I once worked at a children’s museum gift shop and my job was to write a product description for every toy in the store. 50 different Barbies, ten different snow globes, etc. I used so many exclamation points. I’m basically on the same wave at the moment, only I write less about glow-in-the-dark keychains and more about animated music videos.
Last time we talked you were writing with mishka and thesedays. Now all of your main focus is on your own blog, “Neonpajamas”. When did the idea come about of starting your own platform for artists?
Mishka had a rather large downsizing last fall and the blog/record label didn’t make the cut. Quite the blessing in disguise (save for the paycheck), as it inspired me to create my own platform where all of the pieces feature multimedia art that I love. Nothing that I am obligated to write about. The blog is full of artists I enjoy, songs I love, art that I appreciate. I don’t expect everyone to enjoy every post I make, but I’m staying true to myself. If I post your work, I’m rooting for you. I’m trying to be your loudest cheerleader.
How has it been running your own platform now?
Glorious! My biggest problem right now is wanting to write too many articles. I’ve been trying to keep it to a 3-4 daily post minimum. This allows me to be a bit more critical with what I post, as well as not drowning my audience with too much content. It’s a nice problem to have, I suppose. Additionally, I’m trying to properly blend music posts with movies, books, art galleries, zines, and anything that I find interesting. I want my site to be seen as a blog that might feature Chicago hip-hop here and there, but not as a Chicago hip-hop blog, if that makes any sense. I once covered Val Kilmer’s online store, for example.
If there’s one thing you’ve always been very good at, it’s seeking out new content and publicizing unheard sounds. Who have some of your favorite interviews been with so far since starting your site?
Thanks! I’ve done 38 interviews since launching my site in November, and about 75% of them have been with visual artists/illustrators. My favorite interview has easily been with 80-year-old artist Ralph Steadman, perhaps best known for his work with Hunter S. Thompson. But I think you’re asking more about music interviews, which have been almost exclusively producers. Artists like Nohidea, Brock Berrigan, Harris Cole, Contour, and Nancy are all worth checking out. Detroit producer Taylor AC is relatively unknown and has a great story to tell (he records music at a retirement home while he helps his grandparents). My favorite music interview thus far, however, is with Nellie McKay, who is a personal hero. I’ve been listening to her for over a decade. She has an album of Doris Day covers that I fall asleep to almost every night.
Lets talk music for a second. You listed Blkswn as one of your favorite albums of the year so far. Do you see anyone in Chicago topping that project this year?
No. No one inside or outside of Chicago.
MAYBE if THEMpeople drop a full-length. That being said, I’m excited to hear plenty of Chicago projects by artists like Knox Fortune, Monte Booker, Lucille Furs, Joseph Chilliams, and more. The list goes on. Check-out Crosstown and Lovejoy.
You’ve also stated that Fresh Selects is your favorite label right now. Why is that?
They aren’t boxed in! So many labels have these ‘labels’ attached to them (for lack of a better word), where they have to release rap, or lofi beats, or experimental noise. Fresh Selects is a prolific hub of creativity, releasing psychedelic albums by six-pieces from Australia, hip-hop albums from New York rappers, and vintage soul from artists out of Los Angeles. Every release surprises me and their selections never disappoint. Like ATO Records and Stones Thrown, anything is possible with Fresh Selects. I’m constantly taking notes, that’s word to founder Kenny Fresh.
Speaking of labels, you have a lot of good connections and friends within the music industry, would you ever be interested in starting an independent label or management for artists?
I’m putting the pieces together right now, but [neonpajamas] will be an independent label before 2018. It all starts on May 27.
Let us continue on management, how are things going with Jaro? What could we expect from him the rest of this year?
Jaro is a wild man. Living with him has been a trip because I’m still unsure of when he sleeps. Find him inside downtown skyscrapers doing squat poses at his desk. If he’s not running or coding, he’s making music. Expect plenty more loose tracks from him throughout the year, as well as more parts of our ongoing collaborative series ‘Weekdays w/ Ben and Jaro’. Two more songs are finished (shout-out Yomi and Cae Jones), we’re just waiting for a bit more in between time from the heat that is “On Baby“.
Rumor is, you are also working with Banks The Genius and Joe Nora?
Those are my sons. On top of daily engineering, Banks has so much solo heat in the vault that it’s offensive. Dude makes like four beats a day. It’s been great seeing him blossom and bloom. And Joe Nora is a force to be reckoned with. A true producer guru with no weak tracks on his SoundCloud. I was familiar with Moon Man & Benjamin (his duo) last year, but not so much his solo work, but he’s been constant with the quality drops all year. He just finished college, is releasing an EP this summer, and who knows what he is capable of down the road. Be on the lookout.
Earlier this month you tweeted, “It takes the average person seven minutes to fall asleep” and now the other day you let us know that you’re releasing a seven song sleep compilation on May 27. Talk about that.
Yesss, I’m so excited. My birthday is on May 27 and I want it to coincide with my independent label release [neonpajamas]. We’re starting out with a seven song compilation from seven different producers. Once that drops, I’m going to release one compilation a month for the rest of the summer. Always seven songs, always producer-driven. Short and sweet. Eventually, this will turn into cassette releases, and later with book/zine publications. I’m trying hard to make it a cultural hotspot without boundaries. Like Fresh Selects meets Paper Darts meets my dream journals. Hell, we might even release personalized postcards and scented candles down the road.
Last but not least, last summer you published “Paper Wind”. As we approach the halfway mark in the year, can another book be something to expect?
Phew. I wrote over 1,200 pieces since finishing Paper Wind and it’s been a process sifting through the filth. I’m taking my time with new material, and I’m not sure where it will go next, but I’m in the process of editing (for the third time) four different collections: 1.) Short stories/fiction 2.) Autobiographical poems/tales 3.) Abstract/expressionistic/nonsense poems 4.) Travel stories.
So I might have four finished books soon. Or two. Or none. We will see. The goal is to have something to share at Chicago Zine Fest next year, complete with my own illustrations, but I also remind myself that all of my favorite authors (Richard Brautigan, Denis Johnson, Bob Hicok, Karen Russell, Roald Dahl) took/take their sweet time with their literary releases. Patience is important. No weak shit.