Total Gavone Makes Good - h.
I have a distinct memory of Danny Marianino walking into a Halloween party where I was hitting on a roller derby girl called Brassy Knuckles. Danny and our friend Tyler were excited about a whole pig that they were going to roast there. Now, this was almost 20 years ago, I may have some of those details mixed up, but let's go with this story as I remember it... Danny's enthusiasm and his joy as I spoke with him was so endearing, I didn't have the heart to tell him I was vegetarian. (It didn't pan out with Brassy either, but her and her husband live a neighborhood or so over from my wife and I now, so all's well that ends well... except for that poor piggy on the roast.)
And that's the thing about this dude, who first got on most people's radar by getting into an altercation that got caught on video and went viral. I've never regarded him as a mean guy. Tough as nails, sure, you couldn't front a band like North Side Kings and be a pushover. But to me, when I think of Danny, I think of a movie fan, a funny guy, and someone a lot of folks are proud to call a friend.
That's what makes Carmine, the character at the helm of Danny's new book It Blows My Mind (illustrated by downright hardcore and talented artist Mick Lambrou - "(He) does tons of art stuff for bands," says Danny, "like Sick of it all, Agnostic Front, Slapshot, etc.") so fascinating. Carmine has the prickly exterior that one might expect from the proprietor of a clothing line called Total Gavone, which features a lot of gangster speak, baseball bats, and guns in the various designs. But read a little further, and look at Danny a bit closer, and you'll find quirky absurdist humor - the book contains a rant against wizards, compares wearing a cowboy hat in the city to a Viking helmet at the mall, and laments the torture of talking to a mime who won't break kayfabe. A healthy portion of Carmine's musings involve his germophobia and particular code of etiquette when moving about the world (though being a friendly neighbor ain't one of the requirements). The juxtapositions between curmudgeonly missives and short-not-sweet non-sequiturs are jarring and side-achingly laugh-inducing (Carmine wouldn't ever use the acronym "LOL," but laughed out loud I did many times while reading).
While I forgot to ask Danny about that party from decades back, I did get an opportunity over correspondence (slightly edited for clarity - on my bullshit, not Danny's) to ask him about his transition from performing into writing, how he's pivoted from book to book, and what's on the horizon for himself, Carmine, and Total Gavone.
Changing Hands Bookstore in Phoenix, AZ is hosting a signing and live reading with Marianino on Saturday May 21
Starting this book, I immediately got the feel of the books from the humor section I’d check out at the bookstore as a kid. I feel like this is a thing that people forgot was a thing, or maybe people our age just stopped paying attention to it (or maybe authors stopped being funny). Was there any aim in conceptualizing this project to make that sort of book you’d have on the coffee table or in a basket in the bathroom?
It’s strange that books like this aren’t as common anymore. There are plenty of childrens style books aimed at incredibly dark humor and I do love those. It Blows My Mind is more along the lines a tribute to my love for MAD Magazine and that group of incredibly smart writers and artists that shaped my sense of comedy in the 80s.
I always loved the short comic strip quick type of humor. I grew up reading Doonesbury by Garry Trudeau, all those classics like Andy Capp and Hagar the Horrible. Years later I fell in love with Red Meat. From that quick humor of Bazooka Joe to the often overlooked writing on the back of the Garbage Pail Kids, I’ve always been into that quick laugh and on to the next.
Would Carmine even read in the bathroom or would that be too germy?
I didn’t want to put too much bathroom humor in this book but there will definitely be a “book basket by the toilet” being disgusting in a future book. There’s no way piss splatter doesn’t hit those books and magazines. I currently have a MAD does the 90s Collection Magazine in our hall bathroom on the back of the toilet and I move it when I pee to the sink!
You’re no stranger to pop culture and the zeitgeist, with… you know, the thing, which your book Don’t Ever Punch A Rockstar was named after. Do you feel like people have got beyond that to appreciate you as a musician, as a writer, and as a humorist? (And as a clothing entrepreneur!!) How have things changed for you with each subsequent book and as you grow your body of work?
