Interview Mix: Andrew Plemmons Pratt

November 18, 2007 at 07:34 pm

Andrew Plemmons Pratt, the assistant editor of the recently launched Science Progress, is a meticulous, detail-oriented man. Want proof? He edited the Google Doc of his responses to this survey 13 times between his initial submission and the interview’s publication.

It’s this dedication to exactitude that allowed him to post CDC Director Julie L. Gerberding’s redacted Senate testimony before any other science or climate blog (Sorry DeSmogBlog!). In his spare time, Pratt contributes to Modern Mask, blogs absurdly and designs websites.

He’s also a published author on the subject of Star Wars.

1) What is the first website (other than your own or email) that you visit in the morning? Like the bourgeois running dog lackey that I am, The New York Times is my home page. Like my mother, I also want to know day’s weather with precision, so after that, it’s usually the Weather Channel website hour-by-hour forecast for the day. To make myself seem less boring, I should also mention that I’m likely to look at the feeds for the Knight Science Journalism Tracker ( and when I sit down at work.

2) What is the most interesting bit of information that you’ve picked up in the past month? A few years ago, Andre Benjamin flew to New York just to see The Hives. The show was so mind-blowing that he subsequently told Rolling Stone, “I wouldn’t have written “Hey Ya!” if it weren’t for the Hives.” You can read about it onStereogum.

3) How would you describe your taste/interest in music? If I’m really into a song, then I’m likely going to imagine it playing loudly over a montage of scenes from my life. That doesn’t really tell you anything about genre, but think of Royal, Ari, and Uzi Tenenbaum bombing around New York to “Me and Julio Down By the Schollyard,” Herman Bloom and Max Fischer working out to “Oh Yoko,” or Lelaina Pierce and Troy Dyer pining to “All I Want Is You.”

I’m drawn to music that rewards, demands, or simply lends itself binge listening. I’m perfectly happy spinning the same playlist for an entire day or a single song on repeat for six hours. I’m usually shimmying to indie pop hooks, drinking whiskey to blues-based rock, or shimmying around to funk and soul. I like music that gets better the louder you crank the volume, music that depresses you into an emotional pancake, and music that makes you sing, thump, bob, bop, sob, or air guitar along like no one’s watching.

4) Name five of your favorite songs at the moment (in no particular order).

“Stupidity,” The Detroit Cobras
“Lover’s Spit,” Broken Social Scene (the version on Bee Hives)
“Express Yourself,” Charles Wright
“Mother,” John Lennon
“Weak Spot,” The Detroit Cobras

5) Name five of your favorite albums of all time (in no particular order).

“The Rise and Fall of Ziggy Stardust and the Spiders From Mars,” David Bowie
“Funk Power,” James Brown
“69 Love Songs,” The Magnetic Fields
“Broken Social Scene,” Broken Social Scene
“Doolittle,” The Pixies

6) What are some songs to which you have a particular emotional attachment? “Modern Girl” by Sleater-Kinney is the montage song of life transitions in the past few years. Then of course there are songs that played in the foreground or background of various bi-lateral emotional entanglements: “Waltz #2 (Xo)” by Elliot Smith, “Hey” by the Pixies, “Maps” by the Yeah Yeah Yeahs, “Grand Canyon” by the Magnetic Fields, “Madame George” by Van Morrison, “Everyone Choose Sides” by the Wrens, and “Nightswimming” by R.E.M. There’s also “Letter From An Occupant” by the New Pornographers, which I associate with pure happiness.

7) How did you first get interested in music and how has your taste developed since then? I was at a sleepover in sixth grade, staying up all night playing Magic: The Gathering, and I found a CD of The Beatles’s Yellow Submarine in my friend’s basement. There were probably about about five of us tapping forests and summoning Shivan Dragons, and despite my friends’ feeble protests, I made them listen to the title track on repeat for several hours. Not long after that ABC ran their three-part special on The Beatles, and I went out and dropped my savings on the first Anthology set and the Red and Blue collections.

From there, I got into the Rolling Stones, the Doors, Jimi Hendrix, Bob Dylan, The Doors, Led Zeppelin, and (at the time, incongruously, I suppose) R.E.M. For most of junior high, I listened to the Atlanta classic rock station non-stop and keep a cassette in my tape desk cued so that at the first chords of a song I really wanted, I could dive across the room and hit record.

When I got to college, I learned there was something called “indie rock.” The Strokes released their first album just as I arrived. There were also a couple of bands I had managed to miss for the classic rock haze of highschool, including Weezer and Radiohead. Before I was through with my first year at college, I began to wonder how I had managed to survive high school with just Van Morrison’s “Astral Weeks” and Fleetwood Mac’s “The Dance,” and without “OK Computer” or “Pinkterton.”

