The Blogger Lowdown is a feature where we ask the good people who run our favorite, essential blogs to give some insight on themselves and their sites. There are some great resources for discovering all kinds of music on the interwebs and our hope is to introduce you to a few of these outlets and the people behind them.
As our dear readers well know, we here at Those Who Dig aren't pretentious lads that bog you down with buzz bands and overblown rants about the state of this and that. We certainly aren't the first music blog to write thoroughly only on music we really like and I'm positive we won't be the last. Lucky for us, there were excellent examples to follow. Many have fought and fallen laying the path for what a successful, knowledgable indie music blog should look like.
The guys behind Cleveland-based blog Citizen Dick are some of the survivors. Their "Pledge to You" is a testament to everything we love about the current blogging community and about being true fans of music. It's so damn good I wish I had written it myself. These guys love music as listeners first and we should all be appreciative of their overwhelming desire to share what they find in such straightforward, well-written prose. Citizen Kevin was nice enough to enlighten us on the history of his blog and reveal a little bit about himself.
How about a little backstory on yourself to start things off
Actually I’ve been an Ohio dude all of my life. I grew up in a suburb of Cincinnati, and then moved to Cleveland after graduating from Ohio University in 2002. Other than Athens, Ohio for a few years, I’ve toggled between Cleveland and Cincy for my entire life. I currently live just south of downtown Cleveland in an area named Tremont, known for its killer grub. If anyone reading this manages to wander into Cleveland, this is a great spot to hit.
When and how did Citizen Dick come to be?
The name Citizen Dick is an obvious reference to the fictitious band in the movie, Singles. There’s a line in the flick that says, ‘a compliment for us is a compliment for you.’ As we sat down to begin writing our blog, we discussed how frustrating it is that so many bands get bashed before they even start, due to less than savory reviews and unnecessary criticism. What I mean by unnecessary is that, at most, some of these bands we write about will sell a few thousand records. We disliked how whimsical and nasty some writers can be toward bands that, quite literally, haven’t even begun their careers yet. So, we figured Citizen Dick would be a great name for the blog. It’s an allusion, really, but also one that matches our vibe – we’re here only to write about things that we enjoy, and we’ll write well. If we dislike it, we simply ignore it. We think there could be a bit more of that going around. A compliment from us is definitely a compliment for you.
Do you have a day job/alter ego?
We have a kind of sporadic cast of four writers here, and certainly, we all have day jobs. In fact, most of us are involved in education. Dr. Citizen Justin is a PhD professor, soon-to-be Dr. Citizen Brian is a teacher, and I’m an English teacher; then there is the step-child Citizen James over in Brooklyn (if you find him, please let us know. We think he’s trapped on the Lower East Side in a saloon somewhere). Between all of the writers here, we’ve got 11 degrees, so whenever possible, we try to turn those degrees into financial gain. We’re not making a dime from the blog, in other words. Not our thing. We do this in our spare time to write about music we enjoy. Nothing too complicated over here.
What kind of music did you grow up with? Did this contribute to your tastes now?
I’m a slight oddity as far as the kind of music I grew up with. As far as the blog-world, I’m a bit older than a lot of folks at age 33. So are Brian and Justin. To tell a guilty secret, I was weaned on hair metal and heavy metal mostly. In the 80’s, it was all glam for me. I could win any cock rock trivia contest you throw at me. I loved bands like Junkyard, Dokken, Tesla, Dangerous Toys (still the favorite t-shirt I own), and Rush. In junior high, like most people my age, I went through the obligatory hip-hop phase; what I love is that I was also fortunate enough to live through the grunge period in high school (this whole Nirvana 20 year anniversary of Nevermind is really wigging me out as far as how old I am). Of course, this changed my musical interests more than anything, and I began to expand outward into new genres and styles. Now I can digest just about any style you throw at me, but I’ll always be a sucker for loud, aggressive, and gritty rock n’ roll. If I had them, I’d throw you some old photos of me from high school – combat boots, flannels, Alice In Chains shirts and all. Our other writers, however, were a little more cultured. Citizen Brian is a musical encyclopedia and was listening to Pavement and Mission of Burma when I was toying with Guns N’ Roses. We all differ in what we listened to around here, which helps us put our ears to emerging music. We’re older than most, have listened to tons of shit, and that puts is in a pretty good position to write.
Any interesting musical tastes or purchases early on? Any guilty pleasures now?
