Christopher R. Weingarten talks Hipster Puppies and Cassettes


Christopher R. Weingarten just released a new book, titled Hipster Puppies, a canine equivalent to Street Boners or DOs and DON'Ts. Tonight, in celebration of it and its companion-mixtape release, Weingarten presents a fantastic lineup at Public Assembly in Williamsburg: Zs, Burning Star Core, Mountains and Dinowalrus. He'll be giving away his Hipster Puppies mixtape to the first 50 entrants on cassette - it has awesome cuts from some of New York's best right now: Hunters, Liturgy, Aa, Nonhorse and so on. Zs are also celebrating the release of a new cassette, called Sky Burial.

Weingarten chatted with us on the cassette-tape revival, why zillions of .mp3s is a bad idea, and polarizing the blogosphere.

Nonstop Sound: You're giving out your Hipster Puppies mix on tape tonight. What do you think is going on with the cassette tape revival right now?

Christopher R. Weingarten: I think with the dominance of mediafire culture, people really don't want to lose the idea of a tangible object. Cassette tapes these days are fun to hold, fun to play and are usually limited edition -- as is the Hipster Puppies mixtape. Now that everyone has like 100,000 songs they play on shuffle and 2 terrabyte hard drives full of music they will never listen to as long as they live, cassette tapes really bring back the ritual aspect of playing music. Having to pull something from its case and put it in a player of some kind.

NS: I agree with you as so many labels burgeon with cassette releases and colored vinyl etc. As people brag on their scores, it sort of reminds me of how elite Napster or Audiogalaxy felt when that was THE place to discover new music. What do you think that says about the exclusionary aspect of music culture? Why is it important to have ritual in music?

CRW: I mean, the exclusionary aspect is what  hipster culture is based on right? For record collector nerds, the democratization of music is pretty much the end of "cool" in that sense. Especially because no one on earth will think you're cool for torrenting the entire King Crimson discography. As for ritual, I think its important to focus on what you're listening to. I can't tell you how many things just get uploaded to my iTunes and play as background. Spending $8 on a tape makes you put some worth to your purchase, makes you want to understand your purchase, makes you set aside a little time to listen to it. A tape is not gonna get lost in a folder somewhere.

NS: That forgotten attitude toward music sort of reflects an embrace of disaffection and the ironic, pretty common themes in art and music today. Why do you think this generation is afraid to engage culture with serious thought and critique?

CRW: I don't know, I think most internet record reviews are a little TOO self-serious.

NS: Along those lines of self-seriousness, I see you so often in caustic exchanges on Twitter with other music bloggers. It seems people react so personally to critical engagement.  Why does your method of inquiry draw so much ire?

CRW: I mean, look, I'm a critic. I critique things. I have opinions. Modern music-writing is built less on the idea that critics comment on the world, and more on an idea that its our job to cheerlead and champion and build our personal brands based on aligning ourselves with bands x, y and z. It's not enough for me to say "I really like the Fucked Up album." I also want to say "The Salem album sucks." So, yeah, no one likes a complainer, basically.

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