Tuesday, June 13, 2006
For all of the talk about Pitchfork Media's snarkiness, I'd have to say that Tiny Mix Tapes' news section has to be about 100x snarkier. It's also funnier than all hell, and Tiny Mix Tapes itself is one of the better and most respected music sites around, at least in my mind. I IMed with Minneapolis-based site co-founder Marvin Lin (AKA Mr. P) about a lot of stuff, though very little of it had to do with Tiny Mix Tapes itself. That's OK. Marvin's a great guy and filled with integrity (no ads at TMT!). We discussed race as a social construction, contextualism, being Asian, and killing a man. It just might be the most convoluted edition of IMing With The Stars yet! Enjoy!
Me: so Marvin
Me: have you been working on the night shift?
Me: not a day goes by that I don't reference the Commodores
Me: seriously, though, what do you do in your civilian job?
Marvin Lin: i sell commodities to weird obsessive types.
Me: commodities? are you a stock broker?
Marvin Lin: i wish! it's just records. just records.
Me: your language is too poetic for my feeble mind
Marvin Lin: man, i should write some poetry!!!!!
Me: yeah, I've always thought of you as a poet
Me: not really
Marvin Lin: haha, really? i'm actually far from it.
Marvin Lin: ok good
Me: did you found Tiny Mix Tapes
Me: or did someone else?
Marvin Lin: yeah, me and my friend nate started it.
Marvin Lin: his moniker was "robot". he barely wrote in the beginning and obviously doesn't write now
Me: is he still around?
Marvin Lin: but he's a great artist! does visual/performance art
Marvin Lin: he's in a band in chicago
Me: which band?
Me: plug time
Marvin Lin: you know, i don't even know if he's still in the band.... better not say anything
Marvin Lin: let's talk more about ME!!!!!!!!
Me: you're in some bands, right?
Marvin Lin: yeah... it's more like a collective of people 'musicking'
Marvin Lin: "doing music"
Marvin Lin: we have practice this saturday!
Me: I like the superfluous k
Me: what kind of stuff? Noise, right?
Marvin Lin: it stands for kinetic, cuz we have that sort of energy
Marvin Lin: (kididng)
Me: what kind of stuff do you guys play?
Marvin Lin: well, it's all improvised stuff. i like to think that's it's sorta comical and inclusive, elements that noise music lacks sometimes. it's definitely 'experiemental', but we don't avoid harmony and rhythm just so we can be called "noise" or whatever
Me: I feel like a lot of experimental stuff is actually boring and rather rote in its avoidance of melody and rhythm
Marvin Lin: we do a lot of vocal stuff. barking and the like. we do parodies of other genres of music sometimes, but mainly it's pretty discordant
Me: sounds good
Me: Are you taking the Twin Cities by storm?
Marvin Lin: yeah, i agree. i can appreciate the more adventurous stuff (drumm, nmperign, etc), but i think it's nice to have balance. or at least as a consumer, i feel it's nice too have balance
Me: what are you called?
Marvin Lin: haha, not really
Marvin Lin: we've been on hiatus for awhile, and are just now starting to get things going again
Me: I hear Tapes n Tapes aren't big in the Twin Cities either
Me: and they are from there
Marvin Lin: The Red Market.. but i'm starting an all-vocal project, soo i don't know what that'll be called.
Me: you should call it the Milky Throats
Marvin Lin: Jucas Lensen
Me: Is the music scene solid there?
Me: great name
Me: You can also rearrange my letters to spell Cajun Lenses
Me: Marvin Lin = ?
Marvin Lin: it's definitely varied here. we have the whole rhymesayers group (OBSESSIVE atmosphere fans), then there are noise acts (devillock), pop-punk (plastic constellations), and then happy stuff, like coach said not to, etc
Me: it's always been a ragged pop twon
Me: what with the Mats and everything
Marvin Lin: yeah, definitely
Me: how are the crowds?
Me: I bet winters are tough
Marvin Lin: winters are tought, but people still go out a lot
Marvin Lin: some shows are embarassingly small though
Me: hey...it happens here in Athens all the time and we're supposedly a music town
Me: but there are too many non-music bars to go to
Me: people are supportive of local stuff but out of town bands find Athens very tough
Me: so it's everywhere maybe
Marvin Lin: the non-local bands i've talked to also say it's hard to get booked in minneapolis
Marvin Lin: or st. paul
Me: hmmm...it's hard to get booked anywhere I feel like
Me: if you are from out of town
Marvin Lin: there are some decent bars that are open to f'ed up shows (like Turf Club and Big Vs), but the turnout is pretty hit-or-miss. even when Lightning Bolt came, it wasn't as packed as it should've been.
