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Robert Ellis Gets “Stylistically Ambiguous” on His New Album

The past two years have been a crash course for Robert Ellis. The Texas-born, Nashville-based musician spent most of his days touring extensively, crafting new songs, and adjusting to the daily rigors of becoming a professional musician. Despite the initial success of Photographs, his powerful 2011 New West Records debut, the 25-year-old songwriter wanted his next musical pursuit to be far different than the countrified sounds of his last effort.

“I just wanted to put myself in a place with this record where people will hear what I’m trying to do and actually hear it for what it is, rather than the genre classifications people like to throw on things,” Ellis says.

With his latest record, The Lights from the Chemical Plant, the Houston expat has pushed his creative boundaries, incorporated a wider range of influences, including folk and free jazz, and brought outsiders into the fold. The songwriter recruited famed producer Jacquire King, and asked Jim Lauderdale, Dawes’s Taylor and Griffin Goldsmith, and Deer Tick’s Rob Crowell to contribute parts on his album. The result, he says, is a “stylistically ambiguous” effort that spans from folk to free jazz yet sounding distinctly like an Ellis record.

His agenda won’t be clear anytime soon. Ellis recently kicked off a hectic 40-plus show American tour that includes a February 18 gig at the Mercury Lounge. Before he hit the road, Ellis shared some thoughts about Chemical Plant, learning new instruments, Paul Simon’s greatness, and the road ahead.

What prompted your 2012 move from Houston to Nashville? It had nothing to do with the country music machine that’s here. I’m obviously not a part of that. If that was something I wanted to do then I would have made that decision before Photographs came out. I was just feeling, writing-wise, and just in general that I needed a change. I’d lived in Texas my whole life and I wanted to go somewhere and it was between Nashville and Los Angeles.

Last year, you told me you felt Chemical Plant was “stylistically ambiguous.” Do you think that’s still an accurate description? Yeah. I think the record sounds like itself. I don’t think it sounds like a country record. But I’ve been giving it to some people and having some time to sit with it. I have realized that no matter what you put behind my voice, that’s immediately what a lot of people are going to think of. And I’m fine with that. I’ve kind of come to terms with that. With the instrumentation, songwriting, and choices in production, I think we’ve definitely made a record that, if I wasn’t singing over it, you wouldn’t be like, “Oh, this is a country record.”

Your last record, Photographs, took on some pretty personal issues in your life. What’s going on thematically with Chemical Plant? I haven’t had nearly as much personal conflict and turmoil to write about. I feel like I’ve had to look outside of myself. A lot of the songs on this record [were] written from my perspective as if I was someone else. So, first-person, but they’re not about my life. These are songs that are kind of character studies of other people.

Tell me about the title track. It was Dow Chemical. Lake Jackson is a little town I’m from south of Houston. As a kid, it was a small town, and the chemical plant is twice as big as the town. We’re on the coast, but from anywhere in the city you always could kind of see this chemical plant lit up at night. It looked like a city. It looked like skyscrapers and buildings and there would always be smoke billowing out. Just about everyone’s dad works for Dow. The chemical plant served as a metaphor for what was always there and what was always consistent in their lives. Then at the end of the story, the song, she’s sitting next to him in this hospital bed and talking about losing him but using the chemical plant as a metaphor.

[Months later], I’ve realized that they’re not near as impersonal as I thought. Even if I’m not the subject in the song and I’m not writing from first person. A lot of this stuff is dealing with things that I keep inside me. With “Chemical Plant,” it’s a character study of two kind-of fictitious people falling in love that I loosely based on what my great-grandparents might have felt like. I realized later that a lot of those things that I was talking about were things I personally struggle with. It’s kind of like therapy to me. To be the therapist and not the subject, I can break apart how I feel about things.

It seems like you’re trying to create different types of music. What’s inspired you musically over the past couple of years that shows up most on this record? Paul Simon’s Still Crazy After All These Years is probably my favorite record, period. We wanted to consciously borrow ideas from that. Paul Simon, to me, is one of the coolest artists, because genre- and stylistically-wise, there’s not any one thing you can pin him down to. All his stuff is rooted in really good songwriting. At the core of every album, he plays amazing songs. [He’s] able to bring in a band from South Africa, the rhythm section at Muscle Shoals, or whoever he decides to have on the record. It’s got to be really liberating. What Paul Simon does as a songwriter is massively relatable to millions and millions of people, and I don’t know if there’s anyone else who can do that.

