#071: No, Dionne, I Was Not Aware Of That
I’m Todd L. Burns, and welcome to Music Journalism Insider, a newsletter about music journalism. I highlight some of the best stuff I hear, read, and watch every week; publish news about the industry; and interview writers, scholars, and editors about their work. My goal is to share knowledge, celebrate great work, and expand the idea of what music journalism is—and where it happens. Questions, comments, concerns? You can reach me anytime at email@example.com.
Today in the newsletter: Interviews with Jockey Slut co-founder Johnno Burgess; freelance writer Shannon Nico Shreibak; Jan Reetze, the author of a new book about Krautrock; and American Gamelan and the Ethnomusicological Imagination author Elizabeth A. Clendinning. Plus! Some reading recs, a couple of YouTubes, the usual. But first…
Liz Pelly on Spotify’s podcast strategy
Jeffrey Arlo Brown goes deep on a mysterious classical music label
Jonathan Bernstein tells the story of the Black Country Music Association [h/t Laura Stavropoulos]
Kim Kelly on how heavy metal is grappling with white supremacy
Ashawnta Jackson highlights the surprising story of how guitars were once an instrument mostly played by women
Randall Roberts has recently published a few articles on music preservation
The first articles from the Global GROOVE electronic music journalism project are now available
Christopher Phillips profiles early rock critic Jon Landau
Q&A: Johnno Burgess
Johnno Burgess is a co-founder of the dance music magazine Jockey Slut. Inspired by the irreverent style of Smash Hits and a love of dance music, Jockey Slut captured the ‘90s electronic music scene in all of its ridiculous glory. (There’s a great piece about the magazine’s history in VICE from 2015.) Recently, Jockey Slut has reappeared—for the first time since it closed in 2004—for a tribute to the late Andrew Weatherall. In this excerpt from our interview, Johnno explains the idea behind the original incarnation of the magazine.
The name was originally going to be a t-shirt—a ‘DJ Slut’ (Disc-Jockey Slut) was a name Paul came up with to describe the mainly male trainspotters that would hang around a DJ booth attempting to see the records the DJ was playing. We liked the Manic Street Preachers who would use slogans like ‘Culture Slut’ and ‘Media Slut’ so that influenced it too. We started the magazine because we wanted to work on something after Polytechnic together and often talked about starting a fanzine when we were chilling out after a club (usually the Hacienda which closed at 2am). We also thought there was a gap in the market as club magazines like Mixmag and DJ Mag were very much about clubs or DJ technology and we wanted to write more about the personalities in techno like Andrew Weatherall or the Chemical Brothers.
Read the full interview with Johnno.
A Cause Worth Supporting
From Johnno Burgess:
I’d like to highlight Mind, which we also gave 10% to last year when we sold some Jockey Slut t-shirts. The nation’s collective mental health is going to take a lot of healing after this (and next) year.
Check out all of the causes highlighted by the folks I’ve interviewed.
Jon Caramanica Is Half The Reason For The New New York Times Twitter
A great Twitter account, if you haven’t seen it.
New podcasts: LGBT+ heavy metal podcast Hell Bent For Metal, Natalie Weiner and Jonny Auping’s Rebawatchables, Dummy’s The 10 Best, Matthew Perpetua’s Fluxpod, and Frank Gallagher’s Soundman Confidential
Jon Silpayamanant explains slave orchestras on The Classical Gabfest
The latest Time to Say Goodbye features Oliver Wang on the history of Filipino DJ culture in the Bay Area
Rhiannon Giddens talks about “Tom Dooley” on the latest episode of Murder Ballads
Billy Coleman discusses his book Harnessing Harmony: Music, Power, and Politics in the United States, 1788-1865 on New Books in Music
Q&A: Shannon Nico Shreibak
Shannon Nico Shreibak is a Chicago-based freelance writer and the creator of the wonderful newsletter SOC Soundsystem, which takes monthly deep dives into situations where music and sound were wielded as a weapon. So far, she’s covered the Waco siege and the EDM x MK-Ultra conspiracy. This month is all about Satanism. In this excerpt from our interview, Shannon describes how her approach to her work has changed over the past few years.
When I first began music writing, I was itching to grab as many bylines as possible, which served as a detriment to the quality of work and the breadth of topics I was covering. As the years have passed by, I’ve absolved to write quality over quantity. I’ve also grown the confidence to address topics that require a great deal of research and care, like my piece on modern gagaku—I would have scared myself out of that pitch a year ago.
What's one tip that you'd give a music journalist starting out right now?
Find a few “goal” publications that align with your point-of-view or taste and focus on ingratiating yourself in their freelance pool. When I first started freelancing, I cast far too wide of a net and my pitches perished.
Read the full interview with Shannon.
A Cause Worth Supporting
From Shannon Nico Shreibak:
While the touring economy is nonexistent, Tour Health Initiative has shifted its resources to addressing the mental health ramifications of COVID-19 throughout the music industry. It’s imperative to use this downtime to address how we can better support the health of our colleagues and peers once life returns to a semblance of normalcy, and this is a step in the right direction.
Check out all of the causes highlighted by the folks I’ve interviewed.
Stuff You Gotta Watch
Emerging during the golden age of hip-hop, Souls of Mischief had a uniquely jazzy, fast-flowing sound packed with internal rhymes and infectious energy. The group’s members A-Plus, Opio, Phesto, and Tajai might not be household names, but the four-piece offshoot of the Hieroglyphics crew were legendary enough to inspire a 2013 full-length documentary called Til Infinity: The Souls of Mischief about the making of their immortal debut album.