Like I said, I went through my obligatory rap phase in junior high. I bet I had around 200 CDs, ranging anywhere from Tribe to Too Short to Hi-C. I think a big watershed moment for me was when I took literally every rap CD I owned to a secondhand store and sold them all just so I could get enough money to purchase two albums – Jethro Tull’s Aaualung and Pearl Jam’s Ten. That’s about how much money I got for all those rap tunes. But making this transition was huge for me as a 9th grader. I moved out of the mainstream slightly and began an addiction for classic rock and more underground music. My father, every Christmas, would (and still does) buy me a record from his era, and this was so important to me as far as my musical tastes. If you ever read my reviews, you’ll see that I have a strong connection to the music of my youth, which also sometimes clashes with the wishy-washy, really not-so-good music that flies into our inboxes.
As far as guilty pleasures now, I don’t really have anything I feel too guilty about. Should I feel guilty that I sometimes throw on the vinyl for the Franco Zeffirelli score of Romeo and Juliet? How about the fact that I still, often, listen to my Metallica and Iron Maiden records? I guess probably the most guilty secret I have musically is that I sometimes dig the music my students are jamming to, even if it’s Drake, Chip The Ripper, or some other hip-hop act that I’d never write about on my blog. Hell, if it’s good, I’ll hit play. You’ll find no snobby pretense with this guy.
What’s the one album that you have the greatest emotional connection to?
I think there are two albums that hold a shit ton of emotional weight with me, and the first is Traffic’s John Barleycorn Must Die, mainly because of the connection that album forged between my father and me. We used to listen to the title track on every summer vacation, much to the chagrin of my sisters and mother. I still often nod off to sleep listening to the album on the iPod. The second for me is really the album that propelled me into this whole indie-music tilt, and that’s Neutral Milk Hotel’s In the Aeroplane Over the Sea. To me, this is the greatest album ever recorded. I shake my ass, cry, get chills, and have catharsis each and every time I listen to the album. I often hear Mangum’s instrument-voice in my brain at the strangest times – and it never fails to arrest me and send me into reverie. The album is deeply embedded within me, and I’m constantly on the lookout for the next Aeroplane. Perhaps that’s why I continue to devour new music. More recent albums in the last two years that I continually find myself drifting back into are A.A. Bondy’s When the Devil’s Loose, Megafaun’s Gather, Form and Fly, White Denim’s Explosion, and Bowerbirds’ Upper Air.
What’s your favorite venue in Cleveland?
In Cleveland, we have two venerable venues that I absolutely think y’all should come check out. First, The Grog Shop in Cleveland Heights is a dark and moody joint that has seen just about everyone on its stage. If you’ve ever been to Empty Bottle in Chicago, it’s a lot like that. Dark walls, graffiti in the bathrooms – a nice edgy venue with great acoustics and nice people. The second is Beachland Ballroom and Tavern. It’s in an old Slovenian hall-turned concert venue, and often there will simultaneous shows playing at the in the ballroom and the tavern. It’s located in the up-and-coming Collinwood neighborhood with Cleveland’s best record store, Music Saves. We’ve also got the newly appointed hipster hangout Happy Dog, and the punk dive Now That’s Class. Cleveland is a touch underrated when it comes to venues, so I’ll talk your ears off if you’d like to know more.
Any stellar shows or purchases recently?
My favorite vinyl purchase recently has been the new Ty Segall record, because it is just a damn fine example of what I love about music. I also saw a band in Toronto at NXNE named Uncle Bad Touch, and I picked up that record – it’s been getting a lot of spins, as well. It’ll be something new next week. I’ve seen plenty of great shows lately, but the best live show I’ve seen this year is Akron/Family at The Grog Shop. That band is on another level.
How else does Kevin spend his time?
Any interesting hobbies outside of music and blogging? As far as my hobbies, you’re looking at it. Blogging is a big time hobby for me. When I’m not doing either, I’m probably out in my hood being a small-scale foodie, or enjoying snobby coffee. I’m a big Cincinnati Bengals fan, and always follow my Redlegs. I’m also an avid reader and enjoy my job as a teacher. Perhaps the best way to stay ahead of the curve in the blog world is paying attention to the kids I work with every day.
Best Zappa album?
Best Zappa Album – wowsers. Apostrophe. Too many gems on that album to pick a different one. People who claim otherwise are just frontin’.
Who would win in a fight, Christopher Walken or Tom Waits?
Tom Waits. He neither needs more cowbell, nor gold records.