Sunday, November 8, 2009

An Interview With The Greatest Music Writer Alive

In light of Gulbranson's wonderful interview I thought it wise to seek out my own exclusive interview.

Interviews are fantastic. It gives the reader access to a life that seems distant and brings it right to your face. At best it is a dialogue that enlightens the reader and reflects a persons achievements and thought processes. At worst it is knob slobbing and ego pandering to a celebrity that hardly needs it and could only be described as a waste of good letters; or the meandering musings of someone who is clearly in need of a mental health professional.

Given the breadth of music that I enjoy and the variety of people out there producing, reviewing, critiquing, performing and involved with music; I've had a hard time figuring out who I would like to interview. There is a list of musicians and producers (mostly dead) that I have running in the back of my head but most of them I have the same chance of interviewing as say, Buddha. When I narrowed the list down to living people there was only one person I could think of that I needed to interview. The most handsome, dynamic, creative and all together talented human being to ever grace the face of this planet.


I was at first trepidatious when I made my decision. Writers are notoriously cranky and reclusive creatures with a penchant for sudden mood swings and violent alcohol fueled depressions. This writer in particular was a prime example of highly irascible mega fauna. I knew that setting was everything, so when I called his agent I asked if we could meet in his local coffee shop. Writers are all addicted to caffeine, I knew it was a sure thing. The agent agreed, the venue was set and I was in business.

Coffee Time is at 21st and Irving in Northwest Portland, a large dimly lit cave takes up the entire back end of the shop and that is where I found my quarry; surrounded by reference books and twitching from his first gallon of caffeine slurry. As I set my backpack down at the opposing seat he did not look up from his laptop at all. I attempted to introduce myself politely and received only a wave of the hand and a incomprehensible grunt. Was this the famed writer or simply some technology obsessed troglodyte? He continued to fiddle with his laptop aimlessly and I eventually got up to leave.

"Wait, get me some more coffee. I haven't shed my human form yet, one more cup and I'll transcend reality. Make it strong and black man."

I set my back down and nodded. The counter was busy, people jostling each other for a chance at awareness. 15 minutes later I returned to the table in the back with two absurdly large cups of brew. I sat down and opened up my laptop. He looked down into the steaming mug and a brief smile rumbled through his beard.

"Ahhhhhhhhh. Practically orgasmic. My thanks sir."

I nodded and fired up my question list.

ME- So Mr. Nelson...

MR. NELSON- Eriq is fine.

M- Eriq then. I understand you've recently moved here to Oregon. How do you find it?

E- Fantastic, actually. I'd been planning the move for a number of years and it would seem that it does not disappoint in the least. The weather suits my clothes.

M- Is there anything that sticks out in your mind? Why Portland instead of say, Eugene or one of the coastal towns?

E- A whole host of reasons. Public transit is near the top of the list. I hail from Richmond, Virgina and it is not a town that is conducive to walking around. You really can't get around that town without a car. I am a big fan of natural preserves and having one in my back yard is a big bonus. Powell's is probably what put it over the top. Easy access to the biggest used bookstore in the world is worth moving across the country. There's an actual literary scene here. Richmond has a one man literary scene. Don't get me wrong, Preston is a great fucking guy but I need more. That and the coffee.

(He pauses, downing an entire 24 oz. coffee in one long smooth pull. I sit, my jaw agape.)

M- Ahem. So how was the trip, did you fly out or drive?

E- I drove with my friend Mabel and I taking turns at the wheel. I rented a U-Haul, packed all of my feces into one receptacle and hit the road. I wanted a physical experience of distance. I feel like moving this far should be accompanied by some grueling physical torment and extreme psychological states. It would cheapen the moment, I think, to make it a one day proposition.

M- How long did that take you? That's what, 3000 miles?

E- Just about. 2,906 miles without detours or stops. All things told it took us 5 days from RVA to Stumptown. We took a few detours to see friends on the way out here in St. Louis and Boulder. All in all a pretty smooth going deal; no bat shit insane moments or breakdowns. Wyoming is fucking terrifying though, there's no actual ground in Wyoming; just wind and rocks. I got airsick about three hours into that chunk of the trip. I didn't even think that I could get motion sickness in a truck. Absurd.