Thanks to a connection with Del tha Funkee Homosapien’s cousin Ice Cube (then performing with a group called C.I.A.), Souls of Mischief headed from Oakland to Los Angeles to record their first songs as young teenagers. Their demo tape made an immediate impression on both West and East Coast peers, no doubt in part to a creative flip of the Taxi theme. A major label bidding war ended with them signing to Jive, but eventually the group went independent with their own label, utilizing the then-nascent internet to sell their music.
Til Infinity was originally released to celebrate the album’s 20th anniversary, and it’s now been expanded with an additional hour of bonus material. Director Shomari Smith brings a clever structure to the film with its track-by-track format allowing every member of the Hieroglyphics (and some of the biggest names in rap) to share stories about their favorite cuts. Decades later, this is still how we chill from ‘93 til.
Q&A: Jan Reetze
Jan Reetze is author of the new book, Times & Sounds. It’s all about Krautrock, a subject that Jan is intimately familiar with. He grew up in Germany, and has been writing professionally since 1987. Times & Sounds, however, is his first book in English, and is specifically geared to Krautrock fans outside of Germany. In this excerpt from our interview, Jan explains what the book is about and why he was uniquely positioned to write it.
In order to understand the Krautrock era and its impact, I thought it might be interesting for readers to delve deeper into the history of German rock music. You get the story of the mechanisms of post-war Germany’s music industry and the diverse musical styles we had and their mutual influences and connections.
All this is combined in a sort of cross cutting with the political and sociological key events of the respective decades—the economic miracle, Sixty-Eight, student riots, New German Film, Baader-Meinhof, the hippie movement, the alternative scene, the movement against nuclear power—all this stuff the Germans went through between the 1950s and the early 1990s. You will read about German early Jazz and Swing orchestras, schlager, the first rock'n'roll bands around Hamburg's Star-Club, agitprop and left-wing protest songs, the avant-garde compositions of Stockhausen and his presumed disciples of Krautrock, the electronic bands, and finally the Neue Deutsche Welle. All this stuff is interconnected, and the musicians needed to fit in several genres to survive. Times & Sounds is what the title says: a journalistic diary tracing Germany's dynamic culture from the late 40s to the early 90s.
Read the full interview with Jan.
Maureen Mahon discussed her new book Black Diamond Queens with Ann Powers
Grady Smith recapped the CMA Awards
BJ Rubin’s public access show is back for its fourth season
Matthew Ingram did an interview about his book Retreat: How the Counterculture Invented Wellness for New Thinking Allowed
Last Words explores the divide between mainstream and underground metal
PopCon 2021 is accepting submissions
Former Village Voice music editor Chuck Eddy has started a blog
Classical Music has launched a new website and ceased its print publication
Stanley Crouch’s funeral took place late last month
Sound and Fiction festival has two panels in the next week
FACT has relaunched its print magazine
Phil Freeman thinks you should consider not publishing a year-end list
Hua Hsu is making a zine
New Catalog Looks Great Though!
Q&A: Elizabeth A. Clendinning
Elizabeth A. Clendinning is Associate Professor of Music at Wake Forest University. Her first book American Gamelan and the Ethnomusicological Imagination has just been published by University of Illinois Press. It “takes a critical look at American collegiate world music ensemble education through the lens of transnational Balinese gamelan communities.” In this excerpt from our interview, Elizabeth describes the scope and premise of the book.
Gamelan (Indonesian percussion orchestras) and American academic institutions have maintained a close association for more than sixty years. Gamelan has served as one of the oldest and most prevalent examples of a “world music ensemble”—an ensemble with a niche place in the music curriculum, today frequently touted as a positive example of cultural diversity. In this book, I examine what it means to devote one’s life to world music ensemble education.
I weave together stories of Indonesian and American practitioners, colleagues, and friends to demonstrate the impact of academic world music ensembles on the local and transnational performing arts communities and examine how individual performers and educators use them to create stable and rewarding artistic communities. Ultimately, I argue for the importance of cross-cultural ensemble education, particularly at a time when people around the world express more enthusiasm about raising walls to keep others out rather than building bridges to invite them in.
Read the full interview with Elizabeth.
The new issue of Music and the Moving Image is devoted to Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Shared Narratives, “a conference supporting work by performing arts researchers of colour,” takes place this week
There's a new issue of Popular Music History
Women & Music: A Journal of Gender and Culture is looking for a new editor-in-chief; questions about the application should be sent to WAMjournal@gmail.com
Registration for Music, Mediation, and Disability: Representation and Access is now open
Calls For Papers
Narrating Musicology: The History of Musicology is open to proposals for its 2021 edition
Music Research Forum is currently accepting scholarly articles
A special edition of Popular Music History on the impact of COVID is being planned; send abstracts or queries to firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com
Music and the Moving Image Conference is accepting submissions for its 2021 edition
The editors of Sonic Engagement: The Ethics and Aesthetics of Community Engaged Audio Practice are seeking chapter contributions
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The Closing Credits
Thanks for reading! Full disclosure: My day job is at uDiscover Music, a branded content online magazine owned by Universal Music. This newsletter is not affiliated or sponsored in any way by Universal, and any links that relate to the work of my department will be clearly marked. Feel free to reach out to me via email at firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter, it’s @JournalismMusic. Until next time…