Writer’s Workshop

Writer’s Workshop: Aaron Kayce

After a successful and storied tenure (ten-year) establishing the editorial department at one of our most respected peers, JamBase, the site’s longtime, esteemed Editor-in-Chief, Aaron Kayce (aka Kayceman), recently announced his decision to step down from that position.

As everyone here at Hidden Track can attest, we’re saddened to see him leave JamBase, but meanwhile impressed by how long he managed such a stressful role. From coordinating the gigantic team of contributors and responding to hundreds of emails daily to scheduling a massive amount of content and somehow finding time to write, the task seems nothing short of monumental. Hence, we’re excited both for Kayceman to embark on the next phase of his writing career as well as to keep tabs on what’s next for JamBase.

Hidden Track: To the extent you feel comfortable talking about it; what led to your decision to part ways with JamBase after ten years?

Aaron Kayce: For starters, as you mentioned, I had been at JamBase for almost ten years. I built the editorial department from the ground up and I more or less had done all that I could there. Things change a great deal over the course of a decade and as my life and dreams evolved it became clear that I needed a new set of challenges. It was the right time for me to enter the next stage of my career.

HT: What did a day in the life as Editor-in-Chief of JamBase typically entail from start to finish?

AK: A lot of emailing and content creation. I had a very small editorial team, myself and the wonderful Dennis Cook, but we pumped out a ton of content. A lot went into making that happen and it wasn’t the same every day. But there were certainly some consistencies.

My day generally began by publishing fresh news on the site and scouring the web to be sure I wasn’t missing any breaking stories that would be pertinent to JamBase users. Then I’d be in touch with Dennis to be sure the schedule (show reviews, features etc) I set was still on track for the day. Sooner or later I’d have to start dealing with emails, of which I’d get between 100-200 a day from publicists, bands, writers, and photographers about various things.

READ ON for more of our Writer’s Workshop with Kayceman…

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Writer’s Workshop: Rob Harvilla, Village Voice

Looking back through the annals of rock journalism, just three publications carry the historical clout to be considered in the upper crust of music scribble: Rolling Stone, Creem, and the Village Voice. Rolling Stone, of course, wielded(s) the biggest brand name and Creem threw its weight behind being the badass on the block. The Village Voice on the other hand, while bohemian, paved its way relatively quietly with great writers, a careful focus on the written word, and of course, the best location.

When current shopkeep of the Voice’s storied music department, Rob Harvilla, took over for Chuck Eddy back in 2006 (shortly after the New Times bought the paper), he slid into a pair of rather large shoes. Not merely did he face filling the void left behind by the beloved Eddy, but also followed in a long line of Mohinder Surresh-caliber verbose superheroes like Greil Marcus and Robert Christgau. And perhaps most challenging, he came into the leadership fold right in the thick of the changeover between old and new media. In other words, Harvilla had his work cut out for him in carrying the the Village Voice’s high standard for musical credibility into the digital age. Fortunately for longtime Voice readers, he’s done a tremendous job and taken it all in stride.

Hidden Track: I read somewhere that you discovered your passion for music journalism while sitting in the waiting room at the dentist reading a Rolling Stone. Do you remember what article you read?

Rob Harvilla: Orthodontist, actually. Dr. Pfister. P-F. No specific article, but I can remember covers (first of my own subscription: Eddie Van Halen), specific features (Cosmic Thing B-52s), a few reviews (how can this guy not like They Might Be Giants?), etc. From that period I also remember that either Time or Newsweek did an Alternative Rock! cover story that broke the genre down into different categories and alleged that if I liked TMBG, I’d love Butthole Surfers, which remains to this day the single worst piece of advice I have ever received.

READ ON for more with Rob Harvilla of the Village Voice…

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Writer’s Workshop: Randy Ray

We’re not sure if everybody is aware, but looming here among us pesky wannabes here at Hidden Track is a true pro. Our very own Randy Ray has conducted over 100 interviews in his established tenure as a music journo, spanning a better majority of just about every established band in the jamband scene (and then some). Randy also contributes regularly to Relix, dreams up the awesomely named Peaches En Randalia column (or perhaps more accurately described; the flowing demiurgic locution of mayhem) at Jambands.com, and best of all, contributes the bi-weekly Hidden Flick column right here at HT.

Organized Chaos

Conducting this particular edition of the Writer’s Workshop has been an honest pleasure. Randy exhibits a truly unmatched dedication to this craft and this column reflects it (because of him, not me). In other words, read this shit. I think you’ll like it.

Ryan Dembinsky: If you had to take a crack at defining your writing style and approach to differentiating yourself, how would you sum it up?

Randy Ray: Organized Chaos (see above photo), which succeeds if I can plant unique visual imagery in a reader’s mind. When the writing fails, I am trying too hard. Style should be a four-letter word, Ryan! Let me attempt to quantify the intriguing madness that people may like about my work.

Everything returns to a circus theme with my writing, which is why I wrote three books about this somewhat childish yet timeless topic. Sometimes, I want the black and white words on a page to move like one is on a rollercoaster; sometimes, I want imagery to zoom by at random intervals like one is on a carousel; and then, sometimes, I’d like the portrait to resemble shattered pictures within a kaleidoscope. Sometimes, I haven’t a clue.

I like mystique, and I start off from an interesting point of origin, move towards clarity, and then return to that original point of mystery—hopefully, with some unique spin on things. I do my homework, and research my subjects. I also concentrate on the work, because the written word, after all, survives, so I keep that in mind with any project.

READ ON for more from Ryan and Randy about writing…

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Writer’s Workshop: Jesse Jarnow

If you ever wonder what sets apart the folks who successfully pave thier way through creative endeavors, Jesse Jarnow cut his teeth “beginning in 2nd grade, when he edited ‘2nd Grade News’ by writing it out longhand and Xeroxing it,” and worked on homemade ‘zines and school papers ever since.

His first published piece ran in John Dwork’s now defunct Grateful Dead fanzine, Dupree’s Diamond News, and his first regular gig began with the early days of jambands.com. Jesse Jarnow has now graced the pages (both pulp and processor) of Relix, Paste, the London Times, the Village Voice, the AP, Salon and many more. While it ain’t easy given his prolific output, you can try keep to up with his frenzied pace at the Frank and Earthy blog, his Frow Show radio program on WFMU or his Twitter feed. As longtime readers and fans, we’re excited to have Jesse at HT today to shed some light on the ins and outs on his life as a music scribe.

Ryan Dembinsky: More so than the vast majority of music critics out there, you seem to really strive to carefully construct your record reviews, no matter how long or short, often crafting elaborate sentences, including deep references and devising thoughtful comparisons. Could you walk us through the process of reviewing an album from start to finish?

Jesse Jarnow: Thanks! It’s a bit different each time, depending on how long before deadline I get a copy of what I’m reviewing. Ideally, it’s about a month. For albums I’m psyched about, I’ll first listen straight through on headphones. But, most new music I get goes into a thousand-or-so-song playlist that I run on shuffle most of the time. It’s a combination of everything I’ve gotten recently — music by new bands, random downloads, live stuff, outtakes, compilations, old stuff I’m just discovering… just, everything.

READ ON for more of our Writer’s Workshop with Jesse Jarnow…

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