When you talk to Stephen Trask you get the sense that the good things that have happened for him in the past few years are just beginning to sink in and feel real. His off-Broadway rock musical Hedwig and the Angry Inch, to which he wrote the music and lyrics ( the play's text was written by John Cameron Mitchell ) , continues to draw crowds in New York and also did well in Los Angeles. He is producing an album by one-time-Hedwig Donovan Leitch's band Nancy Boy, and he is preparing for the film version of Hedwig... .To top it all off, the original cast recording of Hedwig and the Angry Inch has been nominated for a Grammy Award ( the Grammys will be awarded Feb. 23 ) .
Gregg Shapiro: I want to begin by congratulating you on your Grammy nomination.
Stephen Trask: Thank you
GS: How do you feel about it?
ST: It's very exciting. Every time people come up to me and congratulate me, it gets more and more real. I'm producing an album up here in Woodstock, and the other day the drummer came in and he was so excited. I got chills. It's really kind of thrilling.
GS: I'm glad that brought up the new album by Nancy Boy that you are producing. What can you tell me about that?
ST: Donovan Leitch, who is the lead singer of Nancy Boy, approached me about a year ago about maybe writing some songs with him. We kind of dashed one off and never really revisited it. And then I got a call from his management about maybe doing some more songs with him. I hung out, met the band ( I had never really met them before ) they had all been coming down to see Hedwig. We had a good day. I wrote a song for them. I showed them a couple of other things. Their management and the president of their label ( Mammoth ) was really into the stuff I was doing with them and asked for more songs. Out of the blue, I was at the office of the president of their record company, playing them songs, and they said, "Do you want to produce this record?"
I only vaguely knew what that meant, but I felt like I had to say yes. So, I got on the project and started sifting through old tapes of theirs and listening to all of their songs, thinking about which songs should be on it. We talked about which songs of mine they wanted to get a hold of. They also needed me to get a guitar player for them. The first person I thought of was Dean DeLeo, of Stone Temple Pilots. Dean and I had done a Hedwig show together in Los Angeles. We did a concert with Stone Temple Pilots, and John Mitchell and Michael Cerveris and Miriam Shor, because I was without a band and their lead singer ( Scott Weiland ) was in jail and we needed to do a show in Los Angeles. They ( STP ) had become big fans of the show, and of the songs, and we put on an amazing show. We had the Stone Temple Pilots as the Angry Inch and we had both Hedwigs, for one night. It was a blast. They're such extraordinary people. So one day, we're on the phone talking about this guitar player thing and I just threw Dean's name out. I said, "If we're going to spend a lot of money, let's get someone like Dean." And they kept on me, saying "Did you call him yet?" Finally, I called him and he came out to Los Angeles and we hung out and I played him the songs for that I felt would be on the record and convinced him to do it. So Dean and I kind of joined the band for a few weeks, learning all of their songs and teaching them ours, and becoming a four-piece band. Now, we're up here in Woodstock, in the Catskill Mountains, in this great recording studio in the mountains with deer all around.
GS: It sounds beautiful.
ST: It is. And the stuff is sounding really good. Donovan is this super, super talent.
GS: Donovan also played Hedwig on stage, right?
ST: Yes. He alternated with Ally Sheedy.
GS: Speaking of production work, how did you come to work with Chicago-based Brad Wood on the original cast recording of Hedwig...?
ST: Mary Gormley, my A&R person at Atlantic Records, suggested Brad. I didn't know Brad's name at the time, but I did know his work. There were things that he'd done that made me wish that I had that sound or this sound, and then I found out later that it was Brad. Brad came down and checked out the show and the moment I met him, I knew he was the guy. He's great.
GS: Have any bands or solo performers expressed interest in covering any of the songs from Hedwig...?
ST: Nancy Boy has, but I didn't want to do that ( laughs ) . But other than that, not yet. They don't have to ask me, to do it. So somebody could be planning to do it without telling me. Alanis Morrisette, I think, was a big fan of the show, and I would love to hear her sing "Midnight Radio." She's got that huge voice and she could really cover all of those notes. She's the kind of person who could pull off "here's to me" at the end of the song.
GS: Have you begun work on your next stage project?
ST: Not yet. There's definitely one in the future. I wanted to work scoring films. I wanted work on stage. I wanted to produce. I want to make an album of my own. The only thing I haven't done is make an album of my own, so I think that's my next step. I would love to work with the guys in Stone Temple Pilots on something. We've talked about that. That would be really cool.
GS: Since you've raised the subject of an album of your own, is there a CD forthcoming by your band Cheater?
ST: No, because I don't play with them anymore.
GS: What can you tell me about the status of the movie version of Hedwig And The Angry Inch?
ST: I should be getting a near-final script from John ( Cameron Mitchell ) any day now to read over. We're going to go and start re-recording the music for the movie in about a month and a half, and shooting in Toronto in late Spring/early Summer.
GS: Will you have the original cast in the movie?
ST: The other guys in Cheater won't be in it, since we're not playing together anymore, but Miriam Shor and John and I will be the three front people in the band.
GS: You brought up Ally Sheedy, and I was wondering about your take on the much-publicized Ally Sheedy period of Hedwig...?
