NERD NERD NERD! A CHAT WITH TOBY RADLOFF

Toby Radloff is an enormous part of Cleveland underground culture. He was just a misguided nerd ’til his life was changed upon viewing “Revenge of the Nerds” and building confidence along with nerd solidarity. Things accelerated when he met  burgeoning comic book artist, Harvey Pekar. He was shuffled into a world reserved for cult celebrities. Toby was now regularly making media and television appearances. I remember seeing “Killer Nerd” silently rest on the shelves of my local video store. The cover was vile and  bloody so naturally I was fascinated, even obsessed. Somebody rented a copy one day and decided to keep it so I didn’t get to view the actual film until I was eighteen years old. Things haven’t been the same since. The movie is brilliantly bizarre and unparalleled in it’s psychotic nerdiness. I recently caught up with Toby and we had the following conversation.  Make sure you read Toby’s answers in his very unique voice.

Matt Greenfield @rustbelthammer

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Thanks for agreeing to this interview, Toby.  I must ask, being from Cleveland, do you think that your environment has given you a unique perspective on the world?

Being from Cleveland has helped my uniqueness and has given me the good perspective of a lifelong resident of a city that others tend to ridicule or make fun of. I’m proud to be a part of Cleveland.

When it comes to Ohio, who are your favorite artists?  I am interested to know who you favor when it comes to music, film, or visual art.

I do like Drew Carey, Halle Berry (she went to my high school, Bedford High, but several years after I graduated), and pretty much any musical act out of Ohio…too many to list. My musical tastes tend to lean toward music from the 1950’s, 1960’s, and 1970’s, music I grew up with. I like comedies and independent dramas, especially when the story lines are about nerd/geek types or simply everyday people.

What was it like the first time you saw yourself in comic book form?  Did anyone expect that “American Splendor” would get such a cult following?

When I first saw myself in the “American Splendor” comic book, I was impressed. It got things rolling as far as my acting career went. Harvey’s success led to my success. The book took off around the time Harvey appeared on David Letterman, and my success rode on Harvey’s coattails, starting with my MTV appearances in 1987 through 1989. I am surprised about the cult following the “American Splendor” comics got over the years.

How did things change once MTV started doing features centered on you?

Once I started being on MTV (I credit myself as being one of the first, if not the first, non-music segments to air on MTV. Now, if you turn on MTV, where’s the music?) I started getting a lot of positive feedback regarding the MTV segments, and it led to better things, such as “Killer Nerd”, “Townies”, and later, the “American Splendor” movie.

 Did you have fun filming “Killer Nerd”?  It’s one of my all-time favorite movies.  Seeing the scenes shot in Kent and Akron makes me happier with every viewing. 

 As for “Killer Nerd”, working from a script took some getting used to, and filming included late nights on which I had to go to my day job the next day. The finished product came out well and became a cult favorite.

 Troma picked Killer Nerd up and it’s still kind of a “sleeper classic.”  It’s usually not mentioned in “best of” lists when it comes to Troma’s cinematic history.  I would personally put it in my top five and know many others who hold the movie dear as well.  Why do you think the movie has remained so hidden?

Troma, as far as I’m concerned, did get the two “Killer Nerd” films out to a wider audience than the previous distribution company was able to do, although they sat on the films for years after buying the rights to them from Wayne Harold and Mark Bosko in 1994. Troma, however, didn’t promote it very well, but word of mouth sold the DVD sets.

Are you a fan of any other Troma films? What are the chances of a ‘Killer Nerd part 3″ or even a remake of the original? You would have to star in them of course! 

As for other Troma movies, some are good while others are stupid or ridiculous. Lloyd Kaufman is quite the showman when it comes to “bad” movies. I have seen some “bad” films that were good, and some “good” films that sucked. I doubt it very much if I’ll ever do a third “Killer Nerd”. I pretty much outgrew the role. If a filmmaker wants to do a remake and cast a younger actor to play Harold Kunkle, I’m open to that. I would most likely play a cameo role unrelated to my original character.

 Being that you are the “Genuine Nerd”, what sets you apart from mainstream society?

 As for being the “Genuine Nerd”, I have always been considered a “different” type of person. People who know me like me, while others are either indifferent or don’t know what to think. At least I could still go places and not be recognized for my past acting roles.

 What was it like trying out for the Howard Stern show?  Was it a good experience?

