Conor from San Diego Serenade sits down for a “get to know your blogger” feature here at Muzzle of Bees, and I couldn’t be happier. Talk about good answers! I hope you enjoy the following, and please join me in thanking Conor for his great answers and horrible links to kittens dressed up as other animals….
Let’s get some general background on you. Where do you live, how long, etc.
I live in San Diego, in a neighborhood called Pacific Beach. We live across the street from the beach and next to Ralphs, a grocery store. My record for going to Ralphs is four times in one day. I’ve lived in San Diego since fall 2003, and before that attended UVA and before that lived in Vienna, VA, home of the Vienna Inn and the Shouse Village Sharks.
I want get an idea of your musical taste evolution if you will. What were some of the first albums/tapes/CD’s you bought?
The first albums I ever obtained were given to me as gifts. First would probably be Billy Joel “Storm Front” which included every third graders inexplicable favorite song “We Didn’t Start the Fire.” I wrote and performed parody lyrics to “We Didn’t Start the Fire” at our third grade year end picnic. After that came “Please Hammer Don’t Hurt ‘em.” The first CDs that I ever purchased of my own accord were Nirvana “Nevermind” and Metallica “The Black album.” I bought Metallica in person, and ordered Nirvana from BMG. So I probably took steps to buy Nevermind first, but had Metallica in my possession before it arrived.
How about some of the more recent CD’s you’ve purchased?
I bought a CD by a band called Holiday & The Adventure Pop Collective after I saw them play at a local bar. I was in a friendly, “support the arts” kind of mood and their live show was pretty awesome. My mom just gave me a CD called West of the West by Dave Alvin who recorded a bunch of songs by different musicians that were born in California. On Itunes I bought a bluegrass version of Hail To The Redskins the day that they lost to the Seahawks in the playoffs this season and a version of “Honky Tonk Woman” by Humble Pie that I heard on XM and had to have.
Do you support a particular record store in your area, buy online, and if so, where?
I don’t. To me, the quality neighborhood record store is kind of like appreciating Jazz or liking sushi. All are things that, in theory, I wish were part of my life. Appreciating a nice Jazz piece, or wanting to try the Super Spicy Octopus roll are things that I would love to be able to do, but accept that that sort of appreciation in practicality is either boring or disgusting. A good local record store I see the same way. Sure, it would be nice to have a place where you can go and trust the clerks for recommendations, and walk out with a band you’ve never heard of, all while meeting new people and discovering something new about yourself. But I have bought into this “internet” thing pretty hard, and believe that will be where I get my music recommendations, samples, news, rumors, all that sort of stuff. Especially since now you have access to the same or better sources that previously were closely guarded by the elitist music store clerks.
When I started listening to music, there were certain musicians that led me in the path of a lot of other bands. Did you have any similar experiences with bands growing up?
It’s hard to really map out paths of music. I would say that friends of mine influenced my listening more than a certain artist opening up doors that I never knew existed. Sometimes when I find an artist that I like and try to listen to the recommended artists that in theory “go along” with that artist, I’m severely disappointed. An example of this would be listening to everyone that is described as being like Neutral Milk Hotel. That’s how someone sold the Decemberists to me. What a vulgar, offensive, horseshit comparison. That’s like in Friday where Smokey gets told the blind date he’s set up with looks like Janet Jackson and ends up looking like Freddie Jackson.
But one example that sticks out in my mind is how the Wu-Tang Clan turned me around to rap. In the ninth grade I borrowed a dubbed tape of 36 Chambers from a guy who was borrowing it from someone else. I didn’t like what I thought I knew about rap at that point in time, but I found myself strangely transfixed by this tape, which I listened to over and over again, A) what the hell was going on, B) what movies those kung fu samples came from, C) who each voice belonged to and D) was this RZA guy the same person as the GZA? That made me want to seek out more rap, which I learned was not just vulgar, mysoginistic, violent music. It was vulgar, mysoginistic, violent music with cool nicknames that lets you debate which of your friends equates to which member of the Wu.
What are some of your favorite records of all time?
