It’s weird to be an ardent music fan at my age (that age being 48, should you care). Or, maybe, it’s just weird for me, being that I have several preciously pointed opinions about how music should be properly disseminated and, for want of a better term, consumed. Adhering zealously to certain ageist stereotypes, I have decided to largely abstain from moving with the times. I don’t stream. I don’t use Pandora or Spodify or any those digital platforms. By the same token, I’m not a member of any nouvelle vinyl-appreciators’ club, either. Sure, I still horde all my old LPs (kept in sturdy, sticker-slathered flight cases split between a space in my apartment building’s storage facility and my ever-forgiving mother’s basement), but being that we don’t really have the room in our apartment to set up a meaningfully functional turntable, that will all have to wait until the next iteration of our home. In the interim, I continue to listen to, cherish and zealously accumulate compact discs.
With a nod back to the vinyl-lovers, though, let me just say that I get it. My love and respect for the tactile manifestation of music completely extends to that once-dormant medium (although I don’t really have a horse in the race over whether vinyl indeed produces a “warmer” sound –- my hearing is far too compromised, by this point, to discern any differences). Being that I spent my formative years as a nascent music geek chasing down LP’s and 45’s, I vividly remember relishing their weight, their cover art, their liner notes, their physicality. I loved them as artifacts to be handled with care, and as the crucial means of delivering their singular, rarified sonic contents. But, like I said, I can’t play them, so I’m happy with CD’s.
My arguably unwieldy collection of CD’s might seem like a quaint anachronism to some people, but being that I’m of the considered opinion that most people are complete morons, that doesn’t really bother me. No, what bothers me is the perception that the advent of technology has rendered the physical format -- especially the compact disc -– obsolete and moot. Vinyl fetishism may have spared LP’s from that same stigma, but I question the actual motivation of that resurgence when records are thinly hawked as glorified coffee-table accessories at lamentable outlets like Urban Outfitter.
To my mind, the dissolution of music’s physical components (i.e. actual albums and singles you hold in your hand and put in a player) has only hastened the devaluing of music as a whole. Music is no longer something to specifically seek out (and gratefully pay for) so much as something to be blithely plucked from the ether and taken entirely for granted. Don’t agree with me? I have several songwriter friends who’d happily show you their discouraging bank statements to corroborate.
Where does this leave me? Well, it’s not a promising circumstance. Most of the places I spent years finding my music in have gone out of business. 2016 alone has been especially cruel in that capacity, as it’s seen the closing of former strongholds like Other Music and Rebel Rebel. Earlier this week, I endeavored to find copies of both the newly remastered edition of Metallica’s astringent second album, Ride the Lightning and, more foolhardily, an antiquated bootleg recording from 1988 of the unspeakably profane GG Allin (as detailed towards the end of this post). Time was when I wouldn’t have even had to leave my zip code to easily put my hand to both of those items. This week? I might as well have been searching for the Ark of the Covenant.
Oh, sure, I can probably find both online (well, the GG Allin disc might be harder to attain), but -– as I’ve mentioned before -– I’d much rather give some struggling brick-&-mortar outlet my money than some faceless internet juggernaut. And, selfishly speaking, plucking an item out of a mailer doesn’t provide the same rush as spying a long-sought after album amidst the bins of a lovingly curated music shop. But, again, maybe I’m dwelling in the past.
Anyway, despite all this –- and to say nothing of the fact that I find less and less to like about contemporary pop music, or at least the stuff that is so slavishly championed –- I am still feverishly committed to my favorite music. I’m lucky enough to still find new stuff to fire my imagination from time to time, but by and large, “my era” has come and gone. This makes finding “my type of stuff” harder and harder, but I’d like to think that makes me appreciate it all the more.
So, with all of the above in mind, after stumbling above this strange and frankly stupid survey, I decided to revive an old practice and slap it up here. These are my answers based on my tastes and practices. What are yours?
I interpret “right now” to mean “these days,” in which case I’d have to cite The Glowing Man by SWANS, It Came from N.Y.C. by White Zombie and a clutch of singles by a young singer/songwriter named Morly, who makes disarmingly intimate, haunting music.
2. What song(s) make(s) you sad?
I feel like I’ve answered this one on all those surveys in the past, but off the top of my head, I’d again have to cite “This Woman’s Work” by Kate Bush, although there is a bittersweet aspect to that song that spares it from simply being depressing. As I listen to old favorites with adult ears, I am now more struck by the grim realities of romantic dysfunction in, say, Squeeze’s “Up the Junction” than I am by the more conventionally sad, windswept melancholy of, say, Disintegration-era Cure. I mean, yeah, the songs on that album are still “sad,” but they seem so entwined with hoary, youthful perceptions of what star-crossed love is, rather than the workaday failure of a broken relationship. And, as a parent, every little aspect –- both lyrically and musically -– of “She’s Leaving Home” by ye olde Beatles makes me well up like a grandmother.
