Interview Mix: Dave Weigel

November 12, 2007 at 04:51 pm

In the bio on his eponymous blog, David Weigel says he “hopes one day to place a piece in The American Conservative,” which would score him the “hat trick” most coveted by D.C.’s young set of political journalists, namely a byline in The American ProspectThe American Spectator and the aforementioned Conservative.

For Mr. Weigel, who moonlights as an associate editor at Reason, that day has come. Gracing the cover of the American Conservative last month, Weigel offered a warning to conservatives that they “cannot live by Hillary-hate alone.”

Could The American be next?

UPDATE: Since the completion of this interview, Weigel has updated his eponymous bio to reflect his completion of the “American” magazine hat trick.

1) What is the first website (other than your own or email) that you visit in the morning? The Drudge Report. I’ll just admit it. That little site basically governs the political media world, and if you haven’t checked it out by 9 a.m. then by 10 a.m. you’re getting asked about the stories that got red-highlighted or sirened on there. Musicwise I’ll stop at Idolator or Mashuptown by the second cup of coffee.

2) What is the most interesting bit of information that you’ve picked up in the past month? That the Family Research Council invited Rudy Giuliani to its Washington conference only because they wanted him to turn them down. One could argue that this isn’t “musical” information.

3) How would you describe your taste/interest in music? Melody over all else. I can listen to anything with a strong melody—Elton John, Philip Glass, Rihanna, “Dueling Banjos,” whatever. Now, I occasionally indulge in dronier stuff, or more experimental music, just to see if I like it or if my ears are aging at the correct speed. But the pieces with iron-clad bouncing melodies are the ones I return to, and that’s probably the best guideline for what one “likes.” You can say you love Wolf Eyes, but unless you’re scrolling past The Beatles to get to it on your iPod, I call you a pseudo, sir.

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

1) “If You Must” by Del tha Funkee Homosapien
2) “With Every Heartbeat” by Robyn, with the heavy and obvious hand of Kleerup turning some dials.
3) “Razor Dance (Voltage Enhanced)” by Richard Thompson
4) “Starless” by King Crimson
5) “Dreaming of Boyz” by Party Ben. This is actually a mash-up of “Boyz” by M.I.A. and “The Dreaming” by Kate Bush, and it’s incredible how snugly the songs fit together. Both are weird, but weird in the exact same manner.

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

1) Pet Shop Boys – Very. I’ve loved their work since then, especially the str8-from-tha-beaches-of-Rio stuff on Bilingual, but this is absolutely my favorite pop album. The rare weak track is drowned in bleeping synth hooks and the kind of screechy drums you haven’t heard since Janet Jackson went “soul.”
2) Genesis – The Lamb Lies Down on Broadway. If rock critics gave a damn about prog this’d be affixed to the top 10 lists. And it’s barely even a prog album. It’s really just a collection of pop songs with zonked-out lyrics.
3) Tommy Keene – Songs from the Film. I go in and out of love with “power pop” but this is clearly the best power pop album ever produced. And Keene’s a nice guy who’s finally having something of a resurgence.
4) The Go-Betweens – 16 Lovers Lane. Another amazing 80s act who were mounting a comeback recently, until band co-leader Grant McLennan died at age 48. I know from talking to Robert Forster, the other songwriter, that the guys never loved the poppiness of their last few 80s records. Respect, but they’re completely wrong.
5) Ramones – End of the Century. One of Phil Spector’s late-70s triptych of bizarro collaborations, the others being with Leonard Cohen and Dion. The remastered version Rhino put out a couple years ago has some demos that are illuminating: The band was definitely entering a songwriting slump, and Spector yanked them up out of it.

6) What are some songs to which you have a particular emotional attachment? The honest answer: “Always” by Bon Jovi. It was late 1999 and I had co-organized a school dance and spotted a girl I’d been trying to flirt with (note I do not say “flirt” or “flirt successfully”) and paced around waiting for a good slow song to come on. No dice: All crap. I could see her starting to sidle off the floor so I rushed up and asked for a dance to whatever song came next. Bon fucking Jovi. But not even the wailing six-strings of Richie Sambora could dispel the hormonal tug between a nerd and a younger nerd whose eyes had locked. I had my first kiss at the final “yeah yeah yeah yeah!” part.

7) How did you first get interested in music and how has your taste developed since then? It didn’t start around the house. Neither of my parents were/are musical; I remember them purchasing a 5-disc CD changer in the early 90s and fitting their entire collection on one shelf. And none of it would have surprised you. Carly Simon, Roy Orbison, The Carpenters, various and sundry Andrew Lloyd Webber soundtracks. I distinctly remember walking past a (now-defunct) CD shop in Delaware in 1992 or 1993 asking my mother, “Aren’t you glad I don’t spend my money on that stuff?” Oh, sweet foreshadowing. It wasn’t long after this when I started mowing lawns to make some scratch and I realized how much more quickly time would pass if I was listening to a walkman. Not having any music of my own I started off listening to the Phantom of the Opera soundtrack; I heard Meat Loaf’s “I Would Do Anything for Love” and dug it so I added Bat Out of Hell II to the rotation. I kept watching MTV, partly for ideas and partly to keep up with the Joneses (by which I mean “my much cooler classmates”), and everything spiraled from there. The first “cool” album I bought on the day of release was Pearl Jam’s Vitalogy, but I grabbed an on-sale Sgt. Pepper’s out of curiosity, and given that choice I got obsessed with the Beatles.