M- So you've been here a few months now, what's next on the agenda? What mind shattering awesomeness will you unleash upon the unworthy?

E- Oh, how you flatter sir. Do go on. I'm just now getting back to my writing habits, working on music reviews again and gearing up to polish off a collection of short stories and my first novel. I've been thinking about playing some music, maybe with friends maybe something more serious. I'm not sure yet.

M- A novel? Are you willing to share any details?

E- No. Fuck off.

M- Fair enough. How about the short stories?

E- There's some stuff up on the web. I don't feel like explaining it to you.

(Awkward pause.)

M- I'm interested in your music writing. How do you approach the topic of review? What is the process?

E- Any music review should be embedded in culture and personality. To try and present a technical analysis alone leaves the reader bored stiff and leads to lifeless prose. I feel like that kind of dry academic writing is pretty much relegated to reference books and material for other reviewers to read. My fellow bloggers at CIMTB do a great job of keeping life flowing through the veins of their writing; that's why I continue to write with them. Excellent folk the lot of them.

(His notes on criticism he e-mailed me after the interview. A transcript is here.)

M- And the process? Do you have any rituals?

E- There's no real mystery here. I simply put away distractions, put on some music and start writing. I generally jot down a great deal of notes and impressions and later go back and organize it into some sense of narrative. I never finish a review in one listen. I like to get comfortable with a record before I pass judgment. Goldie has a great bullshit filter so I generally end up with some pretty fucking fantastic music to listen to. That helps.

M- Do you read a lot of other music reviews? Are there any writers in music you admire?

E- I read a great deal of music "reviews". A lot of music bloggers seem to think that posting an MP3 with a sentence qualifies as a review. Horseshit. Said The Gramophone has a wonderful method, it falls somewhere betwixt prose and poetry. The Pop Filter (Rahawa Haile) is one of my favorite folks on the web. His taste and interests are as broad as mine and we have a great deal of fun on Twitter. I'd say that by far my favorite writers are at Crawdaddy. They're the oldest and in my opinion the best of music review and criticism resources there is. Their recent savaging of Weezer is fucking inspirational. I would dare say Gulbransonesque.

M- Just so we're clear; I'm sitting here interviewing myself in a coffee shop. Isn't that a bit insane and kind of an ego trip?

E- Yes, yes it is.

At that he signaled the end of the interview by yelling at me incoherently and demanding a solid gold pool full of coffee to swim in. Writers are a tough interview (I had to get a skin graft after the hot coffee he dumped on me treated me like a batch of dumplings. A small price to pay for the chance to be in his presence.) I hope that I've brought a little more insight into the mind and life of this most essential part of American music discourse.

History will remember him like this, twitching from a near fatal blood/caffeine ratio, fueled by mystical visions of literary immortality and so high on his own ego he can't seem to stop touching himself in public.

'Till next time gentle readers.



Amber Dawn said...

Wow. I'm amazed that you managed to get the reclusive Mr. Eriq Nelson to provide you with an interview. I suppose the promise of coffee is a temptation strong enough for any writer.

Dr. Something said...

Thank you for giving us all greater insight into the mind of a genius!

Jess Gulbranson said...

"He's a complicated man, and no one understands him but..." himself? Eriq Nelson! (and we can dig it)

Wonderful. Glad you're back!!!

And I wonder now if 'Gulbransonesque' will stick... Lovecraftean stands for futility in the face of cosmic horror, Kafkaesque stands for surreal alienation defying standard conceptions of identity... what will mine come to stand for?!!??!!

Goldie Davich said...

this cracks me up:

Goldie Davich said...

for the lazy's:

Amber Dawn said...

Hahaha. "aww fuck, now I'm getting a book published. Laaame." Remind me if New Century Schoolbook ever gets signed to a label or a deal for a commercial jingle or something to be equally hip and exasperated. :D

Eriq Nelson said...

"Gulbransonesque" means a savage and unrelenting wit that will strip paint. "A Gulbransoning" is not a mere mockery, but a concise and well thought out deconstruction that leaves an artist either thinking deeply about their craft or sobbing into a dirty glass full of brown liquor.