David Ossman Interview - Whisbey Island 6/18/99
Chris Palladino for Firezine - I understand you just came back from the radio conference.

David Ossman - From MRTW, yeah.Yes, I'm still running in place, trying to get anything done before I have to go back down to LA again. I've been writing all week. I've been working on this adaptation for the Yuri Rosofsky science fiction series, of which more later.

Firezine - How went MRTW for you this time?

Ossman - Very well. It actually turned out to be a good thing to go to the middle west because that's what we're (Firesign Theatre) writing about in the studio. Billville being, really, a small town in the middle west. That's where I was, so it was perfect. I listened to sound very carefully there. There were some big storms and there were wonderful birds. Apart from that, the radio show I think went very well. I'm hoping that this one will be released. I did another of his stories, five, six years ago for MRTW, Joel Pearson's and we could put the two together on a CD, which would be nice.

Firezine - And easy to do these days.

Ossman - And easy to do these days, absolutely. I think MRTW needs to release more of its things in different fashions, so I'm trying to urge on different combinations that at least include my material. So it went very well. It was a large group, sixty people. The show seemed very smooth. Brian Smith from New York was the other director. I quite enjoyed meeting him. He is doing that series for the Sci-Fi Channel, audio series on internet and on tape. Quite a big series. Everybody else from the radio community that I started going about with in the 80's, who does this kind of thing was there. It was great to see them all. People just from Missouri and the show before. People like Merideth Ludwig, who has moved to Chicago from Kentucky. I've known her for a long time, twenty-five, thirty years. She was there --- and just a very friendly group of people. I at first thought it was just coming at the wrong time but, as I say, being there was like being in Billville to some extent, so I brought back a whole lot of evocative local color kind of material.

Firezine - So you think things like the weather and the regional bird population will play into the sounds effects on the next Firesign record.

Ossman - --- Newspaper, yeah and I listened to the birds very carefully. It was wonderful surround sound on the dock by the lake. That was my favorite place.

Firezine - Like at the end of "Next World" when Sugar casts his line into the stream, you here that call of the Bobwhite, is it, that is a familiar sound of summer here in Maryland.

Ossman- I know that call, yeah. The calls are very characteristic. The birds are quite different than they are out here because they don't cross the Rockies. They are quite distinct in the landscape --- very distinctly placed. So then I came back here. My plane was a couple of hours late. I got in late Sunday. It took a couple of days to get my suitcase emptied even, or more than that. I've finally closed my closet doors. It's been very hard to turn around. I've been mostly concentrating on trying to write this adaptaptation of a Jules Verne short for Yuri's "Beyond 2000" series which is sort of due today, and so I'm taughting it up and seeing how much of it I have. Maybe a little more than half, which is good.

Firezine - On the progress of the next Firesign album, Proctor told me last week that you have eight minutes of new material now recorded.

Ossman - Well it's more like seven, but hey, who's counting? I did play the seven minutes for a number of people there in my room thereat MRTW. The reaction was pretty universally strong. Lots of laughs, some real whoppers I thought. People were quoting lines so I think we're on the right track.

Firezine - Do you think that the road trip contributed to the next album?

Ossman - I don't think that the tour contributed substantially to the writing. I think it contributed to the performance. My experience with the middle-west is certainly less than Proctor and Bergman's because they are both from there and go back and visit often. I do pretty often but it was nice to be reminded of the three great rhyming words of the middle-west, which are "Heat, Eat and Meat". Ha ha ha, eat eat eat, meat meat meat, win win win, big big big. All of those added wonderfully to the chanted refrain of Billville.

Firezine - The performances in Seattle, in particular the last two nights, seemed to elevate Firesign Theatre to a new level of stage performance, the best I have ever seen. There were things that each of you were doing as actors that were very impressive.

Ossman - Well thank you. Yes, I felt quite ready to go on, even as we were closing, so it was sad.

Firezine - It was great spending time with you guys.

Ossman - It was great to have you there of course. And we felt like it was really very wonderful to have this group , to have all of these people who were so friendly around us. It was very nice, but I'm especially glad that you guys were there. I talked to Proctor this morning, but really everythings been on hold since I left. I don't know that there's been any movement at all on touring. I'm sure that once we get back together we'll talk about it. Somebody, probably Peter, will make a phone call and we'll move forward. There cetainly is a lot of enthusiasm to have us all over the middle-west, Chicago, Minneapolis, Bloomington, and Lawrence, I suppose, too. The small university towns network.

