April 2009

I’ve been able to get back into music over the last few weeks.  Strongman mania is cooling down a little bit, and I’m just settling down into a groove of working on the next projects while continuing to press and promote the book as much as I can.  That’s left me with space in my schedule to book shows and work on material for my bands.

I’ve been doing music in a serious way for a very long time.  I’m mostly a guitarist and singer, but I’ve also played the violin forever, and I can play enough to compose on keys, cello, etc.  I’m not much of a drummer – anything more than a standard beat screws me up, and I tend to leave the beat somewhere on the road twenty feet behind me whenever I go for a fill.  But that’s why drum loops (and, I suppose, drummers) were created.  Oh, no winds, either.    Anyway, the point is that I love to play and write music; it’s the other side of my creative side, along with the writing.

Right now, I have two active groups, that are really sort of the same group, and even have the same name – they’re both the Charles Soule Band.  I do a lot of jazz trio gigs (guitar, bass, drums), which can be anything from performing in a club to a large event.  The events pay really well, the clubs usually don’t, so by doing both I can afford to pay the band for the club shows.  We do some standards, along with a decent slate of my own compositions, but where I’ve really been having fun with the CSB jazz group is the “covers.”  I’m a huge movie fan, just as a general matter, and I love big, epic film scores.  So, from time to time I’ll take scores that I particularly like and rearrange them for the trio.  We do the themes from Terminator, Magnificent Seven, Magnum Force, E.T., Doctor Who, etc.  Most of the time, audiences don’t recognize them.  Occasionally, though, we’ll get one guy who stops what he’s doing and listens to us for a minute in a sort of tilted-head way… i.e. “is that what I think it is?”  I guess I’m basically doing this for that guy (and myself).  Not sure what the other guys in the band think, but the band’s got its name for a reason.

Here’s a link to live performance of our version of Magnificent Seven, recorded at the 2007 US Open tennis tournament:


I played my first show in a few months last week, just a trio gig as background at an event, but it paid, and was a nice way to ease back into the gigging waters.  I have another show this Thursday, and then a big music weekend from May 2-3.  When I was in college, I worked in a million bands (it was a great way to make extra cash), but one of my favorites was a groove-jazz outfit that we called the Virgin Septet.  At varying times, depending on who couldn’t make a gig, it was the Virgin Quintet or, if the stars aligned, the Virgin Sextet (always liked that one.)  The members of the band have gone on to do some amazing things – one is in the Disco Biscuits, another is one of the jazz critics for the New York Times, another one’s getting his PhD at Harvard, yet another runs the Hedge Fun Law Report… it’s a pretty neat group of people.  Anyway, we’re having our 12-year reunion show this coming Sunday night, and I’m pretty jazzed (ha!) about it. 

Here’s a track called “Swish” that the Virgins recorded back in the olden days – say 1997 or so.  It’s not as smooth as it’ll probably be this coming Sunday, but it’s fun to listen to (for me, anyway):


We’re playing at the Parkside Lounge down on Houston on Sunday, May 3 from 9:30 until late.  Should be a good time.  And even if it’s not, man, I’m glad to be playing again.


I’ve been lucky enough to have received a slate of pretty much unanimously positive reviews for Strongman.  In the last few weeks, a new bunch have shown up, that I thought I’d share quickly. 

First, a video review (Strongman comments start around 4:30):

A really great, detailed review that has a lot of interesting things to say about the cover:


Chud.com review (Strongman is the second review on the page):


Really great Podcast review from The Pull List (pulllist.blogspot.com , and you want episode 69, direct link below, and Strongman stuff starts at the 35 minute mark):






There are more, but I’ll leave it at that for now.  Cory Doctorow has a copy, and may review it one of these days.  I also got a rave (albeit a very brief one, basically just “this book fucking kicked ass”) from a Pulitzer-Prize winning author, but that was informal, and so I don’t want to post that up here as if it was an official, on-the-record endorsement.  The big hurdle still seems to be print reviews, but I’m going to start working on that in earnest too.  Is anyone friendly with the graphic novel reviewer for Entertainment Weekly?

…except for however long it takes me to write this.