This is now my 5th book, and every book I’ve done has been totally different from the other. Which is in one way is a lot of fun, but also a little difficult because each time I’m marketing to a different audience. I have been lucky enough to explore different creative outlets between music and writing and found a tiny bit of success in both, but the marketing is the tough part.
I’m always writing. That’s been something I’ve done my whole life. I stumble on notes in folders of all kinds of dumb shit. Things that are meaningless like a list of modern day GI Joe characters that have names like Kay Kup - “She is a special forces barista with a reputation for making great cold brew.”
What’s the point, I don’t know? Maybe I’ll find a use for it someday. But my brain is always on overdrive and all I can do is write this crazy shit down.
What’s the latest on the 10th Anniversary edition of the first book?
The new version of Don’t Ever Punch a Rockstar is really cool. I went over the final draft with the publisher a few weeks ago. DiWulf Publishing is releasing it. They do a lot of great music books and they are about to release a book about the band Adrenalin O.D.
As for my release, I changed a lot in that book. For starters I originally edited it myself. Big mistake. But the overall tone is now much funnier. When I wrote that book I was a little angrier and much more on the defense. Now all I can do is laugh.
I added more band stories, more rumors, an addendum with the books backlash when it was released and even 12% More Hatemail! Plus a new forward. I’m very happy with it. It should be out in the fall!
You appeared in a video with Every Time I Die as their manager, Biggie. Are you a fan of guitarist Andy Williams as The Butcher in All Elite Wrestling?
How fucking cool is that guy, he’s a sick guitarist and a wrestler. Wild.
You were always a gentleman and sweetheart when I’d run into you at parties and shows about town, but you played Biggie very gruff!
My childhood buddy Doug Spangenburg directed the video (Dan Stone filmed my part locally) and when Doug hit me up he told me he was looking for Biggie to be sort of an angrier “Uncle Harvey” from UHF. Or maybe I did it more aggressive than he was looking for. Either way I ate like 2 pounds of shrimp between takes and the “shrimp to shot” continuity is a little fucked up! I seem to play a good character that yells a lot.
How is Total Gavone Clothing going? Where are some of the most surprising places or who are the surprising people wearing it that you’ve spotted in your clothing?
Total Gavone Clothing is doing pretty good. I’ve sold shirts and stuff all over the world it’s pretty crazy. I’ve seen people rocking stuff in pictures in NYC to Europe. I started it as a place to house my books and old band stuff and basically branched off into its own thing.
What would be Carmine’s favorite shirt?
I think Carmine would enjoy the “Support Your Local Bookie” shirt!
Were there are opinions or observations that didn’t make it in the book, whether because of space limitations, because your wife said “no way you can put that in,” or anything that even gave you pause to say “I better not!”
My wife is pretty cool letting me do me, but there might have been a few I removed to not push that envelope! There’s actually a lot of material in It Blows My Mind based on my friends and family!
I feel like this book may improve my relationships with friends that maybe I couldn’t say this or that to, but after reading the book in the back of their minds, they will think twice…Could you imagine?! Ha
Any scenarios that Mick wouldn’t draw, or that he just wasn’t able to get to that you both wish he had?
Mick had an open canvas to work with artistically. He pretty much drew the ones he wanted to draw. Whether he had a vision of which ones to illustrate from the subjects I provided, or one he really liked and wanted to bring to life… he pretty much did his own thing. The only ones I really wanted were the Wizard one, the phone swiper and the "do you want to hold my baby".
I really thought the Old Rose in Titanic would have been a funny one, with Carmine holding Old Rose on the bow and trying to get that jewel!
He also lives in Australia so we did this book long distance. That in its own I think is an amazing accomplishment for two independent guys working ideas over texts and emails!
But Mick is so busy, he just posted a new Agnostic Front shirt he designed for their tour that starts this week with Sick of it All and I know of some other stuff he has coming up. Somehow he manages to draw daily. It’s very impressive to me.