3. What is the most annoying song in the world?
Only one? Cripes, where do I start? I feel like we’re currently living in an era rife with so much bad, base and stupid pop music that I’m palpably annoyed every time someone turns the radio on. But “annoying” doesn’t necessarily mean “poorly written,” or “stupid.” I mean, there are richly written, masterfully composed bits of music that are still entirely annoying (Minnie Ripperton’s “Loving You,” certainly springs to mind in that capacity). I would say, personally speaking, it would have to be Rednex’s roundly offensive and shrill “Cotton Eye Joe” from 1995. I recently heard it at a social function at my kids’ school, and it pretty much immediately made me want to murder everyone in the room.
4. Your all-time favorite band?
There are many bands I am a passionate fan of, but there is only one all-time favorite, and that is Killing Joke.
5. Your newly discovered band is?
Well, I wouldn’t say I do the discovering. At this stage of the proceedings, someone else discovers them and then hips me to them. That all said, I do encounter lots of new stuff via my job, and I do have cooler, hipper friends that steer me towards the good stuff. I’d say the last new band I got unexpectedly into was an outfit called Sun Drug. I’m not suggesting they’re going to take over the world, but I genuinely dug a couple of their singles (notably “Wildman” and “Soaked”). Also, the afore-cited sepulchral pop of Morly.
6. Best female voice?
Kind of a stupid question. I mean, what constitutes “best”? Ability? Range? Chops? Resonance? Power? The ability to trill needlessly melismatic runs rife with needless gesticulation ala Beyonce at all? Fuck all that stupid shit. I can offer my favorite female voice, though. Maybe it’s a cliché, but I’m still besotted with the utter uniqueness of Liz Fraser of the Cocteau Twins, albeit specifically on their earlier records (when she favored the lower register). Later Cocteau records were still sublime, but Fraser seemed to solely sing up high on those last few discs. Still -– there is no one like her.
Again, stupid question for all the same reasons. It also depends on one’s mood (equally applicable to “best female voice”). I mean, there are loads of predictable choices like the elastic vocal gymnastics of singers like Freddie Mercury and Jeff Buckley. I love the frill-free-but-entirely-distinctive sound of Joey Ramone and the gravel-throated yawp of the late Ian “Lemmy” Goddamn Kilmister of Motorhead. I’d feel remiss in not mentioning the dulcet tones of the much-maligned Glen Danzig of the Misfits et al. Sure, he may be a pugnacious target of easy ridicule, but CAN YOU CROON LIKE THAT? I bet not.
But, there are simply too many. I mean, I can’t choose between Nick Cave and Gavin Friday and John Lydon and Bowie and Iggy and Lou Reed and Mick Jones of the Clash and Terry Hall of the Specials and Jon King of Gang of Four and on and on and on. They’re all great and they each bring something to the table. There is no single “best.”
8. Music type you find yourself listening to the most?
Genre-wise, I tend to lean towards that which rocks, although that can manifest itself in a number of different ways. But usually that and not, say, R&B or show tunes or Dixieland jazz (not that there’s anything wrong with those genres).
9. What do you listen to, to hype you up?
I assume this poorly composed question seeks to discern what music I select for the purposes of getting pumped up or excited. It really depends on what I’m getting excited about, and -– again –- my mood. I mean, it can be anything from the bruising wallop of Pantera through the pristine pop of Lene Lovich. It’s all in the details of the impending event.
10. What do you listen to when you want to calm down?
Honestly, if I need to “calm down,” I’m probably going to skip listening to music, as even the mellowest of tune stimulates the brain. But if I’m relaxing, I might opt for something like The Spirit of Eden by Talk Talk or something by Nick Drake or someone similarly inclined.
11. Last gig/concert you went to?
I went to see FLAG at the Gramercy Theatre – FLAG being, ultimately, kind of a reunion tour combo of the pertinent members of Black Flag that aren’t Greg Ginn, Ron Reyes, Henry Rollins, Kira or Robo. It was pleasantly surprising and entirely excellent.
Ummm… I don’t. I mix it up pretty regularly. For a long while, Iggy’s Post Pop Depression was in pretty regular rotation, but at the moment, I’m kinda all over the place.
