Friday, January 23, 2015

Zack to the Future

A question I am asked regularly – though not as regularly as "Who are you again?" – is "When will you be bringing back Radio Free Hipster?"

For a long time my response was simply a shrug of the shoulders. However, over the last few days things have changed.

Pics or it didn't happen.
It all started with a Patreon.

Wait, no; that's a lie. It all started with GeekDad's unceremonious split from Wired, but that's a tale best told by our own Ken Denmead. Suffice it to say that the GeekDad crew has been keeping that boat afloat by none but the sweat of our collective brow since we went indie.

We've at last reached a point where we may finally be able to really move the blog forward, but, as is often the case, that's a solution that will ultimately require a little scratch… thus the Patreon. When it launched, it was about moving away from the Google Ads that help us keep the lights one – they're a necessary evil that we're not at all crazy about – but it quickly became apparent that it was really be about maximizing content.

The idea of creating a proper Geekdad Podcast Network was broached, which served to remind me that maybe I did a podcast or somethin' one time.

I mentioned that, should funding of the GPN prove successful, I was considering re-launching a music podcast via Twitter, and some people responded. Shortly thereafter it became its own Milestone Goal.

Since that time a number of you have mentioned to me that you'd love to have RFH back. (And folks like my friends Matt and Larry have been expressing the same opinion totally unsolicited since I shuttered the project.) Hell, even artists that I enjoy and admire like The Doubleclicks and Marc with a C have been willing to help fund my return to the mic.

Artist's rendering of out present business plan.
Presently the pledge value is creeping slowly upward, and it looks like podcasting may indeed be in my future. Now, I can't say for sure that this means I'll approach it as a continuation of Radio Free Hipster – mostly because so much has changed both for me and for nerd-centric media in recent years – but it will be me curating a hand-picked selection of music on each and every episode. And that at least seems to be something that a few people are interested in.

Maybe you don't think you should have to pay me to podcast (and, truth be told, I agree), but that's not what this is. Basically GeekDad's editorial team, of which I'm a member, is just trying to get away from having to constantly chase down sponsorships or run in-line ads to keep our blog alive, and by allowing our readers to help out alleviating that financial burden we're freeing ourselves up to get back into the business of making the most kickass content we can.

In conclusion, I just want to thank everyone for their kind and encouraging words – both past and present – regarding me and Hipster, please! and Radio Free Hipster and GeekDad. With any luck, we'll be speaking again soon.

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Radio Free Hipster Special Edition: Once More, With Feelings (2013 Parsec Awards Sampler)

So I was nominated for a Parsec Award for Best Speculative Fiction Music Podcast! Again!

I'm not sure who keeps tossing my name into that hat, but, given my small but dedicated following, I certainly have some ideas. The thing is, no matter who did it – or, for that matter, why – I'd just like to say thank you. It was a dash of good news that came along when I needed it most.

Download Radio Free Hipster Special Edition: Once More, With Feelings (2013 Parsec Awards Sampler) Size: 14.3 MB Running Time: 10:29

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah  "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
It always feels weird to find myself talking over this.

Track 1: Wordburglar – "Fred Broca"
From RFH ep. 143, 10/26/12. I didn't do my usual year-end round-up back in 2012, but this was easily one of my favorite songs from that year.

Track 2: Andrew Allen – "Star Trek: The Next Generation"
From RFH ep. 139, 8/31/12. I ain't exactly a jazz cat, but Andrew's key-heavy Star Trek tribute instantly charmed me.

Track 3: Dethlehem  "Circle of Deth"
From RFH ep. 134, 6/15/12. Dethlehem? Them's my boys!

For those of you keeping score at home, I've won two of the four Parsecs thus far awarded in this category. Would I love a third? Sure, but – as cliché as it sounds – just being nominated, especially as the RFH project has sort of run its course, is truly an honor.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 147: The Living Bookend

It's hard to live here in modern America and not think about political divisions. Shit, it's practically all we think about.