Where do you see yourself going from here in terms of your songwriting? I’ve written a ton of songs. I think about four or five are really good and are keepers. I demoed one of them in Houston. Recently I bought a drum machine. It’s called the Groove Production Studio. Basically it’s a really awesome drum machine and sampler that has lots of drum kits and lots of customizable electronic sounds and sequencing programs. So I’ve been playing with that a lot. I’ve bought a synthesizer. When you practice guitar a whole lot you get to where you have a bag of tricks: Every time you pick up a guitar, you naturally go to certain places. That’s been kind of limiting. So I’ve been writing a lot on piano. I’ve been trying to distance myself from instruments altogether and just write using melody — start with a drum loop and write over a drum loop.

I don’t know where the next record is going to go exactly. I think I’m still getting all the material and tools together that I need to go where I want to go. But I’m hoping the next record will be more in the direction of some of the electronic ideas that we kind of dabbled in on Chemical Plant. And hopefully a more realized idea of that. Not to say that Chemical Plant wasn’t realized; it was its own thing. But at the heart of it will always be songwriting. I’m always going to gravitate toward narratives and gravitate toward stuff that people consider probably country or very country — personal songs that have a strong narrative. It’s what you do around that stuff that I’m trying to push myself with.

Robert Ellis performs at Mercury Lounge on February 18, 6:30 p.m., $12–$15

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Riff Raff

With his array of gaudy tattoos, bling, and the accentuated visuals of his videos, Houston rapper Riff Raff might remind you of the colorful fruit-flavored sodas, quarter waters, and cheap candy so characteristic of childhood in the Southern hoods of the U.S., where young people grow up in a world in which striking blends of high fructose corn syrup and food coloring often end up discarded onto hot asphalt, spilling over into gasoline rainbows or hardening under heavy sunlight into piles of neon goo. And so, when Riff Raff names his forthcoming album Neon Icon, is it because he is trying to literally embody the colorful world of the Houston hoods that he purports to come from, with their candy paint jobs and dye-colored candies? Or is it because as a white rapper, he has learned to use color itself as a means of distracting from his “lack” of color? Either way, his show will be quite colorful. And who could ask for more?

Fri., Oct. 18, 7 p.m., 2013

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Bun B and Shea Serrano’s New Rap Coloring Book Is (Not Really) For the Children

If you’ve spent any kind of time on the Internet, chances are something Shea Serrano has written, drawn, or created has made you smile. The 32-year-old inner-city teacher from Houston, Texas, writes and illustrates for several different outposts—our sister papers Houston Press and LA Weekly, Grantland, Complex’s Four Pins, Myspace—and over the last year has managed to catch fire online with side passion projects like Sex Questions from Seventh Graders and Drake-ing Bad. But the thing he’s perhaps most proud of (and what could make him some actual money) is his collaboration with Houston/Port Arthur rapper Bun B of UGK. Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book allows readers to play with imagesof their favorite rap greats and up-and-comers. Also, games. And word puzzles. The book’s a load of fun, and is sure to please rap nerds and crayon-wielding tykes alike. We hit up Serrano to seewhat makes his beautiful mind tick.

How did the book come about? Bun said he wanted to do a book, something fun and funny and smart because people never really get to see rappers acting that way, which, per him, is how a lot of them are in private. We met up and talked about different ideas. We’d considered doing this other book—a hip-hop survival guide of sorts—but never really pushed the idea into a good enough place. We spent maybe a year or so just thinking on it.

While coloring with my sons one day, I got bored, so I drew a couple of Houston rap guys like coloring pages. I posted them on Twitter and they got a nice response. I figured that if I could get Bun to agree to do a coloring book, we’d be in a good spot. He liked the idea immediately, so I downloaded Adobe Illustrator, spent a month or so learning how to get it to do what I wanted it to do, then started making pages. I set up the Tumblr in October. It went viral about a week later. Then in November, Abrams [Books] got in contact with me and expressed interest in turning it into a book. It all happened very fast.

How did you first meet Bun? I write about music for a bunch of different places; if you write about music, you’ll eventually end up interviewing Bun. He’s that dude.

You guys got the permission of all the rappers featured in the book. Why was that necessary? We just wanted everything to be totally legit. I hated the thought of putting someone in there that didn’t want to be included. Bun felt the same way, and Abrams definitely felt that way. Managing to get everyone’s permission is one of my most proud moments. It was always so exciting to get a signed permission back. Like, I mean, can you even imagine Juicy J doing that?

