Wanna Be A Music Journalist? Jessica Hopper Is Your New Role Model
If you're currently sitting in your bedroom, waiting to grow up so that you can finally do what you wanna do, it's time to take a page from Jessica Hopper's book. Literally.
The Pitchfork Review senior editor/Rookie music editor is out with "The First Collection of Criticism by a Living Female Rock Critic" on Tuesday (May 12) and we've got an excerpt -- and interview -- below.
Hopper has been writing about music since she was a teenager and everyone had 'zines instead of blogs. Having written about everything from Riot Grrrl to R. Kelly -- a unique voice among a sea of male rock critics -- Hopper has compiled years worth of work into this incredible tome. Get a taste hereabouts and pick up the full book here.
MTV: What would you tell a teen girl today who wants to become a music critic?
Jessica Hopper: Just start where you are. I mean, that is the easiest thing -- it’s easy to make a Website and make a platform for yourself. That's essentially what I did -- because I am a little bit older I made Xerox fanzines and they grew into a more informed, rabid fan club.
MTV: What kind of training did you have as a journalist?
Hopper: I didn’t go to college. I started at like 15, 16 years old really loving music. ... I never waited around for anybody to give me permission. I never had any qualifications. I wanted to do it so I did it.
MTV: Aside from the technology, what's the biggest difference between starting out when you did and starting out today?
Hopper: I feel like there are much bigger opportunities for women. I feel like we’ve had a great few passing years -- especially for young women -- and there are more opportunities to have our places at the table than when I started 20 years ago. It was me [back then] -- and I knew like two other women [who did what I did]. For a long time, I didn't know half a dozen women who did what I did or even started at my same age.
MTV: Do you think it's gotten better for women in music? Both for journalists and musicians?
Hopper: We can always be doing better. ... I talk sometimes about how when I was a teenager growing up there were only two different accepted archetypes for female musicians -- and that is quiet folky and maybe a tiny bit political and a tiny bit feminist, and then there was like girl rocker. You were either Joan Jett or you were Joni Mitchell -- and it was a pretty slim space in that pie to get noticed.
I feel like that has changed periodically -- we can look at the kinds of records that women are selling now, and there are bylines by women of color. There's a fearlessness and diversity in women’s creative work everywhere you look. We are not just regulated to the margins.
MTV: What was the most challenging aspect of putting this book together?
Hopper: It's hard to have to comb through everything you've written when you’ve been writing for 20 years and having to go, 'Oh, God that piece was terrible,' or having to say, 'Oh, gosh, these are dumb conclusions to draw' or just seeing the way that my thinking and my writing has changed.
It is the exact same embarrassment that you might get when you are cleaning out your teenage bedroom or boxes of old stuff from high school and you’re like, 'Oh my God, I can’t believe who I was' or 'I can’t believe I told this other person this thing about me' or 'I can’t believe I liked this person so much.' It is basically like that, but with bands.
I was really getting hung up on the embarrassment of it and I mentioned this to my mom and she said, 'Just treat it like you would one of your writers at Rookie.' And then I was able to relax and show my teenage self a little empathy.
Tinyluckygenius, September 2011
Not mentioned: I was newly pregnant and barfing the entire time.
So, this weekend, my friend Leor joined me in the car and we drove for two hours to see PEARL JAM in the woods of Wisconsin for 12 hours! It was for work, but lord knows, I love a spectacle and Leor loves Mudhoney and was literally the only person I could find with any sort of enthusiasm at the prospect of going to an all-day anniversary festival for old, old Pearl Jam. Pearl Jam who I never have paid much real attention to, other than I see pictures of Eddie Vedder and think he is not aging a bit and is still rather handsome.
