Interview Mix: David Roberts

December 13, 2008 at 04:29 pm

David Roberts, known to most these days as Grist’s omnipresent staff writer, was once a member of a much more elite community. Before his days of declaring that “coal is the enemy of the human race,” Roberts focused his mind on “debating minutiae with the world’s other 12 Dewey scholars.”

In 2006, Roberts drew the full fire of the conservative outrage machine when he mused that there should be “some sort of climate Nuremberg” — an analogy that he has since retracted “wholeheartedly.” But that doesn’t mean he’s taking it easythese days on climate change deniers or those who aid and abet them. He’s isn’t.

When he isn’t fighting the good green fight on the Internet, Dave can sometimes be found writing a few words about his favorite sonic delights. Sources say that he makes a mean year-end mix as well.

1) What is the first website (other than your own or email) that you visit in the morning? Bloglines, my RSS reader. That answer feels a bit like cheating, but honestly, I don’t “visit websites” very often any more.

2) What is the most interesting bit of information that you’ve picked up in the past month? My 5-year-old son already knows that Darth Vader is Luke Skywalker’s father. Who told him that shit?! I haven’t shown him the movies yet! Now he’ll never get to have his world rocked at the end of Empire Strikes Back. I feel like he’s lost something precious.

3) How would you describe your taste/interest in music? My first love is a good melody, in any guise (electronic, folk, pop, metal, whatever). I love harmonies. I love good beats. I love epic, ambitious, multi-part songs. I like a good funky jam. I love a righteous solo. I love a catchy bubblegum pop song. In terms of genres, eh. Most have good stuff and bad.

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

1. The Avett Brothers: “If I Get Murdered In the City”
2. Okkervil River: “Lost Coastlines”
3. Jamey Johnson: “High Cost of Living”
4. Jamie Lidell: “Where’d You Go”
5. Dr. Dog: “Army of Ancients”

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

1. Janes Addiction: Nothing’s Shocking
2. Guns and Roses: Appetite for Destruction
3. Medeski Martin & Wood: It’s a Jungle in Here
4. Sarah Harmer: You Were Here
5. The Avett Brothers: homemade mix from their five albums

6) What are some songs to which you have a particular emotional attachment? Wow, looking over this list I must say it’s quite embarrassing. It’s almost all from a certain narrow period of my life. Guess that’s when music really imprints.

Phish: “You Enjoy Myself,” Aug 20, 1993, Red Rocks Amphitheatre, Morrison, CO (hippie years anthem)
Sarah Harmer: “Open Window (The Wedding Song)” (this is “our song,” my wife and I)
Janes Addiction: “Mountain Song” (last year of high school, worlds opening up ahead)
Rage Against the Machine: “Killing in the Name” (otherwise known as the “fuck you I won’t do what you tell me” song, i.e., college)
Ice Cube: “When Will They Shoot?” (big when I first started going out club dancing)
Tribe Called Quest: “Buggin’ Out” (my introduction to the wide world of hip-hop)
Fatboy Slim: “Gangsta Trippin’” (introduction to wide world of breakbeat dance music)
Pearl Jam: “Yellow Ledbetter” (soundtrack to leaving behind my first true love to move out west at the end of college)
Tool: “Cold and Ugly”
Pinback: “Penelope” (when I was first dating my wife)
Whiskeytown: “Dancing with the Women at the Bar” (reminds me of getting drunk with my wife)
Medeski Martin & Wood: “Syeeda’s Song Flute” (the only bass solo that can make me cry with pleasure)
Josh Rouse: “Slaveship” (playing a ton when my wife was in the hospital having our first kid)
The Avett Brothers: “Salvation Song” (the first song both my kids sang along with)

7) How did you first get interested in music and how has your taste developed since then? First was my exposure to my dad’s vinyl collection — Frankie Vallie, “At the Hop” compilations, Elvis, The Beatles, The Beach Boys, The Kingston Trio, Simon & Garfunkel.

Next was the very first piece of music I owned as my own: Weird Al In 3-D (Weird Al was my first concert too!)

Then, via my older brother, a long love affair with really bad hair metal: GNR, White Lion, Dokken, Def Leppard, Bon Jovi

Then Janes Addiction kind of opened my mind to alternative stuff, then a college trip through Nirvana, Pearl Jam, Soundgarden, Tool, then over to hip-hop via Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, Pharcyde, then into electronic stuff via Fatboy Slim, Lemon Jelly, Chemical Brothers, Bentley’s Rhythm Ace. Post grad school, brought in alt-country in the form of Wilco, Whiskeytown, Freakwater, since then been all over the map with Sigur Ros, John Legend, Rilo Kiley, Postal Service, and all that latter-day indie stuff.

What has stayed constant is a love of Simon & Garfunkel stuff: singer-songwriter, good melody, good harmonies, singalong stuff. Last year I discovered the Avett Brothers and honestly, I feel like I’m done. That’s my band, the one that will accompany me into dotage.

8 ) What are some of your musical guilty pleasures? I’ve long since stopped being guilty about my guilty pleasures. I love cheeseball oldies from my youth like “Ice Ice Baby.” I love pop music. Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone” is one of the greatest songs of the last five years. Same with Britney Spears “Toxic.” I have a weakness for catchy music, and pop is the science of being catchy.

Also, I still bust out the old hair metal collection periodically. Metallica, Master of Puppets. GNR. Even Cinderella!

9) If you ran for President in 2008, what song would you have used as your campaign theme? Jenny Lewis: “The Next Messiah”

10) What is your opinion on downloading copyrighted material without paying for it? My opinion is that the record industry has its head up its ass.

And now, to the music!

Listen to an 8Tracks mix HERE or here:

1) The Microphones – Window
2) Hank Williams III – Trashville
3) Chet Atkins – Dizzy Strings
4) The Beach Boys – Don’t Go Near The Water
5) Ugly Casanova – Ice On The Sheets
6) Dawn Landes – Young Folks (Peter, Bjorn And John Cover)
7) Phil Ochs – Outside Of A Small Circle Of Friends
8 ) Jona Lewie – I Think I’ll Get My Hair Cut
9) Lizzy Mercier Descloux – Wawa
10) The Everly Brothers – Wake Up Little Susie
11) Evie Sands – Take Me For A Little While
12) Orlandivo – Tamanco No Samba
13) Phil Lee – Last Year
14) Terry Edwards And The Scapegoats – Girls & Boys (Blur Cover)
15) Bobby Russell – Saturday Morning Confusion
16) White Hassle – Health Food Store
17) Silver Apples – Program
18) Little Wings – Uh-Oh (It’s Morning Again)
19) Heypenny – Dooley
20) Edith Frost – Cars And Parties
21) Suburban Kids With Biblical Names – Rent A Wreck
22) Julian Cope – Paranormal In The West Country (Medley)

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