Tired of reading tepid, flack-driven reviews of subpar records wherein everything is a-ok and hunky-dory? Are you sick of the chin-scratching pontifications of Pitchfork scribes, and the herd mentality of the Internet hipster generation?
If you answered "Fucking-a right, Bubba" to either or both of those questions, you need to be at Domy today. That's cause Chunklet's Henry Owings is coming through town on a book tour to plug The Overrated Book, a compendium of all things overpraised he edited over the past couple of years.
Those of you who already know Chunklet either love it or hate it. (Count us among the former.) For those of you in the dark, Chunklet is the absolutely authoritative voice crying out in the alternative/indie/punk/whatever wilderness. Over the past couple of years, it has published two "Overrated Issues," one trashing the overpraised records from pre-1991 and the other taking those that come after, and since then, it has expanded those into the book Owings is now touting.
These issues march to glory on the road (of bones) less taken. Where else but Chunklet will you find elegant trashings of sacred cows such as Curtis Mayfield, Pet Sounds and Sufjan Stevens all in one tidy package? And who besides Chunklet and its staff of musician/writers and other such music lifers has the authority to back up such startling pronouncements? Nobody, that's who.
Anyway, yesterday we reached Owings — who spent a good chunk of his formative years out in Mo City -- at his Atlanta home for the following Q&A. (Note: Owings talks a lot and has a lot to say, so we were able to get only portions of this done at press time. If you want to hear more of what he's got on his mind, and see the latest found-video rock movie he's compiled and South by South Death, their SXSW mockumentary, you'll just have to come out to Domy tomorrow night at nine. That's Domy, 1709 Westheimer, fools.) -- John Nova Lomax
John Nova Lomax: Chunklet's philosophy is everything is over-rated, right?
Henry Owings: I think the Chunklet philosophy is "Nothing is sacred."
JNL: Is the book a retooling of the Overrated Issues?
HO: It's like taking everything that is pertinent to the book out of both issues, and then adding the equivalent of an entire new issue of the magazine that's never been released to the book. I put a lot of time and effort into it.
JNL: Are there any albums or artists that are even close to being sacred to you?
HO: No, absolutely not. We came really close to completely defiling Neutral Milk Hotel, which I think is one band I think people won't touch. I would have easily torn Jeff [Mangum] a new one, but I just didn't get around to it. And he's a friend of mine. The guys in the Olivia Tremor Control are really good friends of mine, and I had no qualms with ripping them a new one.
JNL: What message do you want people to take from your book?
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HO: The one thing I want people to walk away with is that not everything is great. I think we are living in a time with journalism — at least with careerist rock journalism, and knee-jerk and rock journalism — where no one has an original or new idea. And everything's good. And I'm like, "Fuck that, man." I would bet that I actually buy more records than anyone at Pitchfork. I would go on record saying that. And you know what? Not all of it is great. I doubt the same could be said for any contemporary "rock journalist." They oftentimes are just fed shit by publicists, and publicists are paid by the band to make them write what they want. I grew up in the early Touch n' Go / Dischord scene, and a lot of that still holds true to me...I don't know, you should be able to walk the walk and talk the talk. I'm not saying everybody should be purists in an Ian MacKaye fashion, but what the fuck. What happened to just letting the music sell itself? I'm sorry there are 18- and 19-year-old kids out there that got an A in sophomore journalism and need to use it...I think a lot of what is out there passing for contemporary rock journalism is just remarkably full of shit.
JNL: What do you think of Pitchfork and the blog phenomenon?
HO: The blogs I'm supportive of. If you're into music and supporting something, I think that's rad. And if you wanna post MP3s, that's fucking great. And my favorite MP3 sites are the ones that cover stuff that's never been on CD. But by and large, I'm hard-pressed to call what Pitchfork does legitimate journalism...I never went to journalism school — but regurgitating one-sheets is not journalism. That's being a fucking puppet. And that doesn't make you any different than the people at Rolling Stone, where at least there's fucking editorial and content. But at Pitchfork, there's no editorial. Zero. Again, I never went to school for this, but if you take a single issue of Chunklet and put it against a year's worth of Pitchfork, and there's really no competition. I'm not saying that we're going up against them, but... Come. The fuck. On. Record reviews are great, but there's only so many times you can use the word "somnolent" without coming across as a complete choad. Sites like that live and die by what is emailed to them by people who are paid to endorse these artists. And if you've ever met any of these Pitchfork writers face to face, and I've met a few of them, by and large, they are very quiet, they sit at the back of a show, with their backpack and a note pad and they go home early where they lead this alternate life as a gonzo journalist. When in actuality it's all an act. It's all a bunch of bullshit.
God bless 'em. They do champion some acts that I do love, like Major Stars, or Sunn O))), or Boris, but also at the same time I think what they do a lot of the time is they react to what they see in other blogs or newsgroups. It's a business model that will fall flat on its face. There's gonna be backlash. Already you see it where there's all these bands that are solely famous because of the Internet, and while some of them are good, there have also been a lot of missteps, often fucking tragic ones, where I'm thinking that nobody is gonna remember this band at all ten years from now. Shit, it's all cyclical. Fifteen years ago people were going to see Das Damen, and nobody remembers them anymore either.