As for being on Howard Stern’s show, it was a great experience. The crew and Mr. Stern, were very nice. I had a good time being on the show.

With the popularity of YouTube, many old segments of yours have come to the surface.  What are some of your favorite clips and how has the digital age affected your artistic work?

I’m glad to see the old MTV and Eddie Marshall segments online. They were seen by very few people back then and have found a new audience. Sure, some people have been indifferent or even hateful toward these old segments but the vast majority enjoyed them.

 What does the future hold for Toby Radloff? 

As for my future, since Harvey Pekar died in 2010, I have been semi-retired from the video/movie business but still occasionally make new segments with Wayne Alan Harold. If  some Hollywood or indie director wants to use me in a film, my phone number is listed.

Any closing thoughts to share with the world?

I still see myself as different even though the digital world has made my old stuff more accessible and my new stuff look good. Age has caught up with me, but I’m still the Genuine Nerd. Thanks.

WATCH THE FULL “KILLER NERD” MOVIE BELOW

OHIO’S WEIRDEST FURNITURE SALESMAN AND HIS WACKY COMMERCIALS

norton2I feel as if some sort of innocence was lost when cable switched over to a digital format.  Television is just too damn sterile and predictable these days. Gone are the days of local television personalities and odd shows at even odder hours.  I feel bad for anyone who missed out on those wonderful years. Technology is developing at a rapid pace but not so long ago we saw some rather shoddy things on late night television. Mark Norton is almost like a relic of the past.  His commercials started airing around 2003 and at first I thought maybe someone laced my pot with PCP because this stuff is almost unbelievable. All of my widest fantasies were coming to fruition during the span of his thirty second commercials. Mark Norton comes from a long line of unintentional weirdos from Ohio. I don’t know if his commercials still air but in case you were never privileged enough to catch the madness, here is a collection of some of his finer moments.

-Matt Greenfield @rustbelthammer

 

 

 

 

KENT, OHIO HAD SOME MUSICIANS YOU HAVE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD BUT SHOULD

After posting about Kill The Hippies, the Kent inspiration has been flowing.  I have a love/hate relationship with that place but will always treasure my fond memories of yesteryear.  Getting carried out of the Zephyr while on crutches for calling the door guy a “fat piece of shit, cocksucker, failure at life” after he called my ID fake, knowing that it wasn’t.  Putting on a show hosted by Toby Radloff of American Splendor and Killer Nerd fame.  Living in the “Yellow House” and hosting house shows where anything could and did happen.  Hell, I even went to class sometimes.  Like many little hidden pockets of America, Kent has always been home to some great and interesting musicians.  Everyone knows Devo, but here are some people you may not have heard before that have origins in Kent. Continue reading KENT, OHIO HAD SOME MUSICIANS YOU HAVE PROBABLY NEVER HEARD BUT SHOULD

KILL THE HIPPIES IN KENT,OHIO.

May 4th, 1970 is a day that will forever dwell in the depths of our collective American psyche.   Tragedy struck the nation as innocent blood was shed on the grounds of Kent State University.  During a Vietnam War protest, four students ended up callously murdered, while nine other young adults were injured by the trigger of Ohio National Guardsmen.  Kids killing kids for no apparent reason as lives were forever altered.  It was not a pretty day for the sleepy college town of Kent, Ohio.  Public opinion was swaying as the tides turned in an already unpopular war.    A dark shadow was cast over the Presidency of Richard Milhous Nixon. Continue reading KILL THE HIPPIES IN KENT,OHIO.

ONCE UPON A TIME IN KENT,OHIO. UPSTAB, BLOODIED PUNKS AND HEADS LIT ON FIRE

During my sophomore year at Kent State University, I decided it would be a good time to start a terrible grindcore band.  Well, we didn’t exactly set out to be terrible, it just sort of happened naturally.  I was on dual vocals with Edward Stockenhauser who went on to front Brain Handle.  Ryan Loewenstein was on guitar and a homeless dude simply known as Pig Man banged on the drums like a cannibalistic neanderthal.

