Thursday, December 14, 2006

Answering Letters Is All I Know How To Do Baby!

It's Thursday, it's time for another dip into the Self Help Radio emailbox. This email is from someone called Ms. X. She writes:

GARY! Why don't you do more electronic shows??? People love it!!

Yes, Gary. Why don't you do more shows that maybe will bring in an underserved audience & maybe even net you a little notoriety as "that dude who does the way cool electronica show on KOOP"? Instead of what you're known as now, if you're known at all - as that guy who talks too much on that weird show on Fridays. What up?

I guess I'm being stubborn. I listen to & love a lot of electronica - but I like other stuff, too. I've subbed a lot of shows at KOOP, from the reggae show to the "punk" show, & hopefully I did a good job, because I like a lot of music from a lot of different genres. Being trapped in one genre would be... I dunno... Scary. Sad. Even if ithe genre deserved its own radio show, which I totally think it does.

I am involved with the Training Committee at KOOP, & I have encouraged newcomers who are interested in electronica to get involved at KOOP & work toward getting a show. But KOOP doesn't just give you a show if you have a good idea & show up - you have to become involved in this all-volunteer org. & some people don't have the time to give, so they drift away. Alas! Alack! A really good electronic show is much needed in this town - & I don't really know of one. Do you?

I'll try to tailor my themes to fit more electronica in, but I'll keep Self Help Radio the way I've always done it, because it suits me to show off as much as what I love as I can. Do keep listening, though. Robots will win in the end, unless the zombies get them first.

Wanna ask me a question? No? I'll let you call me names! Yeah! Email me!

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Whither My Favorite Music Of 2006?

I wrote yesterday about "best of" lists & ended the post with a question: Why is my "best of" list better than anyone else's?

The answer is: it isn't. It's just mine. That's the reason it was called "best of" last year but this year is called "Gary's favorite."

I am fascinated by people's opinions because we have the desperate need to defend them as if not liking what we like &/or not thinking what we think is an utter rejection of us as a fellow human. (& if it's not believing what we believe - people kill for that shit.) I love to read music & movie & tv reviews that contain opinions wildly different from mine - & those that have ones that are in total agreement with mine - if & only if the reviewers explain themselves. There are reasons for pretty much everything, & thoughtful people will graciously explain why they feel the way they do, & I love a decently reasoned argument.

It's one of my great struggles to not make my opinions sound like they have the force of facts, although I can be dismissive & condescending with the best (the worst) of them. Opinions are never facts, but they approach factness (to an observer/listener) when the reasoning behind the opinion is strongest. So, for example, you may really love the newest Britney's Destiny's Lindsay song on the radio, but if all you have to say about it is that it's catchy, I'm probably not going to pay much attention to it - I believe that commercial radio plays the same thing over & over just to get it lodged in your head, & therefore your observation of it as "catchy" isn't much of a defense. If you, on the other hand, explain the song in terms of the evolution of pre-fab pop from the Brill Building to Motown to Bubblegum to trends in synthetic soul in the 80's & 90's, well, I'll be impressed, but I probably still won't like it. But I'll understand you like it because of some predisposition toward corporate music creation. I'll be able to understand why you like what you like.

Which also mean that I have a sense of what you like &, with more opinions, I'll be able to gauge whether or not we have anything in common - & then I can start treating your opinions as guideposts, telling me whether I'd like something or not.

There are people whose opinions I am completely in disagreement with, but whose reasons are compelling. I like reviewers like that a lot. Sometimes more than the people I agree with more than 90% of the time.

I probably won't be explaining myself too terribly much on Friday - instead, I'll be playing music I like & hope you'll like it, too. (I mean, I always do that, but this is about what I liked best from this year.) In the end, opinions can lead you somewhere, but you have to make your own mind up. If the music I like sucks, any urging on my part won't help. & however glowing my reviews, if it's great - & it is - I can never do it justice with mere words.

Someone wrote & asked if I wanted to end "best of" lists. I don't really care. Most people who make those sorts of lists are either doing it because they feel obligated, or they're egotists anyway. Just remember: they're just a list of things people like. They're not supposed to make you feel bad, or feel like you should make your own list. Just read - or in the case of my show, listen - & feel how you want to feel.

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

Preface To Gary's Favorite Music Of 2006: What Is A Best Of List & How Does One Avoid Them?

Boy, best of lists make people mad. People argue over best of lists all the time, it's freaky. I was thinking the first real bust-up about a best of list is when that Moses guy showed all of his friends his "Best Laws From The Mountaintop" list & they were like, "We only have one law, & it's that the Golden Calf - it rules!" & he was like, "Fuck you, you die!" I guess I shouldn't be so mad, then, when a pal & I disagree on what Dylan's best songs are - at least he's not killing every third male I know.

I love best of lists, not because I care whether someone agrees with me or not - I do like it, like everyone else, when people like what I play on my show - but because I like to read people explain why they like stuff. Since taste is the science of opinion, the supporting "evidence" is more important. You might not think much of Brian Wilson - & I don't, he does next to nothing for me - but the evidence suggest that he's important, since a vast majority of people who really listen to music (contrasted with those for whom music may be something they like & use to pass the time, but they don't go any deeper than that) think he's very important in the history of recording. You're allowed to have your opinion, & there's no right or wrong - but you'll be (with me) in the minority.