At the core I believe the real difference comes down to two simple ideologies; those at the farthest point to the left want everything to change, while those at the farthest on the right want nothing to change. And while I lean more toward the former with regard to actual socio-political philosophy, I can be pretty damn right-wing when it comes to my own life—almost staggeringly inflexible.

I am content to do the same things in the same ways not just because it helps to dull my perpetual anxiety, but also because it's easy. Sadly, things seldom stay easy.

Right now things are especially not-easy, so I'm stepping away from some projects for a while. Hopefully just a short while more, mind you, but the podcast—at least as I left it last year—seemed particularly… unfinished.

So let's just call this a better end point, temporary as it may be.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 147: The Living Bookend [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 83.9 MB Running Time: 58:45 Subscribe to RFH

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
Not everyone can say they have a Beefy/Spellah-penned theme song.

Track 1: Adam WarRock – "GRWN UP KDS"
I've been bumping this track since the week before the EP actually dropped. Continually.

Z's 1st interlude: "Great big adolescents."
Which is, I should point out, not the name of my Adolescents tribute band.

Track 2: The 88 – "At Least I Was Here"
I started to play the full version, but this truncated cut seemed more impactful.

Track 3: Marcus Coronel – "Bacon Pancakes vs. Empire State of Mind"
For this one I specifically played the full version. Because bacon pancakes.

Track 4: R_Garcia – "Indifferent Times"
Definitely check out No Holds Bard. Garcia always manages to impress, but this one is especially engaging.

Track 5: Illbotz – "Michael McDonald's Crunk Classics (skit)"
If my life is gonna be a Michael McDonald song it's damn well gonna be one sung by Big Perm.

Track 6: Stenobot – "Welcome Home"
I dream of an R_Garcia/Stenobot collab. It would surely be a chip-rock masterpiece.

Track 7: Reel Big Fish – "Ask"
A last-minute addition to the play list, but one I'm definitely happy I included.

Track 8: Anchorman dialog / The Police vs. Jungle Brothers – "Lonely Jungle Brothers"
Call this one a throwback to the earlier days of the 'cast.

Track 9: Dual Core – "Staring at the Last Star"
Don't give me none of that "all the feels" shit; admit that this song made you cry!

Z's 2nd interlude: "Another gorgeous composition."
I never got around to reviewing All the Things, even though I rightly should have. Suffice it to say it's excellent, and you oughta own it.

Track 10: The Grammar Club – "Phonin' It In"
I actually pushed this show back a bit so as not to step on Bioavailable's release date. Didn't wanna let this track slip out before you could actually make it your own.

Track 11: DJ Earworm – "United States of Pop 2012"
This one should have been a part of my year-end podcast, which sadly never happened.

Track 12: Psycosis – "United States of Clop 2012"
See above.

Track 13: melodysheep – "Secret of the Stars"
Neil deGrasse goddamn Tyson.

Track 14: Marc with a C – "Daddy, Make the Sun Come Out"
Marc's Popular Music does some strange and wonderful things, but this track is a personal favorite.

Z's final interlude: "The best thing, the strongest thing about this community—about this culture—is you."
File under: Cheesy But True.

Track 15: Optimus Rhyme – "Daryl Hannah"
"How will you feel with an expiration date?"

Before this goes any further I'd just like to thank you all for your kind words and support over the past few weeks. They've meant a lot. More than you could know.

Now as for what happens around here, well, that's still being discussed. It seems that, while my need for some time off was understood and unanimously supported, my plan to let the land go fallow was, well, less so. I've had a number of allies inquire about minding the blog while I see to moving and whatnot, and even some parties interested in keeping the podcast going in my stead.

And I like that idea. I like it a lot.

Monday, February 25, 2013

Pining for the Fjords

"I know a dead parrot when I see one!"
How does one, as a blogger/podcaster, tell the world that he's taking a break from blogging/podcasting? I mean without writing a blog post or making a podcast about it?

Such is the dilemma with which I've been wrestling for the past two months. In the meantime I've been doing very little to get the word out regarding where the hell I am and what I'm doing.

Which I reckon is an answer in itself.

