What makes the boy tick?

No, dammit ... Barq's does not make me tick. I do drink it every now and again, though.

If you've spent enough time browsing through this site, you can probably tell that I've got a somewhat fanatical passion for the music, food and culture of my home city and state. It's something I had to develop as an expatriate, as I had taken it all for granted as I was growing up. If I wanted to have New Orleans food, music and culture out here in this bizarre foreign land, I was going to have to bring it and make it myself. I think I've done a decent job of that ... ask anyone who's come over to eat my gumbo or come to one of my Hurricane or Mardi Gras parties, or listened to my radio show, or just listened to me blather on about it. :^)

By the way, on the upper left I'm gesturing at an old sign for a (formerly) local product, which used to have what I think is the greatest slogan in the history of advertising. "Drink Barq's. It's good." It doesn't get any better than that.

One of the greatest driving passions of my life is music. I'm a serious music junkie.

I grew up listening to everything from rock 'n roll to classical (I loved those grammar school field trips to Municipal Auditorium for the children's symphony concerts ... the conductor and musicians were so impressive in their tuxedoes, played brilliantly, and had such amazing names ... "Conductor Werner Torkanowsky, and Concertmaster Carter Nice"!) to local Louisiana music (including lots of traditional jazz), and studied music for most of my childhood. I started with piano lessons when I was about 10, taught by Mrs. Edwards up on Redwood Street in the neighborhood. I did pretty well with her, even though she used to put a drape around my neck and over my hands if I looked down at the keyboard too much. I still have a little bust of Beethoven that I won for outstanding performance as my recital. Unfortunately, I didn't practice enough, and my parents actually made good on their threat to send the piano back to Werlein's if I didn't practice enough. (Kids, take heed. Practice.)

I didn't stay away from music too long, though. I started up music lessons again within another year or so, when I started 8th grade. I started out in the middle school band, then moved on up to the marching and symphonic bands in high school. I studied flute and saxophone under a wonderful teacher, an old jazz musician named Bill Bourgeois, who himself studied classically under a mean old Italian maestro who used to whack him. I never got whacked by Mr. Bourgeois, although he used to fuss at me for cracking my knuckles. I had another music teacher in high school -- our band director, Frank J. Mannino, AKA "Frankie Mann", "Prof", "The Italian Stallion", and, um, some other nicknames. We gave him a pretty hard time, mostly 'cause we were a bunch of dumb kids, but he really was an excellent musician and music teacher. I learned alto sax from him in less than one summer, and by the time I was a junior I was first chair flute in the symphonic band.

I still play flute and tin whistles (but I'm only interested in playing Irish music on 'em these days), and I've got a handmade Acadian brand Cajun-style accordion, made by Marc Savoy of Eunice, Louisiana. Unfortunately, I'm not all that good on any of these ... I need more time to practice!

So what am I thinking of doing now? Well, my rapidly growing interest in old-time music and traditional ballads is making me want to buy a mountain dulcimer for accompaniment. Great. Another instrument I don't have time to practice. I'm also developing a keen interest in singing traditional ballads, and in shape note singing. Fortunately, I can practice this stuff almost anywhere, like in the shower or in the car or at work at the day job (and yes, I work alone in my office).

I still do listen to rock 'n roll here and there, primarily indie/alternative rock and alt.country / country-rock / country-punk / insurgent country, whatever you want to call it. But my main musical passions are for roots and traditional music -- particularly Louisiana music, Irish music, and old-time and traditional American music.

Have a look at my lists of favorite bands (ones I think you should know about) and my current list of recommended albums.

My other main driving passion in life is cooking. More on that below.

Besides cooking for people, one of my favorite things in the world to do is to turn people on to really great music. I thrive on seeing the look in someone's eyes when they hear Clifton Chenier for the first time, to name but one artist. So, as a logical evolution of this ...