Unfortunately, the world's a lot more complicated since Pet Sounds, & there's much, much more music out there, with as many songs written per day as there are myspace pages going up. The best of lists that'll soon be popping up, if they haven't already, will be filled with what you'd expect: Dylan's new record, either Neil Young's new one or the Fillmore East rerelease, Tom Waits' new collection, the new project by the White Stripes dude, & if there's a noteworthy comeback or if there's a flavor of the year (this year's Bloc Party or Franz Ferdinand), they'll be on it, too.

They won't be on any 2006 best of lists because they are good, although some (a small fraction) might have their merits. No, nothing Neil Young, Bob Dylan or Tom Waits can do at this point in their careers will ever match the greatness of their earlier stuff. They are rasping, gasping shadows of their former selves & it's our devoted dog love that makes us see them live & buy their records & force them down our throats. I love that humans are sentimental - I can be the same way, too, so I'm not trying to say it's in & of itself a bad thing - but every spin of a dinosaur's attempt to make himself richer drowns out all those bands that deserve their moment in your field of vision (or hearing). Not because they're better than the best of these old farts - some of them are trying to sound exactly like the best of those old farts - but because what they're doing now has more vibrancy, more vitality, more soul than the retreads those old bastards are selling you.

I'm not pretending I'm telling you anything new, of course. As for the flavors du jour - your White Stripes, for example - they might be worth paying attention to, but the truth is, they got lucky & were squeezed past the exclusive front rope at the Corporate Radio Bullshit Club & as long as they pay their dues, they'll get to be on the charts with the small community of People Who Get Rich Being Musicians. Usually that means whatever got them there in the first place will quickly be stamped out. I sometimes pay attention - I mentioned last week, I did listen to the new Flaming Lips - but while I feel some bands deserve to have a certain notoriety, what their doing is usually no longer terribly interesting. Maybe it's the direction they've taken, or maybe it's the sameness of their "innovation." Either way, it leaves me bored. But I was talking about lists.

Most of the critics who make these best of lists don't actually go out & buy records, you know. Maybe - maybe - some of them are actually fans & maybe they spend their big bucks on older records - but the vast majority of them get their records for free, from record companies that can afford to print thousands of comps. (I shouldn't complain - a lot of the employees of the places that hire these critics get copies, too, & put them out there for downloaders to sample a long time before they're commercially available, & that's awesome!) So they're not listening to anything more than a small fraction of what's released that year, & they are paying attention to the Grammy Mentality - "it has made money, therefore it's important." Hooray! Justin Timberlake is a Artist!

Think about this when you see the "Best Of 2006" lists. Even from cool folks like the your local alternative weekly. They get tons of shit for free you bet. We're human - that influences us like campaign donations influence politicians. & when you have nothing to listen to but the free shit you get from Big Corporations, you'll find something you like in it. But there's so much more.

I'll have some of that so much more Friday. But why is my "best of" better than anyone else's? I'll defend myself tomorrow.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Screw The Haiku Wrap-Up - KOOP's In Its New Digs!

Wow. It feels like a million years ago (tho it's been barely twelve months) since KOOP's downtown studio was trashed by two fires in one month - so it seems like a hazy, hopeful dream suddenly, astonishly realized that KOOP is now broadcasting from its new location at 3823 Airport Blvd. There's media about it videowise from a local news station & printmediawise from a local newspaper. Incredible.

So my show this Friday will be aired from the new space. & space is the word - the deejay booth ("studio one" the esteemed Thomas Durnin calls it in the video interview above) is larger than two living rooms. The equipment is state of the art, & KOOP's illustrious Training Team worked double overtime for more than a week to get the current programmers up to speed.

If you only know me as the fellow what does "Self Help Radio," you don't really know my commitment to & complete love of the radio station at which I volunteer. The fact is, like other KOOP volunteers, I am often accused by my partner of "cheating" with KOOP - that's how deep the love goes. I hope some of you have a chance to visit the new place - especially those of you who've helped us financially in the past year. Your money went a long way, & we owe you the deepest debt of gratitude. We hope we can pay it off with great programming from now until radio is replaced by futuristic cerebral thought/music implants. Or at the very least tricorders.

Last week's show was my favorite electronica of the year - but during the show, at which I was giving away CDs of the electronica I was playing, we went off the air for the last third of my show. If you were hoping to win one of the CDs, but couldn't because you weren't listening online, please send me an email & I'll see about finding a fair way to get some of the music to you. Or you can wait until the end of the day, when the entire show will be saved in tasty, bite-sized mp3 on the archive section of the Self Help Radio website. It should be there before 5pm, I promise.

This week's show is my favorite music of 2006 oh boy. Write a haiku about 2006 for that show! Here are the haikus (I only got three) from this week:


I am a dance floor.
Somebody needs to mop me.
Add a coat of wax.


The robots one day
Will attempt to talk to us
In beeps & in beats.


You can’t dance to this
It makes you feel bare & cold

Congrats all. Tomorrow: who makes "best of" lists, & why?