In that time I've slept on a number of amazing moments in geeky music, from another Vocalist/Producer Challenge to Frontalot hitting basic cable to a sweet new Dual Core video to Nursehella's second coming to, Christ, probably a cool half-dozen new EPs from Adam WarRock. I've let it all pass by unremarked upon, internet. Because I'm tired—oh so tired!

It wasn't until a friend asked if I had closed up shop here at Hipster, please! that I began to consider my answer to a question that, it turns out, was being asked by more than a few of you. Up until that point I thought that the project was merely resting. Like the Norwegian Blue.

Pithy Python references aside, I'm still not sure what's to become of Hipster, please! and Radio Free Hipster. I only know that I, as the proprietor, have wearied with age and circumstance.

I am currently stretched thin emotionally, financially and, given the toll it's obviously taken on my output, creatively. I'm finding my way into a new life that may or may not include this as a part of it. My gut instinct is to bookend things, to wrap up the podcast—which has really become the focus in recent years—for the sake of closure.

The thing is as much as I consider this site a pet project, a one man show, it's not. There have been, since the earliest days, folks behind the scenes providing art assets and story scoops and moral support and pretty much propping me up at every turn. And just because their names aren't beside the posts doesn't mean they don't have a stake in this too.

The site itself is in dire need of some housekeeping, a redesign and, y'know, regular content, and it's not something I can do myself right now. Whether that means I let things ride while I attempt to get my shit together, write the whole thing off as another faded internet relic or bring in some help to run the store remains to be seen. But whatever the outcome I simply wanted to take a moment to say how very much I've enjoyed the experience, and that I genuinely hope to have the luxury of enjoying it again in the not-too-distant future.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Radio Free Hipster Ep. 146: Larry, Did You Know?

Season's greetings, faithful listeners. Apologies for delaying this particular episode, but things have been… complicated.

Unlike the Halloween eps, which I see as a treat, these Christmas shows always strike me as a bit of an obligation. But that being said, this one is probably the best I've done so far.

I hope you dig it, and I further hope it helps you through this most joyous season. Which always seems to come bundled with its own unique complications.

Download Radio Free Hipster Ep. 146: Larry, Did You Know? [hosting provided by Antisoc] Size: 65.6 MB Running Time: 45:07 Subscribe to RFH

Show Notes:

Intro: Baddd Spellah – "Radio Free Hipster Theme (feat. Beefy)"
I probably should've looped a jingle bell sample behind this one, right? That's the poor man's holiday podcast theme.

Track 1: MisCast – "Christmas Don't Be Late"
Jay shared this cut with me early, and I marked it as this show's opener weeks ago.

Z's 1st interlude: "We say 'the holiday season' around here."
Because, y'know, of all the holidays

Track 2: Chaz Kangas – "A JCVD X-mas"
Nothing says the Christmas quite like Jean-Claude Van Damme.

Track 3: Doctor Octoroc – "Super Jingle Bros."
Doc's 8 Bit Jesus is a holiday classic.

Track 4: Uncle Monsterface – "Jingle Bells"
This one is a favorite of my four-year-old.

Track 5: TXL and dj BC – "Rock the Jingle Bells"
A holiday hip-hop track like no other.

Track 6: The Doubleclicks – "Happy Holidays, Too"
My thoughts are with all you poor bastards currently suffering through the hazards of air travel.

Track 7: DJ Flack – "O Chanukah Dubstep Bassline Remix"
Happy belated Chanukah, guys and gals!

Track 8: Paul and Storm – "Backward Santa"
P&S as TMBG.

Track 9: Helen Arney – "Christmas 1994"
In the Dark Ages before DVR.

Track 10: dj BC – "8-Bit Hip-Hop Christmas (Black EL vs Bit Shifter)"
Another inspired dj BC cut.

Z's 2nd interlude: "Let's keep the holiday mash-ups coming."
If you don't already have Santastic 7 in your collection your yuletide playlist is sorely lacking.

Track 11: lobsterdust – "Sister Christmas (Silent Night Ranger vs. The Temptations)"
Pretty much the best title ever.

