Friday, September 13, 2013

The Folks Behind the Music - Penfold - The Ripple Effect

Start at the beginning, how did you get started with this crazy idea of writing about music?

Depending on your outlook you can either celebrate or denounce Racer X and Pope for their determination to locate additional writers in the face of the expanding needs of The Ripple Effect.  Back in the day I was a dedicated reader of a music site called Peacedogman.  While I can’t pinpoint the first time I clicked on the link to The Ripple Effect, I am certain that I found that link on Peacedogman.    Shortly thereafter I became a dedicated reader of The Ripple Effect and I knew I had something worthwhile to read whenever I logged onto the internet.

Fast forward probably about a year and a half or two and lo and behold I see the first ‘writers wanted’ posting on Ripple.  My reaction?  I could never do that.  Nope.  The guys on this site are very good writers.  I have never written a review.  No way.  Besides, the ad stated they were looking for someone who really loved extreme metal and someone who loved emo/indie music.  I didn’t really fall into either camp, so it gave me a perfect out for not applying.  A short time later the ad ran again.  To this day I can’t explain what made me decide to send in my application.  To my amazement I received a response from Racer stating that he and Pope really dug my submission and asked if I would like to write for the site.  The rest is history.

We're all the product of our musical past.  What's your musical history?   First album you ever bought?   First musical epiphany moment?  First album that terrified the hell out of you?

I’ve loved music for as long as I can remember.  Looking back I don’t doubt that my affection stemmed partially from the fact that Jim Henson’s programming (Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Muppets) played a big part in my childhood development.  Actually I think that explains more about me than just the music angle.  Anyway, I used to listen to oldies and classic rock radio for hours on end in my room.  That was the music my parents liked, so that was the music I liked.  The sea change, aka learning that there was fantastic music that I liked but my parents didn’t came relatively late in comparison to my friends and schoolmates.  The first album that I ever bought was a cassette of Green Day’s Dookie.  I have had many epiphany moments but the top three would have to be listening to John Coltrane’s Giant Steps and realizing I was not going to make it in the world of jazz improvisation, hearing songs off the first Rage Against The Machine album while riding in a friend’s truck, and lastly having my attitude towards hip-hop completely flip flop after absorbing Blackalicious’ amazing Blazing Arrow.  I can’t think of anything that terrified me, but I will volunteer that I never want to listen to Scratch Acid’s song “Lay Screaming” again.  The vocals disturb me that much.

What's the last album to grab you by the throat and insist you listen?

There are a few.  dUg Pinnick’s Naked, Monsterworks’ The Album Of Man, and Greenhouse’s Bend But Don’t Break.

What do you see happening in the music scene today, good and bad?

I think I'll leave this question to the professionals.  I will say that it makes me happy to see a lot of smaller record labels emerging.  I am a big fan of the Bandcamp website.  I appreciate and have taken part in several fan-funded projects.  The variety of music being created and marketed online is stunning!  There is literally something for everyone!  The bad would be the loss of many dedicated record stores.

With so many music sites, how would you describe what you do?  What's your unique take on the music and writing?

My writing style evolved from necessity.  When I was hired onto The Ripple Effect I was very familiar with the high quality of writing on offer.  It's not that I wanted to stand out per se, but I did want to offer something to readers that the other writers did not.  While it doesn't make for a good story, I can't explain why I decided to create that first story attached to my Watain review.  Actually, when I think about it, I believe one of the big reasons was that I wanted to take attention away from the fact that I was not well schooled in black metal music.  In the end I figured out that I liked coming up with crazy story ideas that in some way, shape, or form relate to the band/album I'm reviewing and then fleshing those ideas out.  As far as my 'unique take' goes I am sure that there are other music writers out there who create stories that accompany their reviews, but I have not yet come across one myself.  Wow...that sounded way too egotistical for comfort!  What I'm trying to say is that I am not a beautiful or unique snowflake.

Illegal free downloads on your site.  Yes or no, and why?

