What is this?

December 4, 2012

During the time when I was trying and failing and re-trying to get Okkervil River off the ground and into a van, I was lucky enough – after a succession of video-store and college-janitor and and temp office jobs – to find myself in a position of writing about music for money. It was something I’d always, always wanted to do. I couldn’t believe it.

I snuck in by snagging a job at Audiogalaxy.com, an overnight-successful internet startup (nerf basketball hoop, expensive ergonomic chairs, intricate wrought-iron signage designed by a local metalsmith, 21-year-old CEO who slumped in a dark room and didn’t talk to anyone) where you could download their software and have access to a massive network of illegally file-shared music. To distract from the file-sharing side of things, Audiogalaxy’s front-page was all music reviews, and we had a policy of reviewing a lot of stuff amateurs sent us for free as well, maybe for the karma.

I’ve often compared  the music-crit veneer over Audiogalaxy’s massive file-sharing network to the malt shop disguising a prohibition-era speakeasy, but it was a fun job because all I had to do was write tons and tons of words a day and it didn’t really matter what I wrote about as long as there was a lot of it and it was music-related.  Over time, my fellow writers and I learned something about the internet that, years later, everybody all over the world now knows: the best way to get people’s attention is to 1.) make “definitive lists” of things and 2.) make people angry. We started racking up more and more traffic using those techniques and that’s how I got the following things said about me:

i’ll bet you’re one of those pencil dick weasel brains that sit in the back of the room and like to think inside your fragile little skull that you are better than guys with big muscles and big ambition just because you think you can be intelligent. you’re one of those smug little twerps that talks shit then hides behind the police or some drivel about being civil. its idiotic and spineless weaklings like you that make this world a shitty place. you taint the rest of us with your weak, inane banter while you sit on your skinny ass and do nothing but talk and whine. you’re a fucking disgrace to your species. i hope your fucking heart explodes from drinking too much expresso while masturbating for the twentieth time in one day. fuck off you weak waste of jounalist flesh.

and:

Henry rollins would break this no talent peice of shit Robinson Faggot in pieces. Who ever told this guy he could write lied terribly. Go back to whatever hole you crawled out of

and:

How are you able to sleep with yourself at night after writing and posting Clapton and Dave Matthews “sucks goat balls” but somehow Redman, REM, and Sugarhill Gang all made “Great songs”. Apparently you should not be a critic, mainly due to the fact that you have no taste for music. They should fire you, if you are getting paid, so you can go home and curl up with your favorite Mystikal, Matchbox 20, and Ruff Ryders Compilation cds. Im sure you believe they exert great, meaningful music. Someone should of bought you a Phish cd for Christmas.

Eventually, the file-sharing side of Audiogalaxy got them into trouble and I could tell the gravy train was stalling out. I was cut down to part-time, and then less than part-time. The office slowly emptied out. The nerf hoop was pulled from the wall. The lights were often off. The metal sign was scrapped – I gave part of it to an ex-girlfriend who still has it hanging in her apartment.  Finally, I was laid off. But by this time I’d somehow managed to parlay the appearance of being a “real” writer into other journalistic gigs. I started writing for some Austin-based music magazines and then, more and more, for the Austin Chronicle.

For the Chronicle, I decided I just wanted to write about film. Okkervil River had become locally successful and had even toured a couple of times by this point, and I was finding that writing about music had started messing with my ability to make music. I felt like I’d begun looking at music too closely, or had begun looking at music-making like some kind of a recipe, and I’d realized the best way to approach songwriting and record-recording was with a kind of enthusiastic ignorance, just leaping into something not fully understanding what it is and not fully realizing that everything had all been done before. Also, I always loved film just as much as music.

After awhile it got harder to keep the criticism stuff going, just because I was lucky enough to finally be able to tour and record more. I still tried to write as often as I got the chance though, and published tour diaries and reviews and music pieces whenever any magazine expressed interest.  I also got opportunities to write really fun longer pieces, like a piece I did on the connections between Tim Hardin and Black Sheep Boy for SaidTheGramophone, or a Norse Saga-style story I wrote for McSweeney’s.

This site is partly a place to collect some of the writing I’m talking about above – the Chronicle writing, the Audiogalaxy writing, the freelance stuff – usually expanded or revised or more in-depth. It’s also a place to write new stuff when I feel like it, whether it’s a long-winded rant or just something short and dumb that I think is funny. I imagine the form of it will change as I work on it. I’ll definitely be adding pieces regularly and filling it out with new stuff as well as some of the stuff I wrote back when I was (kind of) covering (some) bills as a writer. Eventually there’s gonna be a ton of crap on here. In the meantime I just put up some stuff to get started.

 

Posted in: New Pieces | Tags: ,

7 Comments |

7 Responses to “What is this?”

  1. Antonio

    Audiogalaxy! Awesome! It was my first approach to music. Keep on writing! It’s fun to read you.

  2. Tobias

    Hello from scenic St. Paul! Greatly looking forward to how this website will develop. I trust that some poetry finds its way on here in time. By the way, I was pleasantly surprised to see you in The Comedy. You and your beard were excellent.

  3. erica

    Whoa! Such vehement criticism… seems like you nailed it. Looking forward to reading more.

  4. Finlay

    I agree with the younger you – Clapton and DM do sucks goat balls. Great post and cool site design bro.

  5. Brandon Durham

    I remember your Audiogalaxy.com days. It was the first positive review of a Palaxy Tracks release I’d seen. I probably read and reread it 60 times.

  6. Funky

    Looking forward to it! I remember reading your piece on In the Aeroplane Over the Sea and thinking how well-written it was. I’ve been appreciating your work as a writer ever since. Your song-writing, on the other, hand… is completely beautiful. Thanks, man. You’re a cool guy :)

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