I managed to book a pretty solid house show with Eat Shit and Die (my band), Don Austin, Kill The Hippies and Upstab which featured Chris Erba of H100s infamy.  A guy named “Crazy Don” placed a bag on his head and then set it on fire during our opening set.  Meanwhile, outside some drunk teenage punks were being being loud and obnoxious.  One thing lead to another and I come upstairs to see Chris Erba of Upstab punching one of these cartoony teen punks out with some mean hooks, splattering blood everywhere.  I think Chris had just got a job at a bank so the band fled without playing.  I don’t blame them.  An arrest was avoided.  With Upstab long gone, the mohawked kid came stumbling back around, armed with a led pipe.  We were informed that he had Hepatitis C as he dripped a trail blood.  I managed to avoid the confrontation but was bummed out that we didn’t get to play with Upstab.

A few weeks later Eat Shit and Die was booked to play a hardcore fest in Youngstown.  The bill was stacked.  We were to play alongside Upstab, Career Suicide, Caustic Christ, My Revenge and some really good bands.  I got a call that morning from Pig Man.  He informed us that he was quitting the band.  Me and Ed were pretty much embroiled in a nonsensical yet bitter feud at that point anyways.  Loewenstein was probably the only person of sound mind in a band that was no more.

The moral of the story is that we never got to play with the short-lived Cleveland maniacs known as Upstab.  They came, they saw, and they bloodied some buffoons.  Here’s to the memory of Upstab.

-Matt Greenfield @rustbelthammer

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AN INTERVIEW WITH OHIO’S FINEST UNDERGROUND RAPPER, ILLOGIC

 

ILLOGIC INTERVIEWED BY MATT GREENFIELD

MG:  How did you get your start rapping?

IL:  I started writing short stories as a child in elementary school. I was always in love with words. I used to have to read the dictionary and learn a word a week.  I started to watch Rap City and Yo! MTV Raps and then it was over.

MG:  When did you start linking up with the likes of Aesop Rock and Slug?

IL:  I met Slug, Eyedea and all of the Rhymesayers through Dose One of Anticon. We both went to the University of Cincinnati and he knew all of those guys. At that time people would trade tapes and it was the early days of the underground hip hop boom of the late 90’s/early 2000’s. At that time Rhymesayers was the crew Headshots and they were the first crew that I ever knew that was touring. We met when Atmosphere was in Cinci for a show in ‘98. Actually Weightless and Rhymesayers started the same year. We were all of like minds and whenever they came to Columbus we would open for them and the rest is history.

With Aesop Rock, again Dose One hipped me to his music around ‘98 but we didn’t actually meet until 2000 when Weightless did the Unforseenshadows and Up To Speed re-issues on CD. They were only available on tape before that. Atoms Family and Aesop Rock came down from New York and opened for us. Atoms Family at that time consisted of Vast, Vordul (Cannibal Ox pre-Cold Vein), Cryptic One, Alaska, Wind N Breeze and Kazim. This was also Aesop Rock right before Float came out. Aesop and Wind N Breeze actually did my backups on the song “Verbage” at the release party. It was a memorable show that is still considered a staple in Columbus Hip Hop History.

 

MG:  At what point did you know that you could have a viable career making independent hip hop?

IL:  Honestly I’ve never had a viable career with hip hop (laughs) but after we released Unforeseenshadows and the people started responding we knew we had something. Once we dropped Got Lyrics? I really started touring. Eyedea (RIP) actually took me on my first tour. We (Weightless) were the first crews out of Columbus that actually started touring regularly. To this day the fans have allowed me to continue to make music and make an impact on their lives and I am greatly appreciative of them for that.

MG:  Columbus, Ohio was once a creative hub for hip hop. There was Blueprint, yourself, The Spitball crew with DJ PRZM, MHz crew with the likes of RJD2, Copywrite and the late Camu Tao plus more emcees than I could even count.  At the same time Cincinnati had Scribble Jam, Lone Catalysts and even Dose One at some point.  Where did all that creative energy come from and what was its collective pinnacle?

 IL:  Honestly, I have no clue (laughs). Ohio has always been a hotbed of musical talent from the great funk bands of the 60’s and 70’s to the talented rock bands and jazz musicians that we have produced. I think we are just in a place where we draw from everywhere and make our own interpretations of the world that people are drawn to. I think this goes for the Midwest in general.

MG:  What would you say separates an Ohio emcee from those of other regions?

 IL:  I think it’s our perspective. It’s that same way with artist from all regions. Our perspectives come from our surroundings. I think that all regions have their time in musical influence. The East Coast had their time and the West had their time. The West Coast time was secretly ours because they stole the funk sound of our 70’s groups.  I don’t think that we have a specific style or time because we pull from everywhere so our time has always been.

