This weekend I got to chat with one of the best selling gay novelists of the past 20 years, Robert Rodi (Fag Hag, Closet Case, Dogged Pursuit, and more) to talk about his books, comics, secret projects (shhh) and his new album with 7th Kind, Sea Monster and their upcoming live show at Martyrs. You can check out Roberts print work on his personal site, and listen to Sea Monster on their site.
Moose: Hello Robert, welcome.
Robert Rodi: Thanks Marc.
M: Very happy to have some time with you as one of thousands of Chicago gay boys who loved your novels over the past 20 years. Can you believe it’s been that long?
R: No I can’t. I still feel like I’m 28 or something.
M: Well you look 28 and that’s what’s important. We’ve loved your work as a novelist over the years, but this last book you put out was a non-fiction tale of agility training with your dog. At what point did you decide to go non-fiction for a change?
R: My last novel didn’t sell as well as the others; in fact, fiction in general doesn’t sell the way it used to. My agent nudged me towards nonfiction (nudged me with a crowbar, really). So I decided to give it a shot. The first book is a dog book, ’cause that’s a bestselling genre…
…the next one will be about Italy, for the same reason.
M: Way to follow the money. But love the idea.
R: Oh, I’m ALL about following the money. But damn if that money ain’t got moves.
M: You’ve got quite a few irons in the fire. Besides fiction and non-fiction, you’ve also done comics, right? Is this something you’ll continue to pursue as well?
R: Yeah, I’ve got a big series from Marvel coming out later this year. I can’t really talk much about it now or my editor will beat my ass. But I have a lot of fun handling that kind of thing — big, widescreen heroic fantasy. It feeds my inner geek.
M: Have your past ones been optioned at all for film yet? That seems to be hot lately.
R: One of my novels is optioned right now. And I’ve currently in very early talks about a TV series on Syfy but, again, I shouldn’t even mention that yet. It could go either way.
M: Well then lets move one before we get sued!
R: Anyone who sues me is in for a bitter disappointment. I got a couple Prada shirts, that’s it.
M: Your band, 7th Kind has a new CD out. How on earth did you get into a band?
R: I get restless, I like to try new things. Chicago’s a great music town, at a certain point I decided I wanted to be on the other side of the audience-stage divide. Originally I concentrated on jazz, which I still do, but I hooked up with 7th Kind because even though they’re an alt-rock band, there’s a strong jazz influence. What with a five-man horn section and all.
M: So were they an existing instrumental band and you approached them about collaborating?
R: Yeah, they’ve been around a while. But just recently there’s been a real horn-band renaissance in Chicago. You’ve got Mucca Pazza, Balkano, Liquid Soul, Lowdown Brass Band, Origin of Animal… it’s pretty exciting to be part of that. And 7th Kind is an amazing band. Our songwriter, Bill Ashby… I don’t know anyone who writes songs like he does. Completely original.
M: But you’ve been doing the lyrics too as the lead vocalist?
R: I’ve done the lyrics to two 7th Kind tunes and may do more. It’s at Bill’s discretion. He’s pretty generous, which is part of being a great bandleader.
M: Well the albums pretty great. Not too jazzy for the alt rock fans, just a bit of ska in parts, really a melding of lots of great sounds. A little for everyone. Definitely hear a lot of Morphine in there. Who do you guys get compared to the most?
R: That’s hard to say, because anytime we get compared to someone, at least one guy in the band will be like, “WTF?” I like to think we do a different kind of fusion than anyone else. The songs, man…I just love these tunes.
M: Well that’s why I asked really, because its so original. Writers like me love to compare. Very lazy, but when someone like 7th Kind comes along, makes me have to think a bit. Grrrrrr. But wonderful CD. Especially the sorta sullen Epilogue with Coda and modern jazzy Eternal Regrets. Two standouts for me personally.
In the end was there one or two you were most proud of?
R: Thanks. Yeah, those two cuts certainly show the range we’ve got. My personal favorite is the CD opener, “Falling On a Door Knob,” because it was my idea to add the kind of Indian-style raga flavor to the vocals. First time I contributed anything to a 7th Kind tune beyond just singing it.
M: So since the album’s new, have you done much live to support it?
R: We’ve done a couple shows, but we haven’t scheduled the official CD release gig yet. That’ll be on our website, when it’s decided. Our next gig is on April 29, a “Brass Inferno” night along with The Drastics and Origin of Animal. Should be a kick.
We’ll be selling the CD there. And t-shirts and, y’know. Swag.
M: Love the swag.
R: You’re a swag hag.
M: New novel!
M: Well thanks for taking the time today Robert!
R: Thanks, Marc, great talking to you.
M: See you, and all your fans, on the 29th.
R: It’s at Martyrs, 3855 North Lincoln. I’ll be looking for you.