Marvin Lin: i guess i haven't been to a bigger show for awhile though.
Me: let's face it: people are stupid
Marvin Lin: have you ever killed a person before?
Marvin Lin: who? and why?
Me: just some guy on the street
Marvin Lin: asian?
Me: to get that natural high
Marvin Lin: :-(
Me: Um, just kidding!
Me: For the record, I am not a killer
Marvin Lin: so, what do you REALLY think of TMT?
Me: why are you said I didn't kill an Asian?
Me: because you are Asian?
Marvin Lin: i wish i wasn't
Me: and you want to thin the ranks to gain supremacy?
Marvin Lin: dude, yo'ure racist
Me: I'm from the South
Marvin Lin: i bet most people assume Mr P is white
Marvin Lin: that's awesome
Me: which means I am a racist
Me: seriously, do you ever have to deal with problems of the Model Minority
Marvin Lin: hahah, chadwicked, one of my tmt favorites, just took a visit to the south
Me: good times?
Marvin Lin: sorta yeah. everyone assumed at my civilian job that i was smart. until i fucked up everything due to ignorance
Me: I've heard that a lot
Marvin Lin: well, he sorta got hit w/ racism in the face (he's white, btw)
Me: especially among more recent Southeast/East Asian immigrants like Hmong and Laotians, etc.
Me: what happened to him?
Marvin Lin: we have a big hmong population in minneapolis
Marvin Lin: i probably shouldn't say. you'd have to interview him!
Marvin Lin: you should interview our whole staff
Marvin Lin: see how many are white
Me: For the record, I am not a racist
Marvin Lin: i'll be sure to post that as a tmt headliner
Me: I find the South to be fairly racist, but no less racist than what I've encountered in the Midwest or up North
Me: the problem is that it's really out in the open here
Marvin Lin: it's a different sort of racism, i think.
Me: well, maybe that's not a problem
Marvin Lin: yeah, definitely
Marvin Lin: many things are manifestations of racism, which is where the problem is
Me: but what I hate is when white people assume I'm racist because I'm white
Marvin Lin: you get that?
Marvin Lin: that's horrible
Me: I used to rent construction equipment and this guy said to me, when asking about a ditch witch trencher, said, "hell, I could hire a couple of niggers for that price"
Marvin Lin: i recently heard a contractor say "they nigger-rigged that son of a bitch!" (referring to a closet door)
Me: and a couple of guys made jokes about killing Mexican day workers
Marvin Lin: damn
Me: but then again, we actually have black people and Mexicans and stuff bumping elbows with white people
Me: I feel like we're hampered by "heritage" (a BS term) but we are well-equipped to make things better by sheer widespread poverty and proximity
Marvin Lin: people say "race doesn't exist, it's a social construction, etc"... but it definitley does exist in the sense that we talk about it and treat it as if it existed
Me: it does mean something
Marvin Lin: just like "music"
Marvin Lin: abstractions treated as something real
Me: I mean, I guess it is a social construction and it can be used as a mask for class issues, but it means something to most people, so those kind of debates are sorta moot
Me: music is just a sequemce of tones that we recognize as "music"
Marvin Lin: i always think of music as something people do, not something that IS
Me: that's interesting
Me: very utililitarian of you
Marvin Lin: i always bring up the fact that parts of africa don't even have an equivalent for the word "music"
Me: but 56 words for snow
Marvin Lin: it's so imbedded in their cultural practices that they don't need to name it. they just DO it
Me: so why do you DO TMT?
Me: because there is such a vast dearth of online indie rock coverage?
Marvin Lin: i think western language has a bias towards reifying things, turning things into objects so that it can be picked apart and analyzed. there's good and bad, of course. but it's easy for people to forget that music, espeically on CD or whatever, is dispalced 'musicking'
Marvin Lin: haha
Me: so you wanted to express your Western bias on music?
Me: pick it apart and analyze it
Marvin Lin: well, when i personally approach a review, i like to think of it as cultural critique. rather than saying an album is "good" or "bad" (just boring aesthetic judgments to me), i like to put it in a cultlural context and critique it as such
Me: a contextualist, eh?
