This is my second interview from Citizen of the Month's great interview project. Like with all things, web some people just can't fulfill their end of the bargain. I offered to put on my Press hat one more time to Interview Emily from The Lost Albatross.
It's a wonderful blog about her life and the things that she's passionate about, her music, her politics (I think I would like to make her an honorary Canadian.) Go visit, totally worth it. Smart, funny, and way cooler than I am. (Oooh shush, I know I haven't been cool since 1997 and that was only a momentary thing.) I reckon this is good practice for her when she becomes all famous and stuff. Then she thinks we all need to go have an adventure. I agree.
We are both stuck here in the throws of what is a very snowy winter. From looking at the photos, your neck of Wisconsin looks a lot like my hometown of Moncton New Brunswick (except instead of the lake we have the aptly named Tidal Bore.) It occured to me that I know virtually nothing about the state except for what I learned on Laverne and Shirley, and they were from the Milwaukee. So in two post I learned more about Madison than I had in the 37 years of my life.
You talk about your town, and the things you do there a fair bit. Can you tell me about your neck of the woods, why you love it? (You seem to) What makes you crazy about it? Do you think the places we live help define who we are and what we right?
I do love Madison. I came here back in 2000 for college (not at the big university, though, which makes me somewhat of a minority I think), after visiting two of my good friends who were a year ahead of me in school and had come here. I'd been living in south-central Oklahoma for the two years prior, then northern Illinois before that, and southern Minnesota before that. Out of all of those places, Madison was the first that really felt like home, and that's why, four years after graduating, I'm still here. I love seasons, and I'd been missing them pretty hard while living in Oklahoma. We have seasons in spades here, as evidenced by the soon-to-be record breaking snowfall we're having this winter. But the other three seasons are gorgeous.
There's a lot to love about this town, even though it's (of course) not perfect. It has big city amenities and small town charm. There's an awesome music scene here--everything from indie to techno to metal to reggae and more--and since I'm a musician that's always important to me. I love the city's progressive politics, and the fact that so many people here really care about trying to make their community and the world a better place to live in for everyone. We're the capitol of the state, too, so there's a lot to get involved in. Madison also has one of the largest producers Farmer's Markets in the country, every Saturday morning from spring through fall, and it's the one thing to do that I know will always cheer me up. Lots of great bike paths here, too, and it only takes about twenty minutes in any direction to get out into the country for biking, hiking, camping, etc. The people here are generally pretty friendly, too. We've got a great theatre community round here as well, and I've been involved with various troupes in various capacities ever since moving here. I could go on and on, but I think I'll cut off my ringing endorsement of Madison here.
I do absolutely think that the places we live in help influence what we write, and reflect a great deal on who we are. They're certainly not the end-all-be-all of explaining our personalities, but they certainly play an important part. Things like the arts, food, environment and progressive politics are important to me, and Madison has all of those things. Plus I love the landscapes around here.
I find that the weather and Ottawa itself at times play a role in blog (more so in my running blog.) Do you see your surroundings as recurrent character in your blog?
Absolutely. They influence what I do for fun--biking, snowshoeing, camping, etc.--and that stuff usually shows up in my blog. I like to talk about the places I've explored in the hopes that it might tip people off to them so that they, too, can go have adventures. The weather definitely seems to be one of those universal things, though, that you can relate to people about all over the world. Even if someone has never seen snow, me posting pictures of it can grab their attention and help us meet on ground that we both understand in some way, even if we have nothing else in common. If that makes sense.
(Makes total sense to me. I am all about the world can be as close as my backyard. N.)
Congratulations on your one year anniversary. Why did you start blogging and why do you think you keep blogging? Is anything off limits? Has it changed the way you look at the world?
Thanks! I started blogging because I thought it would be another good outlet for my writing. I've always written fiction and the like, and had been starting to do some journalism, but I wanted a way to write almost daily to keep myself fresh. My initial motivation also had a lot to do with starting training for the ACT Ride (www.actride.org), which is a 300+ mile, 4-day journey by bicycle to raise money and awareness for a group called AIDS Network here in Madison. I wanted to keep a public record of my trials and tribulations as I tried to whip my butt into shape and then of the ride itself.
I do put limits on what I post about. I don't include the names of some of the people closest to me, out of respect to their privacy, and I do my best to keep from going really negative, even when I'm talking politics or disagreeing with someone. I don't always succeed, but I really want to make an attempt at elevating the dialogue and seeing things from other people's points of view--even if I still end up disagreeing with them in the end. So then yes, blogging has definitely helped shape how I view the world in some respects, especially since I've now (somewhat inadvertently) ended up in the community of writers who blog. I read a lot more in terms of opinions from all over the world, which is great.
You are a musician. (Wow... I am feeling suddenly terribly uncool.) I didn't see the names of the bands you're in. Care to show off a little and let us know the names and where we can hear clips? And of the three singing, playing guitar or playing drums, which do you prefer? (I am in awe of musicians.)
What kind of musician would I be if I didn't want to show off a little bit? :) My main band for the last four years is called Aporia. I'm the lead singer and drummer for them, and I write most of the lyrics. The music is all the bassist and guitarist, though, and I'd be nothing without them. Currently, I'm also playing drums for an awesome, quirky duo (now trio!) called the Buffali. We just had a show up in Minneapolis over the weekend, which was a blast.
You can hear/download songs from both bands at their websites and on their Myspace pages:
It's hard to say whether I prefer singing or drumming more (sadly, I don't really play guitar just yet, but I'm learning). I've been playing drums since 5th grade, so it definitely has a firmer hold on me. Singing was something I came late to, and in fact, I used to be absolutely positively terrified of doing it in front of other people. It took many years and a lot of encouragement and trying not to vomit for me to get to where I am now. But I do love it.