Firezine - We'll be looking for you here on the east coast.

Ossman - Yeah, no kidding. Well that was sort of what they were looking for once the summer disappeared. I think if we do continue this "Anythynge You Want To" over 'til next summer I'd like to add a couple of more scenes to it so we're doing even more of it. The ones that we did before (in the 70's), put those back in and then add a couple more. That'll work, and then I expect the new album I'm sure will be performable. I keep thinking about that as we go along. I keep thinking "Can we perform this?" Lets not write ourselves into anything we can't perform.

Firezine - I know you guys always cringe at this because it always changes, and we know that, but we like to know how LP titles evolve,so is there a working title for the new album?

Ossman - The last one we were testing around, are the first words that you can hear on the seven minutes of the album which is "If It's Not Life Threatening, I'm Not Interested". People were laughing at that and quoting it. The indexed titles, so far, are "Jest Jinkin' Ya", the second one is "I Heart Billville", the third one is "Think Global, Eat Local", and the fourth one is, "The Mayor's The Problem, The Flagpole's The Answer".

Firezine - Gonna run the mayor up the flagpole 'eh?

Ossman - Ah-h yes!

Firezine - What's the mayor's name?

Ossman - Mayor Penisnose.

Firezine - How many characters do we have in this so far?

Ossman - Well, we've got the consortium of the four guys in Billville, the as it were, "bad guy action figures". Mayor Penisnose, Dr. Infirmo, Coach Swat, and the contractor and developer, Bill Sprawl. So they conference call on the phone. Really those are the only significant people. I also play a weather man named Bill Sasqwalotchie, he has a little bit of a voice defect, this guy. We did some some overdubs of the crowd. Peter Stenchall was there. I'm keeping a diary of this. Big Slaughtery Square. "If It's Not Life Threatening, I'm Not Interested". That was the last title, yeah. Twister is another character. I also play a tiny little voice of a minister. I think his name is gonna be The Reverend Shackleton of The Christian Science Fiction Church. We just hear him. We haven't actually named him yet. So, it's coming along. In the next four days that we have I'm hoping we manage to put ten [minutes] down, you know. That would be good.

Firezine - Would you characterize it as linear or non-linear?

Ossman - It will have a linear storytelling aspect to it, but as it all happens on one day and it happens on a number of different and pretty much unspecified media, we're not telling you that what you're hearing is television or what you're hearing is radio or what you're hearing is a real actuality happening in real time. There's no narrative devices. There's no click of the recorder. We're going from one media to another, hopefully without explaining them. In that sense, it's non-linear because you really are kept unaware of where you're going, and so that's part of what you have to figure out, I think. It's The Billville Story, you know? It would be nice to have a little game in this, a maze.

Firezine - Do you have an outline that reads, say Point A, this is where it begins; Point B, the middle; Point C, this is how it ends.

Ossman - We know where it's going to, but much remains to be written. We will have to keep producing in the studio. There's plenty of time, I mean we have written plenty. Four days worth, at least, but we'll have to see where it goes after that. We do spend a lot of time working the script in the studio, but on the other hand, there are certain writing things that we can't do there that we have to have time and space just to figure out the usual last story points, what's gonna happen when it all comes together and be constantly discovering new characters and situations in the making of the piece, then it's very hard to make that jump to the end without taking into account just what's gonna happen along the way that might change everything. We were having a good time. It was going along very well and then I was extremely pleased with how much people liked it when I got to Missouri. That was a great reinforcement, a very strong response.

Firezine - Same production team as last time?

Ossman - Well it's Bob. It's us and Bob in there pretty much.

Firezine - Same studio? (Sunburst)

Ossman - Yep! Except it's now equipped with stuff so that we can do the surround sound mix.

Firezine - Peter talked in Seattle about the possibilities.

Ossman - Yeah, the DVD aspect of it. I assume we'll be doing that there as well. We might do the masterings somewhere else, I'm not sure what the feel is.

Firezine - So Rhino is really excited about the formats then.

Ossman - They've chosen promote it heavily and to get behind the fact that this is the first spoken word comedy release in DVD. I believe that they're quite into that between Jac Holtzman. He's really the DVD guy and he's around a long time. He's one of the grand old men of the recording business. So there's a lot of old timers in this. And they, I think, feel if somebody is going to do this, it should be The Firesign Theatre. And that's good. And it's right!