We’re pretty sure you won’t be able to pass up this week’s Playlist—especially since it’s from the brains behind the music blog and SIRIUS satellite radio show Aquarium Drunkard, founder of indie music label Autumn Tone Records, co-author of “Memphis And The Delta Blues Trail,” and music supervisor for “Natural Selection,” the film that just swept the 2011 SXSW film awards. (Does it get much better?) Check out this new compilation from music mastermind Justin Gage.
What do you listen to while you work? This can really vary from day to day depending on what I am working on. While everything I do is in the realm of music, the elements are at times pretty disparate. For example, working on my weekly show for SIRIUS XM radio is something akin to putting together a two-hour audio puzzle. Connecting the dots from, say, Sonic Youth to Lower Dens is easy, but what is more difficult (and personally more interesting and entertaining) is how you then get to something like Dr. John and WITCH in two or three moves (songs). It’s more chess than checkers.
Lately, when editing or working on the blog’s visual aesthetics, I’ve been listening to a lot of my dad’s old Coltrane and Thelonius Monk on vinyl. While I am certainly not a slave to wax, there are some artists/genres that intrinsically feel tied to the medium. Same goes for old soul and R&B.
How do you listen? Living in Los Angeles, the epitome of urban sprawl, I find myself listening to a lot of music on the road; mostly CDs, promo or otherwise, but also a few of the cities remaining independent radio stations. I’m also listening to a lot of music via my iPhone these days, mostly outside when running, but also plugged into a dock when cooking in the kitchen. Though considerably smaller, in terms of storage, the iPhone has really replaced my use of the iPod as I suppose it has most “single use” items.
In terms of sheer preference I would rather listen exclusively to vinyl through my stereo, but more often than not find myself listening via my Macbook when surfing the web, reading blogs, checking email, etc. Having said that, I do make point to use headphones as you just lose so much through a laptop’s tinny built in speakers.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? Obviously, as a music blogger, I try make a point to see what others are writing about, but most of the ones I really enjoy/respect are small outfits focusing on out-of-print and obscure records—many of which have yet to see a release on compact disc, let alone digitally. It’s these bloggers—the ones doing it for the sheer love of the music— that I get the most out of.
In terms of physical stores, in college, living in Athens, GA, it was Wuxtry Records; but now hitting up Amoeba Records in Hollywood feels something like Mecca. It’s literally the size of a large warehouse. I get so much out of just talking with the clerks in the various sections, from blues and soul to the carefully curated “world” section. We’re record nerds; we speak one another’s coded language. As often as the marketing machine tries to sell the public on automated services like Pandora and the like, you simply cannot beat human recommendations. Ditto goes for human-programmed radio.
Does music influence your work? Yes, absolutely, every day. It can be anything: from someone plugging a jukebox full of quarters in a Memphis dive bar pumping out Lou Reed’s “Dirty Blvd,” to an old French-language cover of The Cryan Shames’ “Rainmaker,” to getting goosebumps while listing to an Iggy and The Stooges bootleg. This goes for the label side, too, as in, does the artist we’re looking at evoke a physical response? If not, it’s probably not the right move for us.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? I think one’s taste is formed very early on. While your palette certainly expands with time, it’s the seeds sewn at an early age that tend to drive this. At least for me. With music, people often use the metaphor of “the rabbit hole,” meaning that once you get turned on to a certain album, band, or genre, you tend to dig deeper, which opens up a whole new world. Mostly due to my dad’s intense (and vast) love/knowledge of music, my own “rabbit hole” experience occurred at a very young age and my curiosity has been driving my tastes and interests ever since. Due to the Internet, the possibilities of discovery seem almost infinite now.
What song or artist best represents the work you create? I’m not sure I quite know how to answer this one, but I suppose any artist with a varied career arc touching on a lot of different kinds of music.
He’s Alright, Kurt Vile
I’m Not A Young Man Anymore, The Velvet Underground
Gone The Bells, Cotton Jones
Tea Lights, Lower Dens
My Rival, Alex Chilton
Big Tears, Elvis Costello
The World (Is Going Up In Flames), Charles Bradley
La De Da, Link Wray
Walking Spanish, Tom Waits
I Still Love You, Ann Peebles
My Adorable One, Lee Moses
Super Lover, Eddie Hinton
Hello L.A., Bye Bye Birmingham, Nancy Sinatra
I Got Soul, Tony Owens