ST: I'm damned if I do and I'm damned if I don't say anything about that. The only thing I can say is that it's something that we all went into with really high hopes and I'm sorry that it ended on a sour note.
GS: Is there someone else, like a dream person, that you foresee taking over the role on stage?
ST: Matt McGrath, who's doing it now, is tremendous. There's been some interest from Jon Bon Jovi, and that would be amazing. I think we would be sold out until whenever it is that he decided to stop shaving his chest and putting on a dress. Can you imagine how many people would line up to see Jon Bon Jovi singing in a 250-seat theater? Stripping down to bare nothing after wearing a dress.
GS: It'd be a guaranteed sellout.
ST: They'd be lined up around the block. And he's a very good actor.
Hundreds of people attended Saturday's Equality Illinois benefit, held at the Hilton. There were dozens of politicians paraded before the crowd, including openly lesbigay/trans delegates Miranda Stevens-Miller ( for Bill Bradley ) , Ellen Meyers ( for Bradley ) , and Glenn Goode ( an alternate for Republican George Bush ) . Openly lesbigay judges Nancy Katz, Tom Chiola ( who is up for retention this November ) and Sebastian Patti were also there, as was openly gay 46th Ward Democratic Committeeman candidate Jim Snyder. Dawn Clark Netsch, who always gets the loudest applause, was also there, as were State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, Secretary of State Jesse White, and State Comptroller Dan Hynes. Gov. Ryan ( honorary co-chair of the event along with the state's other constitutional officers ) , was not there, and neither was Mayor Daley ( also on the honorary committee ) .
Freedom Awards were given to Roger Leishman ( director of the ACLU of Illinois' Gay and Lesbian Rights and AIDS and Civil Liberties Projects since 1995 ) ; Patricia Logue ( supervising attorney of the Midwest Regional Office of Lambda Legal Defense and Education Fund ) ; Linda Schroeder ( a military veteran with 10 years service, she was "outed" on her job and forced out, she works on lesbigaytrans issues in central Illinois ) ; and Judge Morton Zwick of the Illinois Appellate Court, First District. Logue had to attend to a family emergency out of town, so Lambda attorney Heather Sawyer accepted for her.
Here is a list politicians and candidates who attended: U.S. Rep. Luis Gutierrez ( 4th ) , U.S. Rep. Jan Schakowsky ( 9th ) , Charles Freeman ( Chief Justice, Illinois Supreme Court ) , Secretary of State Jesse White, State Comptroller Dan Hynes, State Treasurer Judy Baar Topinka, Rep. John Fritchey ( 33rd ) , Judge Bridget McGrath, Rep. Lauren Beth Gash ( 60th ) , Darlana Williams Burnett ( Deputy Cook County Recorder of Deeds ) , Don Nowotny ( 46th Ward Supt. Streets and Sanitation ) , Judge Sebastian Patti, Dawn Clark Netsch ( former Illinois Senator and Comptroller ) , Cook County Recorder of Deeds Eugene Moore, judicial candidate Rosemary Grant Higgins, Glenn Good ( alternate delegate for George Bush ) , Ellen Meyers ( Bradley delegate ) , Miranda Stevens-Miller ( Bradley delegate ) , judicial candidate Deborah Jean Gubin, Judge Bob Gordon, Calumet City Mayor Jerry Genova, 48th Ward Dem Commiteeman candidate Frank Fuscaldo, Rep. Sara Feigenholtz ( 12th ) , Rep. Judy Erwin ( 11th ) , 43rd Ward Ald. Vi Daley, Illinois Appellate Justice Shelvin Louise Hall, 47th Ward Dem Committeeman Ed Kelly, Judge Nancy Katz, Illinois House candidate Sheila Leucht ( 63rd ) , Rep. Edgar Lopez ( 4th ) , 45th Ward Ald. Patrick Levar, 26th Ward Ald. Billy Ocasio, judicial candidate Marv Leavitt, Judge Paul Karkula, 48th Ward Dem Committeeman Mike Volini, Rep. Mark Beaubien ( 52nd ) , Judge Tom Chiola, Judge Frank Dolan, Rep. Harry Osterman ( 17th ) , Sen. Barak Obama ( 13th ) , Judge P. Scott Neville, Sen. Lisa Madigan ( 17th ) , 46th Ward Dem Committeeman candidate Jim Snyder, Rep. Sonia Silva ( 1st ) , 43rd Ward Dem Committeewoman Peg Roth, judicial candidate Thomas David Roti, Judge Mort Zwick, Commissioner Patricia Young ( candidate for Clerk of Circuit Court of Cook County ) , judicial candidate Colleen Sheehan, Rep. Jeff Schoenberg ( 58th, and state coordinator for Bill Bradley for President ) , 47th Ward Ald. Eugene Schulter ( candidate for 47th Ward Dem Committeeman ) , 49th Ward Ald. Joe Moore ( candidate for Clerk of the Circuit Court of Cook County ) , 27th Ward Ald. Walter Burnett, Judge James Etchingham, Rep. Julie Hamos ( 18th ) . Arriving just after the introductions were Sen. Carol Ronen and 48th Ward Ald. Mary Ann Smith.