Velvet Underground “Loaded”, Paul Simon “Paul Simon”, Snoop Dogg “Doggystyle”, Bob Dylan “Blood on the Tracks”, Neutral Milk Hotel “In the Aeroplane Over The Sea”. Those are five in no particular order. My favorite albums are ones that I pretty much can’t/don’t listen to anymore because there have been times when I’ve just overloaded on them. But as opposed to the forgettable albums and songs that you overdose on and never return to again, the rare times I’ll put one of these on is like pouring through an old photo album in terms of the memories and feelings they bring up. Knowing every stitch of them inside and out (except for “Oh Comely” And “Rosemary, Lily and the Jack of Hearts” which I always skip over) can only be a result of listening to each of these for what would definitely amount to a solid week each if you put each listening period back to back
Any idea how many albums are in your collection?
I pretty much run everything through Itunes, so here’s what Itunes has to say: 1238 Artists, 2247 Albums, 28,814 Songs and 82 Days, 9 Hours, 23 Minutes and 15 seconds of playing time. I also remember distinctly when I was forced by multiple BMG membershps to upgrade to the unwieldy double wide 48 CD CaseLogic case.
If you could spend time with 3 musicians, who would you choose?
I’d say Bob Dylan. I don’t imagine he’d be that fun, but I’ve listened to him so much, at so many different historical moments in my life, that I’d like to do it nevertheless. I’ve had two dreams where I’ve hung with him, and they’ve both been really wierd, but strangely normal encounters. I’d also say Tom Waits, since he seems like far more of an entertaining person and gregarious personality. I’d just like to listen to his stories all night, even though I think I remember reading that he doesn’t drink anymore. Third is a definite drop off from the top two, but I’ll pick Snoop in terms of how much fun it would be to just roll around town with him all night long. I don’t see how that could conceivably be anything other than the greatest night possible.
I’m sure you’ve seen some great concerts. Can you tell me what the first concert you saw was and when? To follow that up, are there any particular shows that stand out in terms of being favorites?
The first concert I saw was Green Day at the Patriot Center in 1994. This was 8th grade, and it was the big time. I got separated from the friend I went with, Edward Patterson, during the opening gay punk band “Pansy Division.” I spent the whole time in “The Pit.” I “Crowd surfed.” I wore the shirt to school the next day, as did at least a dozen other kids. It was awesome. What made it more awesome was that I had gotten detention twice in the month leading up to the concert, both times in Mrs. Hudson’s gym class, and my parents said if I got one more detention I couldn’t go, so the whole concert had a sort of forbidden, “could be snatched away at any minute” feel to it.
I have seen some great shows. Radiohead in Montreal. Bob Dylan & Paul Simon. Arcade Fire at the Casbah. Bruce Springsteen earlier this week at the Greek. Probably the fondest and most unique memory I have though was the Tibetan Freedom Concert in ’98 at RFK Stadium. A guy got us backstage passes, and I ended up chasing Mike D of the Beastie Boys down after they had just performed so I could shake his hand. I said “Can I tell my friends I shook your hand?” He sort of frowned and said “You don’t actually have to shake my hand, you can just tell them you did.” I said: “I don’t want to lie to them man!” Then he briskly shook my hand and walked off. If you read the messages I wrote in peoples yearbooks that year, pretty much 90% of them deal with Mike D and how awesome it was when I shook his hand.
What are some bands that you haven’t gotten the chance to see live, but would really like to?
Definitely Tom Waits. He needs to get his act together and play some damn shows. Brian Wilson doing Smile would have been cool. And probaby Guns N’ Roses. I went to the show in Philly on the first ill-fated Chinese Democracy tour, which I believe was the last or second to last show before the tour got cancelled. It was pretty nuts, a borderline riot. People ripping chairs up, storming around angry, lighting a few fires, full riot gear police. It was kind of what you sort of hope happens at a GNR concert, because it is a good story, but it was scarier than you’d think. I’d like to see them actually perform at some point in time.
How did you choose the name of your blog?