Who is the target audience of the book? Do you think parents will buy it for their kids, or is it more geared as a novelty for rap nerds? Do you care either way? Man, it can go either way. I just want anyone to buy it; I don’t care who. It’s not built for kids—it’s more for music fans. That said, we set it up so that if you wanted to give it with a kid, it’d mostly be OK. There aren’t curse words or strippers or anything like that in there.

What do you plan to do with the billions this thing makes you? I’m going to buy some solid diamond shoes and then skate right the fuck down the hallway of the high school I went to and shout, “In your face, bitches!”

Several of your creations have become wildly popular online. How have you managed to, as Kanye might say, pop a wheelie on the zeitgeist and made things that resonate with so many people? Yeah, Drake-ing Bad [wherein Serrano draws Drake into scenes from Breaking Bad] and Sex Questions from Seventh Graders and the Rap Coloring Book all went viral faster than I was anticipating. I’m pretty proud of that. Really, I just want to do things that are neat and fun and interesting. If an idea is vacillating between being genius or extra stupid, then that’s kind of exactly the sort of thing that goes viral.

It should be noted, though, that super-villain Barry Schwartz actually came up with Drake-ing Bad. He hit me up one day and said he wanted to do it, but that he didn’t know how to draw. We chatted a bit about it and came up with a format, and I liked the idea so I set up the Tumblr and drew the pictures and whatnot. He let me do whatever I wanted, so I was a little nervous that I’d screw it up. He looked at it and said it was exactly how he saw it in his mind’s eye. I asked him if “mind’s eye” was just a different way to say “butthole.” It wasn’t. Malibooyah. Here we are.

‘Bun B’s Rap Coloring and Activity Book’ is available now from Abrams Books.

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THIS MAN’S WORK

In one painting a black woman wears a white, knee-length, feathery skirt paired with red Adidas tennis shoes and a red Adidas windbreaker. She is standing fierce, firm on the ground in a soldier-like pose. This is the work of Houston-based artist Robert Pruitt, which he presents through nearly 20 large-scale drawings in the Studio Museum exhibit titled “Women.” It combines elements of science fiction, hip-hop culture, and comic books. Pruitt, known for his multimedia work, examines the historical and contemporary experiences of African-Americans and has shown in various museums, and at the Whitney Biennial.

Thursdays-Sundays, noon; Saturdays, 10 a.m. Starts: July 18. Continues through Oct. 27, 2013

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Smart Ass Black Boy Fat Tony Brings Houston to BKNY

It’s a little after midnight, and Fat Tony’s mind is racing.

The MC is readying to perform in Capitale, a downtown venue that feels like it’s been pulled from Ancient Rome. Massive columns hold up a chiseled, high ceiling. Floor lights surround the venue, which holds about 1,500 people, casting shadows on the room from its surrounding pillars. A whiskey and Coke costs $18.

Tony stands near the back of the crowd, sporting a slim tank top, his eyes wide. He’s got a tall order before him—opening for headliners Black Hippy, aka Jay Rock, Ab-Soul, Schoolboy Q, and Kendrick Lamar. As he makes his way around to the stage, he smiles, popping up and immediately jumping into a rendition of “BKNY,” the Houston-based rapper’s smooth New York anthem.

“I consider New York my second home,” says Fat Tony—birth name Anthony Obi—a week later, in the backyard of a Brooklyn bar. Tony’s debut album, Smart Ass Black Boy, out this month, is a smooth collection of introspective lyrics and syrupy Houston beats from producer Tom Cruz. The LP has been finished for about a year, but Tony feels it represents him the most in this moment. “I’m sitting back,” he says. “I’ve done my job. I’ve been the best artist I can be. And now I’m ready to see what the world is about.”

Thematically, Smart Ass touches on love, sex, and “daddy issues.” Unlike other young contemporary rappers, Fat Tony isn’t relying on gimmicks. You’ll find no mention of molly in his rhymes. This ain’t fashion rap.

“I’m not trendy,” he says. “I’m not a guy that goes around trying to be extra punk, talking about drugs, making club-friendly type songs. I’m just a guy that makes songs straight from his heart. And when you do that, it takes a little bit more time for people to start seeing you’re actually good.”

Fat Tony’s background isn’t exactly conducive to making rap music. Raised in Houston, he attended a high school of about 300 kids deemed “gifted and talented.” His father pushed him to pursue a “real” career. But Tony pushed into rap music instead, more interested in Dr. Dre than becoming a doctor himself.