My next milestone was sometime in 1997. I’d been grabbing cheap tapes from Jeremiah’s, a bootlegs-and-used store in Wilmington, and I’d bought AC/DC’s Back in Black but wondered what the next good AC/DC album was. I waited for my parents to get off our phone line and got online and searched for AC/DC reviews, and one of the only sites with long reviews was Mark’s Record Reviews. This New Yorker with a huge (OCD-driven, I later found out) CD collection was trawling through his archives and reviewing everything. I started reading it all, decided Mark was a genius, bought everything I could find that he’d rated above a 7, and contacted him about writing reviews for the site. Saint that he is, he handed the keys over to this 15-year old who loved hard rock and hid in the bathroom during gym glass. I reviewed the Beach Boys and a few bands I can’t remember, and let me “debate” him about the Smashing Pumpkins (whom he found mediocre and I found amazing. He was right). I only dropped out of the site’s universe when I moved to England in 1998 and he stopped updating the site. And in England I listened to Radio1 and watched British MTV and discovered Mojo and Q magazines, so my musical horizons altered utterly.

So there’s the Planet Krypton story: I got into journalism to review CDs. And now I write basically no music reviews. (I freelanced for the great PopMatters site a little in 2006 but quit after I took my gig at Reason.) I’ve moved from unpretentious music nerdery to… mostly unpretentious music nerdery, now with around 3000 albums on my shelves.

8) What are some of your musical guilty pleasures? If I had any sense of guilt I wouldn’t sputter so much about Justin Timberlake and Rihanna and the rest of the artists us cool kids are supposed to disdain. John Denver, who wrote “Leaving on a Jet Plane,” has this terrific version of it with a little too much arranging and this angrily strummed acoustic guitar. I love everything by Jimmy Webb, including the Glen Campbell and Richard Harris songs, which most people can’t hear without their teeth aching. And I’m a total Jeff Lynne apologist: “Xanadu,” the Dave Edmunds stuff, the Traveling Wilburys, late George Harrison, all of it.

9) If you were running for President in 2008, what song would you use as your campaign theme? It depends, doesn’t it? If I was running as a Republican, “Where Strides The Behemoth” by Mastodon. If I was a Democrat, “We Hate It When Our Friends Become Successful” by Morrissey. (Lyric changed to “And if they’re Southern, it’s even worse.”) If I was a Libertarian, “I Wanna Kill Sam” by Ice Cube. If I was a supervillain, “Voodoo Child” by Rogue Traders.

10) What is your opinion on downloading copyrighted material without paying for it? It depends on what you’re downloading it for, doesn’t it? I mean, legally it doesn’t. But I’m all for people downloading one-hit wonders and TRL fodder if they’re writing a party playlist. I used to be for downloading tracks to hook a friend on something you like, but has the dawn of YouTube and MySpace changed that? As often as I used to grab a bunch of stuff off Audiogalaxy I now go and seek out songs on artists’ pages. So I’d prefer people do that to stealing a bunch of songs from struggling or mid-level bands. What we all need to do, though, is burn and trade the LPs of albums that are way out of print or have never been put back out on CD.

Here’s to hoping that at least two or more of these songs aren’t contained within Mr. Weigel’s 3,000 albums.

Listen to an 8Tracks mix HERE or here:

1) Broadcast – I Found The F
2) Emitt Rhodes – Somebody Made For Me
3) The Vapors – Letter From Hiro
4) Electric Light Orchestra – The Diary Of Horace Wimp
5) Ramsey Lewis Trio – Wade In The Water
6) The Essex Green – Don’t Know Why (You Stay)
7) Tall Dwarfs – Meet The Beatle
8 ) Squeeze – Farfisa Beat
9) Karl Blau – Kill The Messenger
10) Boogie Down Productions – Dope Beat
11) DJ N-Wee – In The Mouth, An Encore
12) Katrina And The Waves – River Deep, Mountain High (Ike And Tina Turner Cover)
13) Oui Oui – Il Machait
14) Caetano Veloso – Irene
15) Jeff Lynne – Nobody Home
16) Jake Holmes – I’m Feelin’ Fine
17) Thomas Dolby – Urges
18) Zumpano – Let’s Fight
19) Abba – Watch Out
20) Imitation Electric Piano – Saturday Night
21) Stephen Malkmus – Sin Taxi

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