Track 12: 8 Bit Weapon & ComputeHer – "God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen"
'Tis the season for vocoder.

Track 13: Mega Ran – "'Twas the Night Before Christmas"
This one runs a little long, but it just felt right in the show.

Track 14: John Anealio – "Winter Day"
Probably one of my favorite Anealio tracks. Not as Christmassy as the rest of the EP, but so beautifully textured.

Z's final interlude: "At month's end for 2012's last hurrah."
I already have some quality tracks lined up for this one.

Track 15: Kirby Krackle – "Baby it's Cold Outside (Hoth Version) feat. The Doubleclicks"
Fact: The Doubleclicks make everything more awesomerer.

I ain't gonna lie to you, guys; I have likely never felt less like dispensing seasonal pleasantries in my life. But any way you slice it this is the season of giving, and the least I can do is give y'all some tunes to help you through your own holiday hassles.

With that in mind, I'd like to point out that the name of this episode – while continuing my tradition of bad jokes – references my good friend Datavortex. We've been homies online and off for a long time now, and he and the Missus recently sent me a gift that once again helped me level up my podcasting rig.

Happy Crimbo, Larry!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Hoth Isn't Very Nice

"Baby It's Cold Outside," Frank Loesser's weirdly catchy, oddly date rape-y seasonal standard, has taken on new life in recent years. From Glee to Zooey Deschanel that song is everywhere you may-or-may-not want to be. (And I ain't here to judge.)

This week, however, Kirby Krackle—along with a helpful assist from The Doubleclicks—has transformed the track into a tale of two willing participants. Oh, and also they put it in the Star Wars universe.

I reckon that part's important too.

Wednesday, December 05, 2012

There and Back Again

While we're not exactly having sleepovers and braiding each other's hair—Though god knows I keep suggesting it!—Adam WarRock and I talk fairly regularly. Our communiqués generally concern what he's writing and how an individual recording (or broader project) is coming together. Or, y'know, clothes. But the primary topic of discussion often turns to where Adam is and where he's going.

And I mean that literally.

Eugene Ahn is, like Ricky Nelson before him, a travelin' man. Like Lisa Stansfield he has been around the world. (Though I reckon the very important distinction is that finding his baby was not the primary motivation.)

Adam WarRock has spent nearly two years on the road touring, recording, writing, creating, growing. But now he's back home in Memphis, and in true WarRock fashion he has turned that homecoming itself into a creative endeavor!


Alright, Euge, let's go back in time a few of months. We're standing in the parking lot of the Milestone, and you're telling me about a new project you're working on.

Ahhh, the Milestone. I can smell the bathrooms now. That was the NOFRIENDS tour, right?

Exactly. And you were telling me how this new project is your Mid-South EP. It's your tribute to Memphis, not to mention your exploration of the artist it's helped shape. Hip-hop is very geographic. Always has been, and it only got more so during your formative years of the 1990s. Why wait so long to rep your city?

Mostly, because I wasn't THERE. I grew up in Memphis, and moved back around early 2010 and then proceeded to tour fairly consistently for the next two years. I was just never home. My friends basically stopped knowing when I'd be home and when I'd be gone, so I'd just show up at the bar on Friday and it would be a surprise. I was pretty burnt out after a tour I did in May, and I ended up taking three-plus months off, just hanging out around the city, seeing friends, drinking, having fun. I got a chance to really fall back in love with the city, and know how much of its character became a part of the man I grew up to be. I started working on an EP after August or so, and it was pretty obvious I wanted to show this city some love.

City Beautiful was produced by Rob Viktum, and he brought a lot of bright, beautiful funk and soul to the beats. How did you two hook up?

He's friends with some of The Variants web series guys, and ended up DJing a live art event that I performed at. He kept spinning all this amazing old school and early 90s hip hop, all this indie stuff, and other than the live artists I was the only other music person there. I basically stood next to him and asked him to play random hip hop songs, and he obliged. He's had a pretty rich history with some of the bigger indie houses in the 2000s, but had been done with producing beats for a while. I basically egged him on to make me some beats, and he eventually obliged. The rest is history.