Two nights before I watched the Cameron Crowe-directed documentary about the band's 20 years; lord alive, there is not a more earnest and tenderhearted person in rock n' roll than Eddie Vedder, in case you were doubting just how sensitacho he rolls. The part where his bandmates explain that a few records in he seized control of the band and essentially tried to turn the band into Fugazi and that it pretty much almost broke them up was pretty much my favorite part because THERE IS ALWAYS THAT GUY IN EVERY BAND. I was always that guy in all my bands.
Deep into Wisconsin! We arrived and there were tons of bros and white hats and people keeping the rain out with football team ponchos and slitted trashbags, grilling out of the back of pick ups, with serious tents and folding comfortable chairs and it was like four p.m. and there were already people so drunk they'd given up on wearing shoes.
Inside, we went to our seats in the Amphitheater. There were not a lot of people braving the rain for Mudhoney. I counted exactly five people who seemed to know the words. I ate a cheeseburger because I had to. Mark Arm, strangely, has not aged. I watched them doing the old hits and some new songs I didn't know (did they put out a record I didn't know about?) and the man was doing his Iggy wiggle and the new stuff all sounded like The Scientists and they closed with a Black Flag cover and I thought "Mark Arm must be doing a lot of yoga."
Also, I realized watching them that I think I last saw Mudhoney on the day before my 16th birthday, on the Every Good Boy tour, and I was seeing them, still/again on the day before my 35th birthday. I don't know if that is weirder for me or to be them doing that though being almost 50 and being in Mudhoney is probably a blast.
Around us, on the impossible-graded slopes of the amphitheater (it's at a ski resort!) were PJ fans who totally only cared about PJ but soon might be drunk enough to give into something sort of pop-heavy as Queens of The Stone Age, because they were bored (and they did); there were hundreds of people sitting on wet grass in the rain wearing a trash bag that was squishing them so they looked like a blackened Spongebob and gulping down $13 neon margarita-frosties from concessions that were served in foot tall guitar shaped cups, limp and slackened by booze, numb in Vedder-ticipation.
The amount that dudes in our aisle were coming and going to the beer stands past our seat was like 4-5 times a set, for $14 tall boys. I do not think ever in my life I have been around so many people who were so actively wasted for such a duration and I have been to SXSW several times.
And then, like 3 hours into our adventure, The Strokes played. I would think for some reason they would a be a little urban(e) and effete for this Midwestern crowd, but people were into it, even before Vedder guested on "Juicebox."
AND THEN THEN, Dennis Rodman walked into the crowd in between sets and people freaked out and it was strange. I saw no other celebrity, though I am sure maybe one more was there.
AND FINALLY, The Pearl Jam played. And played no hits, and played for almost three hours, and it was a real roller coaster. Mike McCready is truly one of the blandest guitar players I have ever heard. It a testament to the rest of the band and especially Eddie Vedder that they 1. have the patience, as seasoned music fans, to sit through his soloing, which is both tepid and colorless. 2. That they have hits despite his totally generic playing but then again I guess that is often how things get on the radio so maybe thats a lesser point.
Also, it was smart of Mike McCready to not wear a spaghetti strap tank top like he did at PJ's 10th anniversary. At least they seem to be through their decade long bad hats phase.
Vedder is so straight in his connection to the audience, he's Springsteenian in that regard, but without the rock n' roll showman part. He's understated, the anti-rock god rock god and that's why people love him. It's impossible not to watch him and eat it up. It feels good to do so. His banter is absolutely corny, like he is 15 and trying to explain why he loves playing music. He is letting that part of him do the talking. Which is awesome and also really funny. More people should do that.
AND THEN THEN THEN: Chris Cornell came out, and lord, he has such lovely posture, and they did some Temple of the Dog songs and though I never liked that band, I reconsidered them for those 20 minutes and was impressed. Also, Vedder and Cornell are both freakinshly well-preserved, especially when presented together. Everyone else looks like the Cryptkeeper in comparison. I bet there is an internet underworld of Temple of The Dog slash fiction starring them. I don't even want to Google that.
GRUNGE RETURNED AND I SAW IT.