7 For Seven: Please, do not email Brian Eno
Fan emails, the superhero myth, mastering your niche, how to remember what you learn, emo Mario.
Brady Gerber’s “7 For Seven”: Seven links on writing and creativity in your inbox by 7 AM EST every Wednesday. Headphone Nation and ARTS & FARTS music reviews, too. Interviews with writers every 2nd and 4th Friday. Read on your browser.
It’s Wednesday morning. Oof.
Here are seven links to make your week more interesting:
1. Pro-total lockdown vs anti-any lockdown - who’s right? The answer: Germany.
(Shocking … a very complex situation can’t be handled by surface-level extremism, but rather by basic and thought-out direction and access to public health … )
Is there no answer? Of course there is. It lies not in the extreme ends of the debate, but in the tedious, complex business of basic public health. Lockdowns can work if they allow a properly run contact-tracing programme to take over.
(aka, when artists, rightfully, want to keep their distance from their fans. I appreciate Eno being honest yet thoughtful in his response to his fans when saying that he does NOT want to talk to them.)
Of course success has many nice payoffs, but one of the disadvantages is that you start to be made to feel responsible for other people's feelings.
3. Alan Moore gave a rare new interview, and I’m very into Alan “IDGAF” Moore.
(Especially when it comes to his below thoughts on superhero movies.)
Most people equate comics with superhero movies now. That adds another layer of difficulty for me. I haven’t seen a superhero movie since the first Tim Burton Batman film. They have blighted cinema, and also blighted culture to a degree. Several years ago I said I thought it was a really worrying sign, that hundreds of thousands of adults were queuing up to see characters that were created 50 years ago to entertain 12-year-old boys. That seemed to speak to some kind of longing to escape from the complexities of the modern world, and go back to a nostalgic, remembered childhood. That seemed dangerous, it was infantilizing the population.
(Speaking of superheroes, I still haven’t seen Amazon’s The Boys, yet this paragraph stood out to me from an analysis of the latest season: When it came to Superman, he was on to something. “Superman (with the big S on his uniform — we should, I suppose, be thankful that it is not an S.S.) needs an endless stream of ever new submen, criminals, and ‘foreign-looking’ people not only to justify his existence but even to make it possible,” wrote Wertham. He then posited a social bifurcation that the superhero genre might produce for impressionable children: “Either they fantasy themselves as supermen, with the attendant prejudices against the submen,” he wrote, “or it makes them submissive and receptive to the blandishments of strong men who will solve all their social problems for them — by force.”)
4. I’m a big fan of Philipp Temmel’s Creativerly newsletter, and he just did a great recent newsletter about what he learned from reaching 500 subscribers after two years.
(Philipp hits at a few key points that I also experienced from doing this newsletter. It took him 14 months to get his first 100 subscribers, yet once the ball started rolling, the subscribers started coming more consistent. And yes, it is better to be consistently good instead of great once. There’s also this advice below about becoming an expert in your own lane, which I often struggle with.)
If you want to be a curator of a specific niche you need to an expert of that niche. As a curator, you need to be active in different communities, show your presence, and filter everything that is going on.
(Here’s a fun video guide on how awesome the 808 can be … and how easy it is!)
(I mostly agree with learning by time, not goals; it sounds counterproductive, but from my experience, it works well.)
The most important thing is that my learning is time-based, not goal-based. Setting learning goals such as “read X pages today” is a way to fail because you set up the wrong incentives. When you plan to read X pages by lunch, you can’t help but begin optimizing for the goal, which leads to focusing on speed instead of understanding. And when you don’t have those “aha” moments, it is hard to remember what you learn.
7. And finally, emo Mario.
And so …
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Skalpel (Poland) These remixes feel like listening to piano covers of Aphex Twin. Very tender in that autumn way.
Danny Playamaqui (Barcelona, Spain) This song is ... a lot.