Emerald City Comicon, and Seattle in general, were pretty great.  Seattle wasn’t exactly what I expected, but I understand from a few informed sources that I didn’t exactly get the proper experience.  I was expecting something like Anchorage, which is completely integrated into an epic, unbelievable landscape.  The city feels like a frontier outpost that’s grown a bit over the years (which, I suppose, is exactly what it is.)  Seattle, on the other hand, seemed to me to be much more urban.  The Space Needle seems tiny when you come right up it (compared to its presence in the pop-culture landscape, in cityscapes, etc.)  It is, however, next to a ridiculously cool music theater/museum/experience that looks like it was designed by Frank Gehry – and probably was.

I spent most of my time either in the convention center for the con or bouncing from bar to bar in the neighborhood where my brother lives, Ballard.  Not to say it wasn’t fun, but I didn’t wade through any icy streams filled with salmon or hike up any mountains.   I did see the world’s first Starbucks, though.

Oh, I also didn’t ride the Super Train!  I was hoping to get some great coffee, listen to some nice jazz and just relax on my way into the city, but I couldn’t find the ST anywhere.  Maybe next trip.

Some fabulous moments at the con – meeting Brian Michael Bendis, CB Cebulski and Ed Brubaker and getting them all copies of Strongman, being approached by a number of great new connections (both editors/publishers and other creators), selling a bunch of books (more than doubling the number of Strongmen my publisher had expected to sell) and having the dude who gave me my pro badge say, “Oh, you’re Charles Soule?  I really enjoyed your book!”  Another fun moment was going to the comic shop near my little brother’s place to see if they had Strongman (an obsessive habit I’ve developed) and discovering that not only did they have it, but it had been “signed by the creator!”  Pretty exciting stuff.  (Allen Gladfelter, the book’s artist, had preceded me to the store by a day.)  I bought the copy for my little brother and headed out.  I felt weird telling the clerk that the other creator was the dude buying the book.

Anyway, I don’t have any cons planned until the big San Diego event in July, which is probably a good thing.  I have 27 to oversee and pitch, Strongman Vol. 2 to script (it’s got that detailed synopsis, but Allen can’t really draw from that) and networking, networking, networking to do.

I’m off to Seattle tomorrow (very bright and very early – probably earlier than bright, actually) for the world-famous Emerald City Comic Con.  I’ll get to hang out with Allen Gladfelter, the artist of Strongman (and Strongman 2, provisionally subtitled “Country, Liberty”) and some guys from Slave Labor, the book’s publisher.  I’ll get to refresh my cache of copies of the book, which is sorely needed.  I’m down to one as-published copy, and two review copies, which isn’t much to work with.  Reviewers and people of note are clamoring for their chance to read Strongman!

But comic book related stuff aside, I will also get to visit my little brother, who I haven’t seen since his birthday in January ’08.  I’ve never been to Seattle before, and I purposely scheduled some additional time around the edges of the convention so that he can show me around town, we can have a bunch of beers (and maybe some karaoke, if old habits hold true) and just catch up.  

Right now, however, I’m off for a run.  I like to go early, when I can (and when it’s warm enough – I HATE running when it’s cold, although I do it if there’s no choice).  I run from my place down to Brooklyn Bridge Park, which is along the East River, right under both the Brooklyn and Manhattan Bridges.  The route goes through DUMBO and Vinegar Hill (discussed in a previous post), and opens up to a spectacular view of lower Manhattan.  It’s like a reward for the effort.  And if you go to the verrrry end of the boardwalk built inside the southern portion of the park, in the last ten feet the view opens up a bit more and you see the Statue of Liberty.  It’s a great run, a little over four miles, and I want to make sure I get one in before I have to sit on a plane tomorrow for eight hours, and then (most likely) have a weekend of drinking and unhealthy food. 

By the way, I make no pretensions towards being a badass super-runner.  I started running more regularly when I couldn’t find a gym close to where I live in Brooklyn, and I’ve somehow managed to build it up into a habit, 2-3 times a week, over the last couple of years.  It’s an amazing way to burn off stress, and against all odds I find that I’ve come to really enjoy it (unless it’s cold), but I don’t see myself running any marathons.  Ever.