"THX" is your kick-off, and it makes for a really strong start. You name check everyone from Zulu Nation and the Cold Crush Brothers to MC Frontalot, and it almost sounds… cathartic in a way. Are you at peace with your position in contemporary hip-hop? Are you happy being a guy that sort of drifts between indie and nerdcore?

I don't know if it's cathartic, I think I tend to write chronologically when I talk about hip hop. So it just made sense to start the first song off this very "HIP HOP" album with a line about Bambaata, Cold Crush, and all those guys from pre-90's. Talk about Big Daddy Kane getting his slang and hooks stolen. And then kinda compare to how small and insular scenes nowadays have the same problems, though now it's not the Black Spades and Juice Crew, it's Internet message boards and social media and dumb things like that.

The Frontalot line was definitely an intentional shout-out to the fact that everyone seems to think I DON'T want to be nerdcore, or nerdy. I don't know why that is, and I have a healthy amount of respect for people who want to intentionally make nerdcore. I honestly just make music about whatever, without thinking about it. And if it's nerdy, so be it; if it's not, then that's fine with me too. But I love nerdcore. I love Frontalot and the nerdcore genre. People get way too bogged down in that distinction. I'm just happy to be making music, period. I just always want people to know that I know that nerdcore definitely gave me a name in the beginning. Hence the Front line, who most definitely still holds the crown in it. I mean, won't he always? He invented it.

"Rodin" almost hits a G-funk note there, musically...

Huh. I guess you're right, if there was a synth in there. I never thought of it like that.

Yeah, but lyrically you're still very much looking inward and trying to speak this universal truth about living your dreams. The lyric "for everyone who ever swallowed a dream" comes through as uniquely confessional; do you ever wonder what would have happened if you hadn't gotten stuck in a job you hated? To what extent does that experience still power your career?

I'm pretty sure if I was at all content with my job, I would've never gotten here, maybe never started making music again. So it's weird to think that the act of stifling the things you love makes you love them more; and then doing what you love for so long makes you love them less. That's probably a good way to put it. I'm probably over-thinking it. Which is a good way to describe "Rodin."

Each Adam WarRock release has a sort of musical mission statement, and the title track "City Beautiful" is definitely it this time around.

Well you know where that title's from? It's from the fact that Memphis's city beautification commission was the first one formed in the country, back in 1930. It was called, obviously, Memphis City Beautiful. It's a municipal history nerd in-joke.

It seems like a proper love letter to the city that made you. Did you find yourself re-exploring Memphis while you were recording this EP?

Maybe not while recording this EP, other than what happened organically just by having enough time home to have a proper social life. When we made the music video, however, we definitely did explore the holy hell out of the city.

You leaked "Get Smart" as an early single, and I can't say enough about how well you, Beefy, Jesse and Rob gel on that cut, but where did that core allusion come from? The extended reference to Maxwell Smart alongside a critique of lazy, dumbed-down culture was surprising effective.

Ha. It all kinda comes from the original idea me and Rob were going to do for an EP. I was going to name it "Noir," as a sort of shout out to Marvel Noir comics, but mostly because everything Rob was making sounded so…noir-y. When I heard the "Get Smart" beat, it reminded me of some kind of spy movie, and I just started goofing on the hook and that "rappers wanna get buck, I wanna get smart" line came out. Jesse was on it from the get-go, way back when we first were doing the Noir EP, and added that verse. We grabbed Beefy (who ironically got bumped from my Vampire Weekend EP, so I promised him a spot on the next EP) and he added that last verse months later. Those guys really murdered it. I pretty much put my verse down, and then got the hell out of the way.

You've got some solid guest spots on this one, but "CAPS LOCK" seems more like a full-on collaboration with YTCracker. Had you ever worked with Bryce before?

Me and Bryce have talked about doing some stuff, we have a song floating around out there that never materialized into something (hopefully will someday). Bryce is one of those core nerdcore guys that was nice to me from the start, and I always appreciated that about YT. I wanted him on the album for sure, and he sent that verse back in record time.