MG:  Have you noticed a decline in the popularity of underground hip hop?  If so, when did it start and how has it affected you personally?

IL:  I don’t think that there has been a decline at all. I think the lines have been more blurred as to what underground hip hop is and what it is not. I think now “underground” is more of a style as opposed to a genre, because in all honesty Drake is or was an underground artist. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis are underground artists along with countless others, but in the same vein so am I. Underground used to mean that you didn’t make as much money as a major label artist. It used to mean that you did not have the notoriety or the reach. Now the class system of underground and above ground artist has been turned on its ear. Much of that is due to the internet. Now I would describe underground as going outside of the box or coming with something from left field that no one else is doing.

MG:  These days, rappers usually take one of two routes.  Either they have a label doing promotion or an agent booking their tours.  On the flip side, some have taken a road that is do-it-yourself for ethical reasons or out of sheer necessity.  Which path would you suggest that independent artists use?

IL:  I would say do what is best for you and the furthering of your career.

MG:  Your lyrics are often deeply personal, poetic, and honest.  Those factors can strike a cord in the listener.  What is the best thing a fan has either said or done for you?

IL:  Fans have done a lot from tattoos to paintings. Just knowing that I have touched people’s lives in some way is enough. When a fan tells me that I have helped them in some way or got them through a difficult situation in their lives that is the ultimate reward.

MG:  What other mediums besides hip hop would you like to explore?

IL:  I have a few books in the works right now. I would also love to get into producing because I do have a musical background and a good ear for samples.  I really would like to have my hands in everything that I possibly can. You might even see me DJ sometime in the future, I don’t know, I don’t like to limit myself at all.

MG:  You have been rather prolific when it comes to releases in the last few years.  Do you have a favorite one?

 IL:  I love all of my music. All of it has it’s time. It depends on the day. My fans favorite is Celestial Clockwork though.

MG:  What does the future hold for Illogic?  Do you have any surprises up your sleeve?

IL:  Lots of music, a few books as I mentioned and I would love to hit the road heavy this year. Other than that, just taking care of my family and loving life.

FOLLOW ILLOGIC

Illogicmusic.com

@illogic614

www.facebook.com/illogicmusic

IG: Illogic614

RUST BELT HAMMER CAN BE FOUND @RUSTBELTHAMMER OR ON FACEBOOK  https://www.facebook.com/rustbelthammer

RADIUM GIRLS MELT THE IRON CITY WITH NOISE-ROCK INSPIRED MADNESS

Radium Girls are from Pittsburgh,Pennsylvania and have been making sonic fat kid splashes lately within the Iron City. I always see them listed on great bills that make me yearn for a teleportation device. They recently played with Perfect Pussy and are on many other snazzy bills in their municipality. The music is very much indebted to the noise rock scenes of the mid 80s to early 90s but also has crusty overtones and grindcore blast-beats. Yinz better take heed, Pittsburgh punk is no joke.

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OHIO HAS A …DRUG PROBLEM

donaustin

Greetings from Austin, Texas, by way of Youngstown, Ohio.  My name is Matt Greenfield and I am the man proudly holding this Rust Belt Hammer with a vengeance.  I was listening to a Don Austin record called “Rust Belt Blues” which has the song on it, I Fix Everything With a Hammer.”  The combination of those two titles gave me this blog’s name.    Don Austin are some bad Akron motherfuckers that will be forgotten by most.  They will always hold a special place in my heart though.  The Rust Belt has some mean, nasty people, Ohio especially.  Sometimes these deranged folks decide to pick up instruments and do some serious ear damage.

Drug Problem is carrying on the tradition of scuzzy and mean Cleveland punk rock.  They have members of Avon Ladies, Lucha Eternia, and Bad Noids.  The songs are short and brutish.  What’s not to like? Bring out your inner caveman and give these jams a try.

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RIP STIV BATORS. RARE DEAD BOYS TELEVISION FOOTAGE.

Stiv Bators was from my hometown of Youngstown, Ohio.  When I first got into punk, I would get my hair cut by a guy who played and grew up with a pre-Rocket From The Tombs Stiv.  He would tell me some pretty wild stories.  Mr. Bators is somewhat of a Rust Belt folk hero.    While digging around, these two great clips from Dead Boys surfaced.  I especially love the old tour promo clip. Continue reading RIP STIV BATORS. RARE DEAD BOYS TELEVISION FOOTAGE.

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