I signed up for Neilochka’s Great Interview Experiment after reading about it at Be The Boy. DaveX signed up after me (complimenting my dots in the process!) and I got to work checking out his blog, Startling Moniker. It was an exciting and somewhat daunting endeavor, because he and I have very little in common on the bloggy surface. Startling Moniker focuses primarily on music I don’t listen to, so my first question was very nearly my only question. (I exaggerate, of course.) Luckily he has a very helpful section of favorite posts, which I read, and those posts led me to other posts, and those led me to even more posts, and frankly I am still reading because there is so much good stuff in there.
You write mostly about experimental music. Can you give a quick primer for someone like me who is not terribly adventurous in that arena? Mike Patton is as experimental as my music collection gets. Where’s a good place to start?
“Experimental music” is music that can be categorized by process, rather than the outcome. You’d have to hear the end result before you could say whether two guitarists and a drummer were playing rock, country, blues, etc… However, experimental works can be classified by the experimental process itself– progressing towards an unknown result, creating/approaching sound in an experimental way, etc.
In my opinion, there’s no better place to start than with the works of John Cage. Recordings of his compositions are more easily available than most. They are also highly interesting from the start, but are still capable of leaving listeners with lasting ideas to consider. Cage’s notorious 4’33″ is an excellent example, in which the performer(s) are instructed to NOT play their instruments. There is actually a film recording of this [here].
What or who inspired you to start blogging?
That’s an easy question! I have long been a big fan of Harold Schellinx’s “SoundBlog“; which features commentary on his sound art, found cassettes, and fascinating musings on the nature of recording.
I had been tossing around the idea of adding my own voice to the blogosphere, but didn’t have much luck with blogging software. In late 2006, a friend of mine began writing “Of Sound Mind,” using the WordPress engine– it was exactly what I was looking for, and I was writing STARTLING MONIKER very soon after.
You’re a DJ, so obviously music is a big part of your life. What led you to start a blog focused on it?
Part of what makes a good DJ is the general inability to shut up about music. Don’t be fooled! Real DJs are passionate, obsessive individuals who will take every opportunity to tell you about some new sounds. Unfortunately, for those of us involved with not-for-profit community radio stations, we have to share the airwaves with dozens of other similarly-uninhibited folks. In short, I get about three hours a week in which to cram 120 hours of music. If I didn’t blog, I might injure myself somehow.
You do post about your family, etc., occasionally – how do you decide what’s blog material?
If my memory serves, my daughter (DJ Mo) was the first family member mentioned at STARTLING MONIKER, at least in any meaningful way. She occasionally hosts “It’s Too Damn Early” with me, which I liveblog… so it was only natural that she be part of the blog entry. I ended up expanding this by letting her guest blog a companion entry about the same show. Once I had introduced her to whoever was reading, I figured the odd DJ Mo-related entry wouldn’t be out of line. I’m not about to go all Mommyblogger, though, so nobody needs to get worried.
Tell me about a few of your favorite blogs.
Obviously, the previously-mentioned “SoundBlog” and “Of Sound Mind” are among my favorites. I also highly enjoy “Mutant Sounds,” a music-sharing blog which features some seriously-obscure recordings. Caleb Dupree’s “Classical-Drone” is a well-written and thoughtful look at many aspects of avant-garde and experimental music. I’ve also been enjoying “A Guide to All Things Tacky Fabulous in Orlando,” which pretty much describes itself; “Where Are the Naked Pictures?“, which doesn’t; and “Sister Novena’s PortaPulpit.” BoingBoing used to be a favorite, but I’ve recently had serious disagreements with their somewhat hypocritical stance on commenting, so I no longer frequent the site.
You’re a vegetarian (me too!). What are some of your favorite meals?
I’m all for a good vegetarian pizza. I can cook my own, but nothing beats Marcello’s Pizza in Chester, Illinois. If you’re ever in the area, it’s absolutely fantastic. I take mine with spinach (what else in Popeye’s hometown?), green and black olives, onions, tomato, mushrooms, and garlic butter.
Do you find it is hard to get a decent meal away from home? What are the best and worst experiences you’ve had (whether at restaurants or other peoples’ homes)?
I don’t have too difficult a time eating away from home, but this is probably due to the fact that I don’t eat many of the strange things often associated with being a vegetarian. A number of restaurants are adding vegetarian meals to their menu, even here in Southern Illinois. In my opinion, the worst restaurant for vegetarians (aside from the obvious steakhouses, BBQ joints, etc) is Applebee’s. They have about a million things on their menu, but virtually nothing without meat in it. Unless you want to pay $10 for a salad (and tell them “hold the meat”), there’s nothing for non-meateaters but Coke and beer.
So far my favorite Startling Moniker posts are your photo booth finds. What’s your all-time favorite photo strip?
I’ve got one from me and my wife’s second road trip to California that is my favorite, but I’m not posting it!
What’s the best thing about being a blogger? The worst?
The best thing is being able to connect with random people throughout the world who share your interests, so you can bounce good ideas back and forth. “As iron sharpens iron, so does one man sharpen another.”
The worst is having some ass, probably still rocking a dialup connection, who becomes convinced that you Photoshopped your new favorite photo. For the record, these are REAL, and they were taken of the sky near Metropolis Illinois.
Thanks again, Dave! And for the record, the photos look real to me.