I spent all four years in college working for a a weekly magazine called The Declaration, and production was every Tuesday night starting at 8pm and going until the issue was finished, which usually took until 3 or 4am. The office was a windowless basement room full of Apple computers, moldering office chairs, piles of discarded paper, and two hulking stand-up desks at which we read and proofed page printouts. If you enjoyed the pressure cooker of egos, satirical pretension, stale snacks, earnest pretension, and hipster meta-humor, then you stayed until the wee hours correcting typos, shuffling page layouts, writing jokes, and making fake ads. And those who stayed became the in-crowd, became the editorial staff, and became the arbiters of what music to blast into the night.

Here I learned about The Flaming Lips, The Clash, New Order, The Smiths, Modest Mouse, The New Pornographers, The Unicorns, The Wrens, Fuzagi, The Exploding Hearts, The Moldy Peaches, Bjork, The Black Keys, Broken Social Scene, The Weakerthans, The Yeah Yeah Yeahs, Wilco, Neutral Milk Hotel, Primal Scream, The White Stripes, and The Velvet Underground. Here, at the fuzzy mental edge of early morning arguments, we blasted “Everything In It’s Right Place”; we debated the merits of “Debaser” vs “Gigantic”; and we all poured our own unspoken insecurities into the room screaming along to “El Scorcho.”

Later in college, my best friend from high school started introducing me to older funk and R&B: Stevie’s Wonder’s album “Signed, Sealed, Delivered,” the Ray Charles oeuvre, Funkadelic’s “Maggot Brain,” and the earth-shaking 1970 album “Funk Power” from James Brown. Years later, I’m still listening to “Give It Up Or Turn It Loose” several times every week.

Whereas I spent most of college looking for songs that described, augmented, or magnified my mood, now I’m looking for driving melodies or wicked beats. Hence, Sharon Jones and the Dap Kings are at the moment grooving on my iPod with Rilo Kiley, Spoon, and Bill Withers.

8) What are some of your musical guilty pleasures? Mika. I can’t get enough of that “Lollipop” junk. What I might now call a guilty pleasure was of course at one point on every playlist I made. Some of that has included over-produced indie pop like OK GO’s “You’re So Damn Hot,” sap-pop like David Gray, Bright Eyes’ old screaming-and-crying material like “At the Bottom of Everything,” and of course “Pinkerton.” I cannot say, however, that I feel any tinge of guilt rocking out to “I Believe In A Thing Called Love.” It may still have the greatest music video ever.

9) If you were running for President in 2008, what song would you use as your campaign theme? Either “Walk This Way” by run DMC & Aerosmith or “Think” by Aretha Franklin.

10) What is your opinion on downloading copyrighted material without paying for it? Culture is culture because it circulates. Sharing music with digital technology makes the world a happier and more musical place, and exposes more people to more music. Record companies need to develop a new business model that earns money through another means besides charging for digital recordings. Until then, I will support artists I like through the most direct means possible: by buying tickets to see them live.

And now, a collection of audio files that Mr. Pratt will hopefully come to love one day.

Listen to an 8Tracks mix HERE or here:

1) Hunter S. Thompson – Really Ugly Bastards
2) Gianfranco Reverberi – Nel Cimitero Di Tucson
3) Railroad Jerk – Bang The Drum
4) Wire – Three Girl Rhumba
5) Mudhoney – Between Me And You Kid
6) Phil Lee – Les Debris, Ils Sont Blancs
7) Detholz! – Celebration (Kool And The Gang Cover)
8 ) Klaus Nomi – Falling In Love Again
9) Tommy James & The Shondells – I’m Alive
10) Demetri Martin – Pajo Intro
11) John Cale – Gun
12) Kevin Ayers – Stranger In Blue Suede Shoes
13) Silver Jews – Trains Across The Sea
14) Pavement – False Skorpion
15) Oneida – Jazz Is The Teacher, Funk Is The Preacher (James Blood Ulmer Cover)
16) Ike And Tina Turner – Contact High
17) Brian Eno – Dead Finks Don’t Talk
18) Mau Mau – Xangai
19) Eels – Cancer For The Cure
20) Elliott Smith – Waltz # 1 (Demo)
21) Millie Jackson – All I Want Is A Fighting Chance
22) The Apples In Stereo – The Bird That You Can’t See
23) Kris Kristofferson – The Law Is For Protection Of The People

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