Okay, I'm still kinda scratching my head about "Oppenheimer."

Hahaha. Okay. Me too, to be completely honest.

How does a post-apocalyptic narrative fit in with the concept of Memphis and the evolution of Adam WarRock? Was it just a good excuse to drop in that sweet Ozymandias line? (Because I am totally alright with that.)

It's weird. I mostly knew I was going to do a track with Schaffer, and every time I start pitching ideas to Schaffer, they always seem to be about Armageddon or dying or something dark and ominous. He has that effect on me, I guess. I fell in love with the name "Oppenheimer," I mean it just LOOKS cool. And I pitched Schaffer and Tribe the idea of doing a song about being scientists that invented the atom bomb. Schaffer came back and asked if he could do it as a scientist who had no remorse, and directed Tribe to be the scientist who felt great regret. I view it as Schaffer being the devil on my shoulder and Tribe being the angel on my shoulder. Which in real life, is kind of accurate.

The EP starts to wind down with "Less Than 3."

Oh god. Here we go.

If "City Beautiful" is a love song to a place, this one is a love song in the traditional parlance. But at the same time it's... more self-aware, I think, than your average romantic fare. You acknowledge the transience of verse—strong feelings might change or fade, but the track itself will always stay the same, frozen in time in your catalog. How hard is it to pen a realistic love song? Isn't the very nature of art form sort of intentionally self-deceptive?

Not so much self-deceptive, but there's definitely an awareness of knowing that you're talking a big game for something that, at least by modern definitions, will most likely not last forever. I mean, isn't it over 50% of marriages end in divorce now? The idea of a one true love is something that we like to talk about, culturally, but none of us really believe it's real, even when you feel something that sort of approximates it, right? You could be totally in love with a girl (or guy) and in the moment think "I want to be with this person forever," but still in the back of your mind thinking "But that most likely won't happen." When you pen a love song, you're basically kinda throwing this thing out there that you know in a week, a month, or however long, it might be all completely untrue and kinda… painful to listen to. But you still gotta sell it as much as you can, or else there's no point in doing it.

Okay, what about that Alex Chilton bit? Are you a serious Big Star fan, or was that a meta-reference to The Replacements song of the same name, or was it simply a skillful namedrop of another of Memphis's native sons?

It's funny, I wasn't a huge Big Star fan until I LEFT Memphis sometime late in college or after it. I was willfully ignorant of anything that wasn't punk, hardcore, and hip hop, so Big Star was not really a concern of mine as a young kid full of piss and vinegar. And I think I found my way to Big Star BECAUSE of The Replacements song, "Alex Chilton," which is basically all about being in love with a song, which I guess has a nice cyclicality to the whole thing.

But really what that line is about: it's a reference to some other b-sides songs that I recorded before, lines written about a particular girl who loves Alex Chilton. Those songs never came out. So I scooped some lines out and put together a nice pastiche to end the track. Really only ONE person in the world will know where all of those are from. I told you it was a self-indulgent track.

Seeing as the work is so personal, it seems rather fitting that you close City Beautiful on a throw-back track to your seminal release. Did you give Rob any direction re: that "Silver Age" remix, or was that all him?

Nope. I basically sent him the a cappellas and said "Do whatever." He sent back the remix, and I asked him to scoop out the third verse spots so me and Tribe could try to do a new verse for fun. It was so boom bappy (I think we said it sounded like Jedi Mind Tricks, but in a good way), we wanted to add something really hip hoppy to it.

So where are we going from here, man? We've only got about three more weeks left in 2012. I reckon that gives you time for 8 or 9 more EPs and a full-length.

God, I don't know Z. I have a handful of ideas for mixtapes and EPs, and I've been working on my next album (tentatively titled Middle of Nowhere) for next spring or fall. But really, I wanted to take a long break from live shows, and mainly just kinda focus on making music for myself again. If that means making music about movies or TV shows, so be it, y'know? But whatever comes next, it'll be what I want to do. Hopefully everyone wants it too.