Quick story: I'm kinda sorta a huge fan of Sarah McLachlan, and back when I was too afraid to sing in front of anyone, I spent a lot of time singing along to her songs and wishing I could sing and write like that. Then, I finally got to see her perform live (I think this was Lilith Fair in Chicago, '97), and during the big sing-along to "Ice Cream," I had this moment of revelation where I knew that that was something I wanted to do before I died. Not necessarily on the same scale, and certainly never at the same level of quality, but I wanted to perform for people, make people get lost in music and maybe even sing along. Even if it was just on a small stage in front of ten people. So there you go.
I love music, all forms of music, and one of the most interesting about blogging to me is how much dialogue there is out there about music. The Man and I have this theory that Internet will level music out where there will be more music out there but you won't end up with mega superstars like we did in the past. Do you agree? Do you think the Internet and blogs have been good for independant music?
That's a damn fine question. As far as I can tell, there certainly has been a leveling effect on the music world by the internet. I mean, my tiny band's music gets heard by people all over the world! We'll probably never make it "to the big time," but just the fact that such a variety of people have access to us is a trip. But then you do have examples of bands blowing up in popularity based almost entirely on their internet presence, which I think is great. It puts control more squarely in the hands of the people who should be reaping the benefits the most: the musicians themselves. Record labels have a function--helping to promote and distribute--but the big ones have just gotten out of hand in the last few decades. Musicians on big labels tend to make jack squat compared to what they're really worth, while the companies make off like bandits. And seriously, screw the RIAA. I say the more bands that are able to get their music out, on their own terms, the merrier.
My greatest hope is that the labels and the musicians can meet in the middle. The labels could provide more stability to the musicians, while the internet can provide musicians with more control over their product and revenue and a wider audience.
Is it possible in this age of music piracy to still make money from selling music? Do you think it will force artist to hit the road and play for people?
I think it is possible. Radiohead is a good example, though of course they were already a well-established group that had been on a major label for some time. Still, they went independent and released the record themselves, offering fans the choice of how much they'd pay for it. Some people chose to download it for free, but a lot of people paid and the band made way more money than they would have releasing it through a traditional label. So it's definitely possible. We're all going to have to think up new business models to make it work. For some people, that'll involve more touring. For others, the internet will be all they need.
> I also notice that you make a point of saying that this is an ad-free blog. How do you feel about artists selling songs for ads? Would you do it?
I'm not fundamentally against it. I think you should be choosy about who you sell your songs to, though. For instance, I would never let an oil company or Nike or someone like that use my music, because I have strong objections to the way they do business. But there are plenty of good companies out there that I wouldn't mind lending my music to (if they even wanted it in the first place, mind you).
You talk about politics a fair bit. What do you hope for in the next administration?
My hopes and my realistic expectations are a bit different, but I admit that they're not totally divergent. What I'd like to see is a president that brings a smart team along with him/her, people that will be willing to object and question. I think the role of a good president is to provide strong leadership, vision and ideas. They should be open to the suggestions and critiques of their staff and their constituents (you know, the American People), and willing to make necessary decisions based on those things. I'd like to see us out of Iraq in a timely fashion, but I also think we've mucked things up so badly that the least we owe the Iraqi people is a commitment to working with the international community to clean things up and help stabilize the country. I just don't think a huge, predominantly American military presence is the way to go about that. I'd also like to see a great deal of focus on fixing our very broken health care and education systems. How can we help others when we can barely help ourselves?
> And a few quickies:
You are obviously very intelligent very politically aware, how do you deal with the dumb drummer jokes?
Hah, I appreciate your opinion of my intelligence, though I'm certain I don't always live up to it. Believe me, the dumb drummer jokes are often warranted. Although I like to think that female drummers are a lot cooler than their male counterparts. ;)
What do you do with a conductor who doesn't have any rhythm? Give him an extra stick and make him a drummer. *ba-dum ching!*
Can you name five bands I've never heard of that I absolutely positively NEED to hear?
I have no idea what bands you've never heard of, but I'll give it a shot:
The Ditty Bops (www.thedittybops.com)
Pale Young Gentlemen (local Madison band - www.paleyounggentlemen.com)
Gogol Bordello (www.gogolbordello.com)
Hun-Huur-Tu (Tuvan throat singers - www.huunhuurtu.com)
Jesca Hoop (www.jescahoop.com)
Off the wall question because, well, I can. I see you list Sleater Kinney as one of your favourite bands. On paper they look like the kind of band I should like but it just doesn't click. (And I actually like the Pearl Jam covers of Modern Girl.)
Hey, fair's fair. I'm a big fan of the riot grrl music movement, and Sleater Kinney were pretty much the godmothers of that style. I came from a very punk background, so discovering a punk-like style that was all chicks was pretty awesome for my young self. Plus I think Sleater Kinney grew into really excellent musicians--their drummer, Janet Weiss, is one of my favorite drummers, male or female. Carrie's guitar riffs are muscular and creative and Corin's vocals are balls-to-the-wall, which I love. I would recommend checking out "One Beat" or "The Woods" as records to start with, but older ones like "Call the Doctor" are a lot of fun, too. But hey, if they're not your thing, they're not your thing.
What the heck is a Pennsylvania Dutch Style Pasty?
Heh, OK, so round these parts (Wisconsin) you tend to find the Cornish pasty, which is essentially a bigger, less delicate version of the PD style pasty that I grew up with. It's like a pot pie, only instead fold the crust in half instead of making it in pie form. I do mine without meat now, but lordy me are they delicious, and especially good in the dead of winter.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cornish_pasty (the Cornish variety)
http://www.hu.mtu.edu/vup/pasty/recipes.htm (various recipes)