When I decided to start a blog, I knew picking a name was the kind of thing that could take forever if you really thought about it, so I just did it really quickly. San Diego Serenade is a song by Tom Waits off of “The Heart of Saturday Night.” It doesn’t mention the city by name, but is one of the few songs related to the city in some degree, and certainly one of the few by an artist who I really like. As a bonus, the domain name was available. Sometimes I wish I had taken a bit more time to come up with the name, becuase San Diego Serenade seems kind of wussy at times. But as I said, I usually spend more time coming up with an answer to being asked “You want fries with that?” than I did kicking around names for my blog.
The possibilities for a new blog names are endless and ridiculous: “Pianos filled with flames.” “Sparks that ring” “A little boy in Spain” (used ironically or by an actual male blogging from Spain.) And all those are just from one song
Can you tell me what got you into blogging, and are you surprised by the popularity your blog has attained?
On February 7th, 2006, at 11:44 AM, my friend Richard sent me this brief email: “Is there a good SD music blog? Why don¹t you do that?”
I wrote back: “I was just thinking that. i dont know if there is one, I’ll look at it. I dont know if i have it in me though. reporting on just minutae (sic) about fucking everyone coming to town. i guess i could give it a shot though.”
As you can tell I was enthusiastic about the suggestion. But give it a shot I did. I think I registered the domain name later that day. I didn’t tell anyone about it for a while, I just sort of let it build on its own. The RBI Baseball ’86 World Series video made it a secret no longer, and is probably responsible for how most people came across it. I’ve been able to maintain a fraction of that ridiculous traffic, and am happy to have done so. I guess you could say I’m surprised. I pretty much just write about stuff I like, in manner that I enjoy. When it overlaps with the interests of other people, I think that’s great. When it conflicts with other peoples interests and tastes, those people are morons.
What are some of your favorite blogs? Music or otherwise.
I like reading Muzzle of Bees because even though I’ve never met you, you’re my friends friend so I feel like we’re on the same page. I like reading Brooklyn Vegan because my friend dates him and so I’ve met him a few times. I like reading Aquarium Drunkard because he posts good music, and he was one of the first blogs someone pointed out to me so I got in the habit of checking him out. I read Pitchfork, but I don’t really read it as much as skim it for interesting sounding news or artists that I might like. I rely on the Hype Machine a great deal to show me what people are excited about. I rely on other peoples blogs and blog rolls to point out some of the best stuff that is going on. Like I say below, I love all the information that is available, but at times it can overwhelm me. When you find yourself reading about music on blogs more than you actually listen to music, your priorities are out of wack, and I feel like that can happen rather easily.
Non music wise I like Boing Boing. I think that stuff they post about copyright, DRM, the Electronic Frontiers Foundation is all very interesting. So much stuff has changed and is going to change further because of the internet, such as music, movies, media, software, information, and I find the resistance to it on behalf of major corporations to be almost as interesting as the changes themselves.
How important do you think music blogs are in general? Do you think they will continue to be as popular as they are today?
I think that they are important and that they will get more important. When one person can gain an audience for his opinions about music, that is never a bad thing. Consolidation of outlets to hear about new artists is the direction that other forms of media have gone in, and blogs are the exact opposite. The community of music bloggers seems like a welcoming and encouraging one, thankfully not as elitist as one would fear.
However, I think it’s important to keep things in perspective in terms of the influence of blogs. I have a few main fears for the future of music blogs:
1. Readership often depends on access to music. It’s no secret that a large part of the attraction for anyone reading a music blog is the free music provided. It’s easy to go to a blog, skirt over or ignore anything written, and download all the posted content. Many artists support blogs and give their mp3s out freely to them, but I feel like the up-front nature of blogs, with their easily identifiable owners, is still in its pre-napster phase. There’s no way to tell how or if this is going to change, but when it does it will be bad. Part of what makes something like the Summer Songs series on Muzzle of Bees great is that you can listen to the song while you read someones description of it. If that were taken away from a blog, you would have substantially less interest I imagine.
