When a couple has a lovingly restored Seeburg Select-o-matic living in their home, you should probably assume that they have the kind of musical tastes that’ll make you sit up and take notice. Such is the case with freelance writer Alissa Walker and freelance illustrator, graphic designer, and art director Keith Scharwath. Take a listen to the tunes that fill their workday (and perhaps, occasionally, their jukebox).
What do you listen to while you work? Keith: We work together in the same room most days where we listen to a balance of music and public radio. The music we listen to runs the gamut: Punk, jazz, rock, blues, folk, hip hop, reggae, funk, techno, metal, you name it. When you spend as many as 16 hours a day in the studio, one or two genres just don’t cut it. Some favorites artists: New Order, Alice Cooper, Bo Diddley, John Coltrane, The Clash, Ra Ra Riot, The Clash, Blitzen Trapper, Public Enemy, David Bowie, The Budos Band, Serge Gainsbourg, Vampire Weekend, The Misfits, Sharon Jones and The Dap Kings, Daft Punk, Guided By Voices.
Alissa: I love listening to music—and I especially love singing along—but if it wasn’t for Keith being the DJ, I’d probably just listen to public radio all day just so I don’t have to think about what to play. We mostly listen to Los Angeles’s amazing station KCRW, where I’m an associate producer on a design show called DnA: Design and Architecture. We especially appreciate Henry Rollins’ Saturday night show, and secretly wish he might someday take over the daily morning show. We also love This American Life, Studio 360 (where I sometimes appear as a guest) and Radiolab, which we stockpile and listen to in batches on the weekends.
How do you listen? Keith: We have an extensive MP3 collection that we listen to off of the computer. Mostly through speakers, though I sometimes listen through headphones when I need to keep the thrash metal down so Alissa can make phone calls.
Alissa: We also have a 1950s Seeburg jukebox filled with 45s downstairs as a backup if the computer ever goes down.
Do you have any favorite music websites/providers? Keith: We have a subscription to eMusic and sometime Pandora makes an appearance.
Alissa: Yes, lately I’ve been loving my Pandora One account, which is actually pretty great for parties.
Does music influence your work? Keith: Music for me is an integral part of the creative process. I find myself listening to music that directly relates to the content I am producing. If I am designing a skateboard, I will listen to the soundtrack for the documentary Dogtown and Z-Boys. Or if I am creating an illustration about anguish over unemployment, I will listen to something dark and brooding like Joy Division or The XX. Music can be a tool for providing inspiration.
Alissa: I would have to say that the lyricism of rap and hip hop inspires me to be more poetic in my writing. I love the way that people like Kanye West or Jay-Z play with language. When Kanye writes something like this, from “Flashing Lights”—“She don’t believe in shootin’ stars/But she believe in shoes and cars/Wood floors in the new apartment/Couture from the store’s department”–it describes a character, and sets the plot, but it’s also incredibly fun to read. I try to write like that, even when I’m writing an article or essay.
Where do you find music recommendations? Who influences your musical taste? Keith: I think the most likely sources are friends who are also music lovers. Film soundtracks are another great source. Websites are not a great source. The best music should always be discovered organically.
Alissa: Keith is constantly coming across incredible new artists. I also have some great friends who write about music and are always recommending new bands.
If your work was a song or a musician, what or who would it be? Keith: “[I’m Not Your] Steppin’ Stone” by The Monkees is my personal anthem.
Alissa: Huey Lewis and the News.
ALISSA AND KEITH’S PLAYLIST
Like New, Deerhunter
Better, Faster, Stronger, Daft Punk
Elected, Alice Cooper
Gut Feeling, Devo
Can’t You Hear Me Knocking, The Rolling Stones
All the Way, New Order
Nervous Breakdown, Black Flag
Teen Age Riot, Sonic Youth
Pills, Bo Diddley
Wild Mountain Nation, Blitzen Trapper
What Would Wolves Do, Le Savy Fav
Too Hot to Stop, The Bar-Kays
The Underdog, Spoon
No Cars Go, Arcade Fire
P.S. Also, while not exclusively musical, the videos from the Adult Swim show Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! and the comedy site Funny or Die are on pretty heavy rotation in the studio. Those are more like a break in the day to keep us inspired. And laughing.
Images: Alissa Walker