There is no need for a review site to have a link to illegal downloads.  I’m pretty sure that every internet browser has a search bar, and I’m equally sure that the vast majority of people online can use said search bar to find what they want.  It’s not difficult.  Now I am not going to be a hypocrite and say I have never illegally downloaded something, but I also spend a lot of money on music.  Music is what I love, so that’s where my disposable income goes.

What's been your all time greatest "Find"?  That band you "discovered" before anyone else and started the word spreading?

Unfortunately I very rarely experimented on a band or artist that I had not already researched and sampled in some way.  Reliable review sources like The Ripple Effect, friends, and the radio to a lesser extent have been my guides.  Thus I can't say that I've 'found' or 'discovered' any band or artist.  Besides, none of my friends or acquaintances are into the groups that I'm most fond of.  I can scream my head off about how great something is, and no one pays attention.  This is the curse of the music fanatic.

If you could write a 1,000 word essay on one song, which one would it be, and why?  What makes that song so important?

Are you kidding?  I have trouble writing a 1,000 word essay on full albums!  There’s no way I could write that much about one song.

Give us three bands that we need to keep our eyes out for.

The House Harkonnen has a new album called Vol. 7 coming out soon and it’s a killer.  One of my favorite emcees, who goes by Random/Megaran, is constantly releasing top-notch hip-hop.  I am also really looking forward to the new album coming from Look What I Did.

Tell us about your personal music collection.  Vinyl?  CD?  What's your prized possession?

At this point I have a little less than 1,500 CDs and twenty or thirty newly purchased pieces of vinyl (to add to the fifty or sixty previously owned records I have absorbed over the years) in my collection.  I also have hundreds of downloaded albums thanks to my reviewer credentials.  My prized possessions don't really have anything to do with rarity.  The first would be the Misfits coffin box set that I was sent as compensation for having to wait a few weeks to receive the Black Sabbath Castle remaster box set I had on order.  Also many years ago I was able to purchase the Led Zeppelin discography box set for less than $10 after I found a $100 bill left on the ground, turned it in, and eventually got it back when no one claimed the money after 90 days.  That was sweet!  When I had to wait a couple of weeks to get the three CDs I had ordered from Stinking Lizaveta (the band was on the road at the time) they sent me a variety of things including a shirt, a piece of cloth that they would have cut into four patches, a printed receipt for drum heads, and a clove of garlic (one of the band members, or someone associated with them sells garlic).  Righteous!

What makes it all worthwhile for you?

First and foremost is the music.  The music IS the juice for me.  Outside of the tuneage, it makes me very happy hearing that a band or artist appreciates what I have written for them.  I should also note that having a band specifically request that I write something for them ranks among the coolest moments of my life.  Extremely gratifying!

How would your life be different if you weren't writing about music?

My life would definitely not be as musically rich since this gig has afforded me ample opportunity to expand my listening horizons.  Music listening would still be my primary leisure activity, but the scope of that activity would be far more limited.

Ever been threatened by a band or a ravenous fan?

Nope, but I have had audience members unhappy with me when I would not mosh with them. 

In the end, what would you like to have accomplished, or be remembered for?

I want the musicians I write about to see at least a 500% increase in sales the week after my review is posted.  I want to live lavishly based solely off revenue generated by my writings.  I want to be awarded an honorary creative writing degree from the most distinguished university in the world.  I want my collected works to be published in leather bound volumes and be accepted into the Library of Congress archives.  What?  Too much?

Many people may not realize the hours you devote to what you do for little or no pay.  Is there a day job? If so, how do you find the balance?
I've worked retail full time for many years now.  The writing definitely takes a good chunk of my non-working time.  Sometimes the stories I come up with flow out of my head onto digital paper pretty easily, but more often it takes several days to come up with something I'm happy with.  Then there is the actual review portion which takes me longer to write than the story element.  The bottom line is that however long it takes to complete the writing assignments, it is time well spent.

What's next?  Any new projects?

I should finish construction on my homemade spacecraft in the coming months.  That's exciting.

Finally, other than the music, what's your other burning passion?

No other 'burning passion'.  Music consumes all!

1 comment:

Horn said...

Fraggle Rock! Yes!

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