“The fact that I don’t make a lot of money worries him,” he says of his father and their strained relationship. (See: daddy issues.)

Regardless, it’s evident that Tony’s taken the drive and determination he felt from his parents and instilled it into music.

“I want to make powerful music that speaks to people,” he says. “I want to be very, very respected. I want to be very famous. And I want to make a lot of money. I want to be looked at as an OutKast.”

Maybe, someday, dad will be happy after all.

Fat Tony plays 4Knots Music Festival on Saturday, June 29.

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Billy Gibbons’s Moving Sidewalks Are Back in a Flash

Forty-three years after forming ZZ Top, Billy Gibbons is trying to unlearn almost everything he knows about music. Everything except the psychedelic foundation he laid with his former group, the Moving Sidewalks, long before the famous beard sprouted. “We’re taking things in reverse. The enticement of unlearning is certainly working its magic with the band and being able to tag the energy that was flying around in 1967 is rewarding,” he says from his native Houston, Texas, in his familiar gravel-eating growl.

Gibbons was still in high school in Houston when the Sidewalks’ first single, “99th Floor,” made its way up the local charts. Fueled by fuzzed-out guitars, spook house organ, and a heavy dose of caterwauling vocals, the group garnered plenty of acclaim for its originality. While some regional groups turned their backs on their Texan heritage, the Moving Sidewalks embraced these roots, incorporating gritty rhythm and blues influences into kaleidoscopic tunes that struck a chord with the locals and beyond.

One of those listeners was Jimi Hendrix, who asked the group to open for him on tour in 1968, a turn of events that would embolden the fledgling Gibbons to learn exactly what he could do with a guitar and inspire him to push things even further. “I stayed in hotel rooms across the hallway from Hendrix, and he’d invite me over to his room to play,” says Gibbons. “It was so sudden, and the impact and the inspiration kind of left us spinning.”

One of the more mind-expanding evenings between the two took place while waiting for their equipment truck to arrive after a performance. “Hendrix tied some giant sponges on the headstocks of our guitars,” Gibbons says. “We plugged in, turned the amps up, and he had buckets of fluorescent paint. We dipped the sponges down into these buckets of fluorescent paint, and there was this giant blank piece of paper used for highway billboards. Feedback was flying and it was ear-splittingly loud and we were sloshing these psychedelic colored paints with black lights above us—it was just nuts.”

The Moving Sidewalks later returned to Houston to lay their psychedelic visions down on tape for what would become their only album, Flash. A cacophonous mixture of screaming guitars, heady drums, and backmasking, it saw the band hone its direction to a fine point, including transforming the Wildweeds’ soul-filled “No Good to Cry” into an acid-laced ballad.

Unfortunately, the work was marred from the start. Their management pushed back the album release on the homespun Tantara label and left the group to continue woodshedding with evaporating radio play. They were offered a tour with the Doors, but when they opened in Dallas, an overly zealous roadie loaded too much flash powder into the Sidewalks’s pyrotechnics, which set the Doors’s amplifiers on fire. They watched helplessly as their tour hopes went up in smoke.

The group’s snake-bitten luck finally culminated when bassist Don Summers and organist Tom Moore found themselves in the crosshairs of Vietnam. “What can you do when Uncle Sam comes calling but get on board?” Gibbons asks. “We were just on the verge of learning how to do it and getting a taste of success.”

With half of the group ripped away by war, Gibbons conscripted players to fill the void, but the attempt was half-hearted and short-lived. Combined with their ill-prepared label’s eventual anemic album release in 1969, the group soon splintered.

More than four decades and countless bootlegs later, the Moving Sidewalks’s legend is cemented as a bona fide crown jewel of Texas psychedelia next to the 13th Floor Elevators; yet, the group had never seen a dime from their recordings. That is until late last year, when RockBeat Records released The Complete Collection, a two-disc box that combines Flash, three singles, and a handful of unreleased early demos.

“It’s taken an interesting twist with the unexpected popularity of the box set,” Gibbons says with a hint of surprise. “It has brought us into contact with the resurgence of that early period of psychedelic music.”

No one in the group expected such a positive response. A significant portion of their newfound fandom comes via contemporary polychromatic bands like the Black Angels and Tame Impala, bridging a musical gap between generations of listeners, many of whom weren’t even alive when the group began performing.