13. Most hated band?
I suppose I hate a lot of artists, but why dwell on the negative? At this point, it’s pretty easy for me to avoid music I don’t like, so I don’t waste a lot of time really hating anything. I entirely fail to comprehend the appeal of bullshit like Kanye West, Drake, Tyler the Creator and a whole pile of contemporary Hip Hop and R&B, but my disdain for same is tempered by the fact that I simply don’t know (or care, really) about any of it enough to actively HATE it. I guess I actively hate music that celebrates and perpetuates stuff I find irresponsibly stupid and crass. I also hate bands who have undeservedly come to represent whole genres that they only tangentially align with. Like, while I’m sure they’re all perfectly nice gents, I fucking HATE Blink 182 for allegedly being the world’s most recognizable “punk” band. Fuck them for that.
14. Song that makes you think?
Makes me think what? Who wrote these questions?
15. Band that you think the world should love as much as you do?
It’s no mystery why much of the world doesn’t “get” some of my favorite bands, like Killing Joke and SWANS, and that’s often by design. I think I’m more surprised by the fact that XTC isn’t more cherished and beloved for their music. I mean, were they not photogenic enough? They’re more revered in their homeland than here, of course, but even there, they don’t seem to get their due (and this in a nation that championed Oasis). They should be treated like gods.
16. Coolest music video?
Then, now and forever….
17. Music video with the most babe watch?
I’m not sure I even understand what this means, but if we’re talking about music videos involving babes, I suppose I would have to cite some Hip Hop video like Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’,” but I don’t know that I fully endorse that sorta idiotic bullshit.
18. What do you play/would you play in the bedroom to spice things up?
There’s nothing wrong with setting the mood, but if you’re solely relying on music to “spice things up,” you’re probably in for a difficult evening.
19. Can you play a musical instrument?
I can play bits of piano and guitar, but neither well. I could probably bash the bejesus out of a drum kit, had I access to one.
20. Ever been in a mosh pit?
Not recently, but yes.
21. Are you in a band?
22. Ever dated a musician?
These questions aren’t getting any less dumb, are they. A shame, that. To my knowledge, I never dated a musician, or at least not a professional one.
23. Do you wish that you were a musician?
I think we all do from time to time. I certainly wish I was able to credibly and competently play an instrument, but I think the realities of being a full-time, professional musician aren’t quite all one might assume.
24. Best chick band you know of?
“Chick band”? Them’s fighting words, jerk. If you mean bands who happen to boast all-female memberships, I can name several amazing ones, among them the Runaways, the Dum Dum Girls, Savages, the Slits (prior to Budgie joining the ranks), Luscious Jackson, Sleater-Kinney, Scrawl, the Go-Go’s, Girlschool, PMS/Wench, Kleenex and probably about nine dozen more I’ll remember after I post this. My favorite, however, is probably the Lunachicks.
25. Last song that you heard?
The last thing I involuntarily heard was “How Bizarre” by OMC, inexplicably emanating from a colleague’s office. The last thing I played myself was “God is a Bullet” by Concrete Blonde via YouTube.
26. What do you think of classical music?
I think it’s excellent. You’d be stupid to think otherwise.
27. What do you think of Country music?
I think Contemporary Country music is pretty damn awful, for the most part, but I’m not its target demographic. I cannot say I harbor a great amount of interest in Country music, but I like select elements of it. And anyone who can’t appreciate Johnny Cash is an idiot.
I’d go as far as to say I like select, individual bands more than I categorically espouse the entire genre. I find it somewhat laborious to parse the distinctions between sub-genres in metal (death metal, black metal, speed metal, thrash, metalcore, power-metal, etc.). I fully endorse, support and slavishly enjoy the music of Venom, the Possessed, Hellhammer and the like. I can’t say I’m as keen on the more contemporary stuff, but a little goes a long way, as far as I’m concerned.
29. Last BIG band you saw live?
I would imagine “BIG” is a relative term, but I saw The Cure just recently at Madison Square Garden. That was quite fun.
30. Are you a groupie?
Let’s say, for a nanosecond, that I was – would I really disclose that information here? As it turns out, I’m not, but c’mon, be real.
31. Do you listen to music in foreign languages?
I mean, I suppose so, being that the Young Gods sang in French, Neubauten in German.
32. What famous musician would you like to “spend the night with”?
Really plumbing the depths now, aren’t we. Well, being that I’m happily married, I don’t believe I’m at all interested in “spending the night” with anyone other than my lovely Missus. That said, there are certainly musicians I’d love to spend the course of an evening with, like, drinking and dining. I’ve already done that with a few of my favorites. I’d imagine it probably would have been hilarious fun to spend an evening chatting with Lemmy from Motorhead.