2. The torrential pace at which things move. New content attracts readers, obviously. But I don’t like the frenetic pace at which artists come and go through the blogs. To me, having constant recommendations for artists, songs, albums, concerts, can sometimes amount to a Boy Who Cried Wolf scenario, as in, if everything is heartily recommended by a blog, how do we know when they are REALLY heartily recommending something, like seriously this time? Like what is that Beirut guy up to these days? Was that his moment in the sun? Are people still talking about him? I think part of what makes music fun is anticipation and permanence, and blogs, and the internet as a whole, have chipped away at both of these two things.
Let’s get away from music for a bit. What are some of your favorite movies and television shows?
Movies – Field of Dreams, Rushmore, Dirty Work, Disney’s Robin Hood, Dazed & Confused, The Stoned Age, The Queens of Comedy, The Natural, The Royal Tenenbaums, Akira, It’s a Wonderful Life. All are tremendous movies worth watching over and over again. If the Stoned Age doesn’t sit well with you the first time, that’s understandable. Its production values are a major obstacle to overcome, yet repeated viewings of it reveal it’s brilliance like the tough outer layers of an artichoke giving way to the sweet, sweet heart. Derek, if you’re reading this, I want my copy of it back.
I believe that the worst movie of all time is The Deer Hunter. It is mind numbing.
TV – The Simpsons, Seinfeld, Family Guy, The Daily Show, The Wonder Years, The Shield, Lost. No real surprises here. As dedicated as I was to the Simpsons for the majority of my life (I got our third grade mock city to adopt the “Bart” as our unit of currency), and as religiously as I watch it now, the show is a sad shell of its golden years. The Wonder Years is as good as you remember it (read: Winnie Cooper is as hot as you remember her.) And I recently watched both Seasons of Lost, 45 episodes in under ten days.
Outside of music do you have any other interests or projects?
Yes indeed. I play bass guitar for a band, Re-Ree, that I’ve been in since 8th Grade. We get in one show a year, if we’re lucky. One time our drummers dad, after hearing us rehearse a particularly vulgar song, told us “There’s a line…and Re-Ree is just way, way over that line.” I also write a comic strip, Permanent Tanooki that is published on the internet. I wrote that for three years during college and just started it up again recently. I also am heavily involved in the High Five community, and champion the holiday I co-founded, National High Five Day every April. I root for the Nationals and pray for the Mets to lose.
A lot of people have a favorite concert t-shirt, do you have one?
I stopped buying the concert shirts early on in my concert going career. I’d rather make my own t-shirts. However, I purchased shirts from the first two concerts I went to, and still have and wear both of them. They are both from 1994, one is a black Green Day “Dookie Tour ’94″ shirt, and the other is an off white Hootie and the Blowfish shirt.
In your opinion, what’s the best place to eat on your city?
The place I go to most often is the Liar’s Club, in Mission Beach. Great varieties of beer on tap, delicious bar-style food, good jukebox, and on the rare occasions they have live music, and awesome place to see a band. That’s pretty much my go to place that friends are undoubtedly tired of me suggesting. Also delicious is Phil’s Bar B Q in Mission Hills. I first discovered it when we were going to a nearby fancy restaurant. I could smell the BBQ aroma from two blocks away, and intensely regretted that we weren’t going there. It was like driving past DisneyLand on the way to The Museum of Macrame. As far as nicer places go, you can’t go wrong with Kemo Sabe in Hillcrest. My family was blown away when we took them there. Unique dishes, awesome deserts, and I never thought I’d say this about a restaurant, but the presentation of the food is ridiculously cool. You definitely crane your neck to see what other people have ordered when it arrives.
Animals dressed as humans. Funny or not?
1. Animals dressed as other animals.
2. Animals dressed as people, especially specific subsets/professions of people, such as detectives, ballerinas or monacle sporting tycoons/barons.
3. (A distant third) People dressed as animals. However, depending on how shitty the costume is the funniness can vary greatly. The only time this surpasses #2 is when the person dressed as an animal is being harassed and abused by children. The only time it surpasses #1 is when blows or projectiles to the crotch are involved. As a man of refined tastes, I find myself thinking about these scenarios quite a bit.
Now that I think about it, “A Man Of Refined Tastes” would have been a great name for my blog…