Cavestomp! concert promoter Jon Weiss, who’s put together many a show for garage bands of lore—including the Sonics—had long dreamed of a Sidewalks reunion. Figuring this was his opportunity, he reached out to drummer Dan Mitchell, who in turn reached out to Gibbons. “We’ve all remained in touch for the last four decades,” Gibbons says. “We tossed it around and the invitation was so appealing, we kind of fell into it. What am I supposed to say to something like this besides yes?”

Leading the charge for ZZ Top, Gibbons, of course, has rarely put down a guitar over the decades. Turns out, his former cohorts hadn’t stopped playing either. “As soon as Mr. Summers and Mr. Moore fulfilled their term of service with Uncle Sam, they returned to Houston and got back with Mitchell on drums. They did soundtracks for movies and mostly studio stuff. Nobody from the group has stopped playing music; they’ve stayed sharp as a knife.

“Once we had gathered and said all right, let’s give it a shot, there was no trepidation at all. We just smiled and pressed forward, and it got meaner and meaner.”

The payoff just might materialize as a new album. “What’s been fascinating is what it has stimulated in the way of writing,” Gibbons says. “Not only have we gotten together and polished up existing songs, but we’ve started writing in that style.” The group plans to return to the studio to record in April between ZZ Top tours. “[ZZ Top members] Frank [Beard] and Dusty [Hill] are sitting on the sidelines in full support of watching this thing grow. They’re kind of excited, asked me if I can get them tickets.”

The Moving Sidewalks perform at B.B. King’s Blues Club and Grill, Saturday, March 30. ‘The Complete Collection’ is out now.

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MISSISSIPPI MAN

Big K.R.I.T. may be young, but he’s always been an old soul. Though he sent his breakthrough K.R.I.T. Wuz Here mixtape into the Internet ether at 23, it was as mature a release as you’ll likely be able to find, mixing Southern rap traditionalism—its “Country Shit” takes you to school on the subject—with wise reflections well beyond his years. June’s Live From the Underground, meanwhile, picked up where the tape left off, taking its rapper/producer all the way to the top of the Billboard Rap Albums chart, and tonight he celebrates at Irving Plaza. With Slim Thug, the Houston legend who’s still tippin’ after all these years.

Thu., Sept. 20, 7 p.m., 2012

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Bullet for Adolf—Lucky Adolf!

The summer of 1983 was a formative time for the young Woody Harrelson. Yes, that Woody Harrelson: Before he was a TV and movie star, it seems, he worked a construction job in Houston, where he made a lifelong friend named Frankie Hyman.

What else happened that summer, and why it mattered, are not things you will learn from the play they’ve written about it, Bullet for Adolf, a shrieking, tone-deaf comedy directed by Harrelson and now playing at New World Stages. The piece follows a group of guys as they mix cement and chase tail one sweaty Texas summer. Two of these dudes—Zach (Brandon Coffey) and Frankie (Tyler Jacob Rollinson)—are probably alter-egos for the playwrights. The boys’ Teutonic boss, Jurgen (Nick Wyman), has murky ties to the Nazi era, as well as a daughter (Shannon Garland) who becomes the simpering object of various male affections. There’s a plot (sort of): In Act I, a gun is stolen, and in Act II it goes off. Scene changes are punctuated by ’80s-appropriate TV clips: Reagan and Madonna, newscasts about the AIDS crisis and the invasion of Grenada.

All of this is just pretext, though, for an endless stream of jokes, each less entertaining than the one before. Objects of derision include Italians, the Holocaust, beer, African-Americans, white people, Baptists, women, Buddhists, lesbians, Los Angeles, slavery, and Judy Garland. We are privy to one-liners about pedophilia, necrophilia, and gang rape. The actors tumble and flail and paw each other; there is a scene where human placenta is consumed, and a dirty-underpants-sniffing sequence.

These things are all in bad taste, but more importantly, they aren’t funny. There’s something admirably ecumenical about Harrelson and Hyman’s determination to ridicule every kind of person, and for a moment, it even seemed like the play’s relentless immaturity, set against television footage of global strife, could be meant as satire—mocking the way people goof off in the face of worldwide trauma. But satire requires coherence, which Bullet for Adolf lacks. In fact, Harrelson and Hyman seem to have little ambition beyond dragging their audiences through every variety of humorless joke—and after two and a half hours of inanity, it seemed like the joke was on us.

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Woody Harrelson: “I Wish My Indies Were Blockbusters!”

