 6, 2015 at 9:25 am | Permalink

    Actually, the translation in German would mean painter (maler)…

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