Me: I like to look at things from the symptomatic level myself, but I often feel like there needs to be a little more time before I can make grand pronouncements about it
Me: I never read a new book for that reason
Me: I like to pick them up after the dust has settled and stuff
Marvin Lin: yeah, i see what you mean
Me: so maybe I'm an anti-contextualist?
Marvin Lin: it's hard for me to truly appreciate something if i don't understand it. which is why i need context. it's hard for me to go "blindly" into a new album without understanding where it's coming from
Me: so you would subscribe to auteur theory in film?
Me: that understanding a director's intent is important to understanding the work?
Me: and that the director's vision is sacrosanct?
Me: I go back and forth myself on that with music and film
Marvin Lin: it doesn't necessarily have to do anyting w/ the aritst or musician's intent
Marvin Lin: to me, that's superfluous. i'm talking more about a social, cultural, and political contest.
Marvin Lin: context
Me: what about pure entertainment value?
Me: Doesn't factor in?
Marvin Lin: when was the music made? why was it made? what cultural norms existed? which values in music were appreciated at the time? how is the music produced? how is it disseminated?
Marvin Lin: no, that's a huge factor i take into account. music is a very social thing.
Marvin Lin: i feel indie rock (as in, the indie rock genre that includes major label stuff) is pure entertainement for a lot of people
Marvin Lin: i prefer, however, not to listen to music as pure entertainment
Marvin Lin: not that i can't be entertained, but there are just too many things swimming in my head when i hear an album
Me: do you feel like the rise of bands like CYHSY and Tapes and Tapes and Wolf Parade and the Cloud Room, etc. (I dub the genre Pitchfork Rock) is a good thing?
Me: I like some of these bands but there isn't much in the way of deep artistry there
Me: When I worked in college radio from 1994-2002, guys like Tortoise and Will Oldham and Jim O'Rourke and Sea and Cake charted #1 and stuf
Marvin Lin: well, like everything, there's good and bad. those bands are all indepenedent musicians (on indie labels, but all distributed by majors nonetheless), so that's good in my opinion
Marvin Lin: yeah, i see what you're getting at
Me: but now those bands are marginal in indie rock consciousness
Me: and they were artists to me
Marvin Lin: there seems to be heavy emphasis lately on hooks and structure and happy tones
Me: that's great
Marvin Lin: usually those sounds turn me off
Marvin Lin: but i can see why it's so popular. it's so accessible and a lot of it is really harmless
Me: but, man, our big indie rock bands (and maybe I'm like grandpa here) used to be real thinkers, you know?
Me: and I don't think of Clap Your Hands Say Yeah! as thinkers, necessarily
Me: I mean, I love the Spinto Band and stuff, so don't get me wrong
Marvin Lin: yeah, i agree. i mean, personally, i of course favor o'rourke and sea and cake over the hyped bands of today. i really feel this emphasis on pop melody and structure is blurring the line between Indie Rock (as a genre) and indie rock as music that's indepednent from the Big Four (EMI, WEA, SonyBMG, Universal)
Marvin Lin: and i hate that.
Me: but put up today's indie popsters against the OTCs and Neutral Milk Hotels and there is no comparison
Marvin Lin: the hyped bands of today are derivative in my mind
Marvin Lin: but so are the noise acts i champion
Me: yeah, I hate the whole Maximum Rock and Roll the business is the music vibe
Marvin Lin: the difference is that these noise acts are producing sounds that are still political, whether over or not. to have a 1-minute song that's full of static is political in itself. pop writing to me seems like resignation
Me: I would respectfully disagree
Marvin Lin: (i mean to say "overt" not over)
Marvin Lin: (and i meant to say "meant" not mean)
Me: writing pop songs is standing in defiance of cynicism
Marvin Lin: are you talking pop as in, pop music with happy lyrics and happy chords?
Me: I find it fairly defiant
Me: like, screw it, I'm just gonna stand up here and be stupid
Marvin Lin: yeah, i see what you're saying. but is it defiant? or is it just happy? but i think you're on point though. it's too easy to say that it's a "resignation" like i said.
Me: let's just agree to hate each other
Marvin Lin: but i love you. you know htat
Me: I know
Me: our love will come crashing over the mountains like a tsunami