After a smash series, two Oscar nominations, Game Change, and a part in the Hunger Games franchise, Woody Harrelson naturally has turned to writing and directing. The result is Bullet for Adolf, a comedy set in 1983 Houston, which he co-wrote with Frankie Hyman and which officially opens on August 8 at New World Stages. As Woody aims his Bullet, I pulled up a seat at the bar and chatted with the endlessly bemused renaissance man.

Hi, Woody. Congratulations on the show.

Congratulate me if it’s any good.

Was theater your first love? My first job, when I was 23, was an understudy for Neil Simon’s Biloxi Blues. And it has always been a passion for me.

And you’re straight! Shocking, I know.

So something called Cheers sidelined you for a while? I got a little sidelined. I was gonna come back from L.A. because the guy I was understudying had gotten fired for horsing around onstage with Matthew Broderick, who then didn’t get fired. I was excited because it was my dream to be on Broadway, but right then, a friend of mine living in L.A. told me, “There’s a show that has a part you ought to try out for, and the guy’s name is Woody.” So that did shift things.

Any regrets about that? Not at all. Everyone on that show was so much fun. Doing Cheers was like going to work at a playground.

Like Zombieland? Different.

So you started to write this play as semiautobiographical, and it gradually became even more semi? There’s a lot of stuff in it that actually took place, but there’s a substantial degree of fabrication because we didn’t have a plot that summer. The plot involves the theft of a World War II artifact. It’s not quite a whodunit; it’s just meant to make you laugh. It went really well in Toronto, and now after a month here, I wish I had more than another week to work on it

You never struck me as a worrier. It’s in my bloodline. I try not to show the worry, but I do worry. My mom was a world-class worrier, and her mom, and her mom, Polly, too. My mom had all boys and passed it on to us.

When you see the play, do you feel like you’re watching yourself? A slightly better version.

With more hair? I actually did have hair at 22, but thanks for that question. I forgot for a second that I was bald. [Laughs.]

Do you think people in the business regard you as a friendly renegade? That sounds like a good way to look at it. I hadn’t thought of those words, but maybe.

You veer between blockbuster films and indies. Is that a fun way to run a career? It has been pretty fun so far. Some movies I would like more people to have seen, but it’s hard to control that. Doing an indie doesn’t mean you don’t want people to see it. You wish it was a blockbuster!

You did make it to Broadway in The Rainmaker in 1999. Would you come back? If I find the right vehicle. It feels fully engaged and invested to be doing this here [Bullet for Adolf] because it’s been such a passion project. The thought that people are gonna be seeing this in a week fills me with equal parts anxiety and excitement.

There’s that worrying again. What type of play would you like to star in next? A comedy. The last play I did was Night of the Iguana, where the audience walks out feeling punched in the gut. I’d much rather do something where people are laughing all evening.

Natural Born Killers the Musical? You might be onto something there. But that’s what we’re trying with Bullet—make people laugh. I had to tell myself: “Sorry, you can’t play it. You’re too old.” [Laughs.]

You seem to get cast a lot as people who are unraveling. I do?

Not all the time. Never mind. Back to wacky comedies: Was it fun playing the gay in Friends With Benefits and saying stuff like “trolling for cock”? I loved that part. I thought it was some of the funniest stuff. One scene got cut out that I thought was probably the funniest scene, but the director, Will Gluck, felt it went too far. We’d better not bring it up here.

I’ll check out the DVD extras. I was inclined to make him a little more feminine, but Will didn’t want me to do that. And I agree with him. It’s better not to play some stereotypical version of the character.

Well, let me be stereotypical and ask you what you’ve seen on Broadway lately. One Man, Two Guvnors. I thought that guy was great. Harvey, which was phenomenal. And I liked Book of Mormon so much I had a suppressed desire to tell those guys that it would be nice if the average person could afford the ticket.

Did you see the Judy Garland show, End of the Rainbow? No, not yet.

So you are straight!

 

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BIG PIMPIN’

After hosting the release party for El-P’s Cure 4 Cancer, Shortcuts—the not-quite monthly True Panther Sounds boss Dean Bein and rappers Heems and Despot throw in the Santos basement—is back, bringing budding D.C. Rapper Fat Trel into the city for his biggest New York show to date. Still sleeping on Washington hip-hop? Start with Trel’s Lex Luger–produced banger “Respect With the Teck,” then download his recent Nightmare on E Street mixtape and fill in the details. Keeping with the theme, Houston’s always charming—and surprisingly svelte—Fat Tony opens, celebrating his new deal with upstart indie label Young Ones.

Thu., June 14, 10 p.m., 2012