Radio work

I'm a music programmer at non-commercial radio station KCSN, at 88.5 FM in the Northridge area of Los Angeles, California, and I've been at it for over eleven years now (nearly ten years of that time were spent at KCRW, doing a program called "Gumbo"). I do a weekly radio program of roots and traditional music of the Americas (and beyond), entitled "Down Home", which is currently heard every Saturday afternoon from 3:00pm to 5:00pm in most of northern Los Angeles, in the San Fernando and Santa Clarita Valleys, along the coast and in Los Angeles below Olympic and down to Long Beach. We'll have a new transmitter soon with a 600% power increase, so our broadcast range should be expanding quite a bit. It's a great station, and the show is a lot of fun, so tune in! If you can't, hey, stick in a tape and listen to it later in the week.

Doing this radio show has been a sanity-saver for me. I began when I was in a really odious day job, and my brain might have burst had I not had this creative outlet. I hope it continues to simmer.

Album compilations and liner notes

The radio gig has led to other work for me, which is good, considering I've been doing it for free all these years. I've gotten a couple of cheapie voice-over gigs, and almost gotten some big stinking huge highly-paying voice-over gigs which never quite seemed to pan out.

But the most rewarding work I've gotten because of my show has come from the Rhino Records label, who've hired me over the years and paid me a few extra bucks as a compilation producer and liner notes writer for these projects:

Alligator Stomp, Volume 3: Cajun & Zydeco Classics
My first compilation, and perhaps the one I'm most proud of. It is, in my humble an unbiased opinion, a really terrific collection of classic and contemporary Cajun and zydeco music. The newly remastered "Mamou Two-Step" by the late Aldus Roger is perhaps alone worth the price of admission.

Alligator Stomp, Volume 4: Cajun Christmas
A collaborative effort with Rhino's James Austin, who put together most of the record from a bunch of Christmas music that Michael Doucet and Beausoleil, plus the Jambalaya Cajun Band had done. I helped tweak the track selection, and wrote the notes.

Bayou Deluxe: The Best of Michael Doucet and Beausoleil
I'm particularly proud of the liner notes for this record; please have a look!

Alligator Stomp, Volume 5: Cajun & Zydeco, The Next Generation
This one's good, but would have been better had we waited a while. The current "new generation" features some astonishing and very young Cajun musicians, like Kristy Guillory and the kids in La Bande Feufollet. There's a lot of great music on this CD, though!

Ben & Jerry's One World One Heart
A collection of contemporary folk, world music, roots-rock, etc. You can read an early version of my liner notes liner notes for the project, which was ultimately cut in half and evolved into ...

Global Gumbo: Modern Roots Music From Around the World
A Rhino collection of roots and world music and roots-rock, made up from all the tracks Ben Cohen (the ice cream guy) cut out of my initially two-volume One World One Heart compilation. It kind of worked out better this way anyway, as I think the Gumbo collection is better than the Ben & Jerry's one, and is very reflective of what I do on my radio show. I'm pretty proud of this one too. It's now sadly out of print ... but hey, it's a collector's item now!

Culinary school and career plans

Hakhwiyusyôni -- Mingo language. "He-cooks-good-food."

I love to cook.

I certainly come from the right city for that, n'est-ce pas? I initially learned cooking from my mom, from my grandmother Dot Luquet and great-grandmother Antoinette Luquet, who was a native French speaker from L'Abadieville, Louisiana (actually, I mostly just watched Net cook until she'd swat me with her dishtowel and tell me to get out of the kitchen, heheheh). I didn't do much of it when I was still living at home (hell, I didn't need to, between their cooking and the great food you'd get out in the city), but you can't live in New Orleans and not absorb the local cuisine into your soul (not to mention into your girth if you're not careful).

After spending several years mired in film industry corporate bullshit, I've reached a point in my life where I think it's about time that I start making a living doing something that I'm not only pretty good at, but something that I love to do. So, after some inspiration from a couple of friends, I gave the idea of a possible future career change a shot, and now ...

I'm a Culinary Arts student, currently enrolled in the Professional Cooking program at UCLA Extension, and you can get a taste of my passion for food in my ever-growing Recipe Page; check it out, and cook something from it. Let me know if you do.

Oh ... in case you were wondering, there's a day job involved as well. I do have to pay for all this some kinda way, you know.  

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