You, or at least Carmine, are often surprising with what aren’t just merely antisocial views or a cranky attitude, but very specific pop culture opinions.
As much as Carmine complains about neighbors, waiters sitting down at his table and a slew of other antisocial attributes, I still see him as social. He’s very social just on his own terms!
There are a few pop culture things in this book that I think people can relate to... I really tried to keep things out of the book that were a little outdated but that was for a specific reason.
Here are some rapid fire pop culture questions based on topics from the book... okay, while neither you or Carmine would say “Change My Mind,” what is the opinion that would be on the banner of your Steven Crowder table?
That Steven Crowder table is in my feed somewhere almost every day. Lately it’s been more of those ladies crying and the cat and DiCaprio from Django laughing a little more.
Can you elaborate on the pros and cons of Doc Hollywood? Or other underappreciated Michael J. Fox vehicles?
I was thinking of Michael J Fox the other night. Do you realize he almost bangs his mom in Back to the Future and then almost bangs his aunt in The Secret of My Success. The 80s were wacky and it was all a-ok!
Fellow bald American singer Billy Corgan sang, “Emptiness is loneliness, and loneliness is cleanliness, and cleanliness is godliness, and God is empty, just like me.” What would Carmine say to that?
First off Carmine would lose interest in that verse cause it’s a lot of mumbo jumbo. But I always loved that simple line, “The world is a vampire.” That’s a line I think Carmine would also respect!
This question is inspired not only from the fact this is an illustrated book, but some discussion online I've seen as of late around two comic strip orange cats - my burning question, is Carmine a Garfield guy or a Heathcliff guy?
As much as I wish Carmine was more like Heathcliff, he’s for sure Garfield!
Bob Odenkirk is another writer, humorist, and performer like yourself who has branched out. He got roles in Little Women and as an action star! What would be your dream movie role, or starring vehicle for Carmine? If Hollywood made you cast someone else as Carmine, who would you pick? Any chance of a Little Carmine kids show, or Baby Gavones?
First, I find Odenkirk very inspiring. I listened to both his interviews on Howard Stern and his list of accomplishments is awesome. He has worn so many hats and it’s paid off for him. I loved Nobody, it’s a real cool film. Saul Goodman’s character goes without saying. He has a new book out I’ve been meaning to pick up.
We have an idea for a cartoon that revolves around an elderly Carmine telling stories from his past. I have some thoughts on paper, that would be a dream for Mick and I.
We have had this conversation about what real actors we could see playing Carmine. I see a specific guys look like the late Jon Polito or a guy like Robert Costanzo. I could see Stephen Graham crushing that character as well!
Mick and I are constantly kicking around ideas and as you mentioned earlier about current pop culture stuff, I actually have a tremendous amount of outdated stuff for a sequel called It Used to Blow My Mind.
The book would be along the same lines as this one but Carmine is a cigar smoking kid (same head, little body) and he is talking about stuff we all grew up with that sucks. Unrelated to 2022. Old school shit and kids issues.
For example: RUNNING ERRANDS WITH YOUR PARENTS: You got me, I wanted to spend all Saturday afternoon sitting outside the waiting room of Sears while my mom can’t decide what she likes.
You get the idea…. I have a ton already.
What else coming from you do we have to look forward to this year and next?
I’m going to be working on more Carmine stuff. We have a fun Instagram where we make funny pics and shit Carmine related almost daily @itblowsmymind
And Mick, be sure to follow him at @micklambrou.
Thanks for chatting with me, I love the book and I'm excited to share it with the Meow Meow Pow Pow readers!
Thanks I really appreciate it! I’m glad you liked it!!!
h. is the Meow Meow Pow Pow blog editor, hated being dragged to Mervyn's by his mom for clothes shopping, listened to the entire NSK discography while editing the interview transcript, and can't believe he spelled "non-sequiturs" correctly on the first try. He'll get a photo in that Total Gavone WARTIME CONSIGLIERE hat one day up on HubUnofficial.com.
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