Loco Dice (Düsseldorf, Germany) It's that bottom line swirl that makes the top line melody stand out. Sneakily brilliant and mellow for early morning October electronica.
Dizzines Records Breakbeat (Cádiz, Spain) You enter the dancefloor mid-breakdown, and you … groooooooove. I’m excited to dig deeper into this label, and Peter Pux’s music as well.
Eklectik Lab's (Annecy, France) I guess I’m just going to wrap up an electronic-themed week with more glitches, right?
… we carry on …
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ARTS & FARTS
Van Halen - “Jump” (1984)
Eddie :( I love this song. More guitar players should look like they’re having fun. This music video is ridiculous. My guitar teacher growing up told me that Eddie was one of rock’s most underrated rhythm guitarists. “Jump” is a good example of his sense of timing with how and when he plucks each note.
Dawes - “Right On Time” (2015)
You know those bands that you love in college and are now embarrassed by? At least this song has held up.
Nine Inch Nails - “Letting Go While Holding On” (2020)
Strong Baths vibes here. Speaking of Baths, I still love this song.
The Housemartins - “Happy Hour” (1986)
What a wonderful Smiths ripoff. Fun fact: After The Housemartins broke up, the bass player, Norman Cook, traded guitars for electronic music and changed his name to Fatboy Slim.
Boards of Canada - “Roygbiv” (1998)
I recently finally had my “I get Boards of Canada” moment, after a few years of saying I liked the band because I felt like I had to. Music Has The Right To Children was always one of those records I knew was important and amazing, yet I hadn’t had a personal reckoning with it. Sometimes this comes with the territory of being a music critic: The job requires you to get out of your bias and comfort zone and seek out the noises that compel the people around you, too. If I only wanted to listen to music all day, I would just listen to guitar rock. Part of the job of music writing - the part I love - is that you’re putting yourself in these positions to open up your ears and mind to what music can be. That you and I can be compelled by different mutations of sound waves floating around and swimming in the air is so amazing to me. Anyway, like most people my age, I grew up with electronic music all around me and didn’t gravitate towards a “you either like X genre or Y genre” mentality that pretty much went away with the Internet. Still, for me, there was always an “eat your vegetables” quality to electronic music. There was always something to “get.” With love to all my friends, most electronic fans I knew were stuck up; there wasn’t any sense of joy or even humor with them. I still sometimes feel this way about Aphex Twin, who’s brilliant and important and made incredible music and changed electronic music forever and blah blah blah. Maybe it’s because Aphex Twin never made one truly great front-to-back album. (Selected Ambient Works 85-92 is one of popular music’s single great collections of songs, yet it very much feels like the greatest hits that it is, which sometimes throws me off as someone who still, perhaps stubbornly, sees the rock album as the personal standard to how I take in one’s music.) Music Has The Right To Children now fills that void. This probably has to do with the pandemic shifting my listening habits. I’m now more interested in putting on music that fills my room with some type of haze while I work and play from my room all day, instead of the peaks and valleys that accompany my work commute when I needed those kicks of energy and emotion to get me to where I was going. I love melodies so much, yet as I get older, I’ve adapted and grown my definition of what “melody” can be. “Roygbiv” is one of BoC’s more melodic tracks, but you get the point. For more on Boards of Canada, two years ago, Pitchfork did a great 20th-anniversary recap of why Music Has The Right To Children still matters.
Brady writes about music (and other things) and draws cartoons. You can find him in New York Magazine, Rolling Stone, Pitchfork, Interview Magazine, McSweeney’s, Electric Literature, Literary Hub, and more. Check out his website, where you’ll find his latest features and more ways to connect. Brady is a freelancer for hire who can do interviews, reporting, criticism, and playlists - get in touch if you need a writer.
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All cartoons by Brady Gerber. Headphone Nation logo by Sophie Wiener. 7 for Seven was made possible with the help of Simon Morrow, who also designed the ARTS & FARTS logos. Thank you, Sophie and Simon!