Interview Mix: Chris Beam

November 04, 2007 at 04:50 pm

Mr. Christopher Beam, the humble lead correspondent for Slate’s recently launchedTrailhead blog, was once just a mild-mannered “conductor of the Ivy League blog train” with his genre-creating, gossip-raking blog, IvyGate.

Beam has an uncanny penchant for getting his work cited in the Living/Arts sectionof the Boston Globe. He’s also been to Vegas on the Washington Post’s dime.

1) What is the first website (other than your own or email) that you visit in the morning? I’ll usually hit Today’s Papers, Politico Playbook, and other sites that do the pre-coffee thinking for you.

2) What is the most interesting bit of information that you’ve picked up in the past month? Beck is a Scientologist. I was floored when I learned that. Proof positive that we are but playthings of the gods.

3) How would you describe your taste/interest in music? Depends on how hard I want to think. I’ll sometimes listen to stuff that I think is good for me—Wagner, Thelonius Monk, Gershwin—but that can feel like taking medicine. Deep down I’m just a simple guy who likes funky bass lines. Show me a glorious Puccini cadenza, I’ll show you The Aliens’ song about being a robot man. I also like those folky singers who with warbly voices who sing about parapets and drawbridges. Interest: By turns lazy and obsessive. I’m usually like those whales that cruise around with their mouth wide open. A lot of the time I end up with crappy emo plankton. But when I get something tasty stuck in my craw, it’s like nothing else exists. I will evangelize the shit out of it.

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

1) Devendra Banhart, Now That I Know
2) Vampire Weekend, Mansard Roof
3) Cold War Kids, Saint John
4) Wu Tang Clan, Reunited (They were so happy to see each other again!)
5) Mama Who Bore Me, Spring Awakening (soundtrack)

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

1) Everything by Pink Floyd (even though I don’t really listen to anymore)
2) David Bowie, Rise and Fall of Ziggie Stardust and the Spiders From Mars
3) Air, Moon Safari
4) Nick Drake, Pink Moon
5) Talking Heads, Remain in Light

6) What are some songs to which you have a particular emotional attachment? The Rutter Requiem. Listen to it and try not to cry. It’s a good litmus test for whether or not you have a soul.

7) How did you first get interested in music and how has your taste developed since then? It started when I wore down the vinyl for “Teddy Bears’ Picnic” so much that my parents had to get a new copy. When I was little, my Norwegian grandfather tried to show me my roots by playing me “Peer Gynt,” so that was probably my first favorite “album.” My parents have pretty traditional taste in music—anything with drums upsets my mom—so for a while I had to rely on my third parent, MTV, to tell me what was good. Now I mostly outsource all my musical exploration to three or four people with much more developed tastes than me. I repay them in viral YouTube links.

8 ) What are some of your musical guilty pleasures? Female British rappers, Kid Rock’s “Prodigal Son”, Cake, MC Paul Barman (uttered the best/foulest rap lyric ever: “My dandy voice makes the most anti-choice granny’s panties moist”), musicals (I’m grooving on “A Chorus Line” these days), the early ‘90s School House Rock cover album.

9) If you were running for President in 2008, what song would you use as your campaign theme? Probably “Billie Jean”, just so every rally ultimately turns into a dance party. (Also a good deterrent against paternity suits.)

Other possibilities: “It Wasn’t Me,” by Shaggy. “Christ For President,” by Woodie Guthrie. “Taxman,” by The Beatles. “Aux Armes et Caetera,” by Serge Gainsbourg—a reggae version of “La Marseillaise,” which pissed a lot of people off at the time. The name makes fun of the whole “Aux armes citoyens!” nationalist slogan thing.

10) What is your opinion on downloading copyrighted material without paying for it? I actually buy a lot of music, but downloaders are on the right side of history. It’s up to the music industry to make getting music cheap and easy. If they can do that, many people will gladly pay—just look at how many paid list price for “In Rainbows.”

Ideally, people will support artists they want to see produce more music, especially if they’re not millionaires. Like, every time I buy a Dan the Automator album, that raises the odds that he’ll make another one. Of course, in practice, it often works out just the opposite: It’s really easy to burn obscure Peter Bjorn and John albums from friends, whereas I have to go to a store to purchase FutureSex/LoveSounds. So ultimately the JTs of the world end up getting more of my dollars than the Scandanavian folk singers who live with their moms.

And now, a bevy of tunes that young Mr. Beam will hopefully enjoy.

Listen to an 8Tracks mix HERE or here:

1) Porter Wagoner – Albert Erving
2) Les Croquants – La Chanson De Jackie (Jacques Brel Cover)
3) Little Richard – California (I’m Comin’)
4) Mysteries Of Life – This Must Be The Place (Naive Melody) (Talking Heads Cover)
5) Salt Chunk Mary – Someday I Will Treat You Good
6) Dick Jacobs And His Orchestra – Theme From The Incredible Shrinking Man
7) Chris Stamey – That’s Why I Hate (The Replacements)
8 ) Charles Steven Page – Armageddon
9) The John Keating Space Experience – Star Cluster
10) Tyrannosaurus Rex – Wielder Of Words
11) The Artie Schroeck Implosion – Six O’Clock
12) Leonard Cohen – Field Commander Cohen
13) The Montanas – That’s When Happiness Began
14) Roky Erickson And The Aliens – It’s A Cold Night For Alligators
15) Mano Negra – Soledad
16) Pylon – Cool
17) The Fall – Bingomaster
18) Pink Floyd – Zabriskie Points Theme
19) Sweet – Little Willie Won’t Go Home
20) Sam & Dave – You Don’t Know Like I Know
21) Jeffrey Lewis – Don’t Let The Record Label Take You Out To Lunch
22) Of Montreal – I Felt Like Smashing My Head Through A Clear Glass Window (Yoko Ono Cover)
23) Clem Snide – Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Your Grievances (Daniel Johnston Cover)

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