33. Worst concert moment?
Ummm. Toughie. I’ve been to bad shows and boring shows and shows that were cancelled, but I think the worst was a Buzzcocks show with the Candy Snatchers and the Lunachicks opening. As great as that triple bill sounds, I went with a friend who got uncontrollably drunk during the proceedings and got thrown out of the venue right as the headlining Buzzcocks hit the stage. I had to skip the Buzzcocks and go fetch him and get him back to his home in the Bronx. He puked in the cab on the way. Not a great night for any of the parties concerned.
34. Funny concert moment?
I remember going to see Husker Du at one point back in college, and midway through their set, someone tossed a half-full pitcher of beer at the stage. I remember watching it spiral over the crowd, spewing fractals of beer as it spun, and landing squarely on the head of drummer/vocalist, Grant Hart, who promptly stopped drumming and dove into the crowd to pummel the culprit. That was kinda funny.
35. Sad concert moment?
I remember seeing Killing Joke in New York shortly after the passing of bassist Paul Raven, to whom they dedicated an emotional reading of “Love like Blood” to, with Jaz belting out an emphatic “RAVEN!” during the middle-eight.
36. Best local act you can think of?
I am a slavish fan of leagues of homegrown New York City bands of all stripes. Virtually impossible to pick a single one.
37. If you were a musical instrument, what would you be?
This is too stupid a question to answer.
38. Do you listen to the radio?
Yes, but mostly WNYC (our local NPR affiliate – not much music thereon).
39. Do you watch music TV?
It doesn’t really exist anymore, does it? I mean, I occasionally watch VH1 Classic, but even that kinda sucks now.
40. Do you follow the music charts, like the top 40?
Charts mean nothing. People ultimately buy a lot of garbage (i.e. what they’re told to buy). Chart success isn’t necessarily any indication of actual quality. It’s all relative.
41. Have you met any famous musicians?
Well, “famous” is also a relative term, but as a former music journalist, yes – more than I can count.
42. Are any of your friends or family musicians?
I’m lucky enough to have what I’d consider to be a multitude of friends that are musicians.
43. Song that best describes your feelings right now?
44. Song that describes your life?
45. Do you know the names of all the band members that you listen to?
Of my favorite bands, I certainly do, but it’d be strenuously unlikely to be able to name every member of every band I ever listen to.
46. Does a musician’s physical attractiveness play a role in the music that you listen to?
Ha. No. I mean, if they look “cool,” then … great. But in terms of sheer physiognomy, if you were to line up my favorite musicians, it would not exactly be a pantheon of striking preternatural beauty.
47. What famous musician do you want to marry?
I don’t. Already married, thanks.
Why is this question buried way down here? There are several, but for entirely different reasons. I mean, for a start, there are proper scores that I like in that they evoke specific elements of the film. Then there are soundtracks that are simply collections of songs that happened to make fleeting, sonic cameos in the film in question. Score-wise, I’m a huge fan of Apocalypse Now, Picnic at Hanging Rock, Blade Runner, Blow-Up and Midnight Express (just to name a few). Soundtrack-wise, I love Suburbia, Repo Man, The Decline of Western Civilization, Rushmore, Married to the Mob and several others.
49. Any musician pet hates?
I assume this means things musicians routinely do that I dislike. Well, like I said before, I deeply, deeply despise the now de rigeur vocal practice of strenuously needless melisma (i.e. Mariah Carey/Christina Aguilera/Beyonce-style of masturbatory over-singing to demonstrate their arguable versatility – which is a towering stack of idiotic crap).
50. What do your parents listen to?
Well, my mom is pretty eclectic, initially fond of stuff like James Taylor, the Beatles, Sergio Mendes & Brazil `66 and the Mamas & the Pappas, but seems to gravitate these days towards stuff that drives me right out of the goddamn room, like Michael Feinstein/Great American Songbook stuff. My father passed away, but he liked a pretty broad range of stuff in his day, from Creedence Clearwater Revival and the Young Rascals through Squeeze, Soft Cell and Steel Pulse. My step-father also liked a wide array of stuff, from bombastic classical works by Wagner and the “1812 Overture” through Abba and Cat Stevens. He pretty much hated most of the stuff I liked, but did turn me on to the odd unexpected record by folks like Tom Lehrer and Wendy Carlos (he was a great fan of Switched-On Bach).
51. What are you listening to RIGHT NOW?
The dull hum of an air conditioner.
52. Do you wear band t-shirts?
53. Do you cook to music?
I don’t cook, but I certainly wash dishes to music.
54. Do you sing in the toilet?
No one would be well served by that.