Behind the blog: The Passion of the Weiss
I'm not sure that Jeff even remembers this, but our first encounter was a scuffle in Gerard's comments section. I said something somewhat smart-alecky, he responded sarcastically, and my first thought was, "Man, this guy's an asshole." Then a few weeks later, I noticed that Jeff had added me to the blogroll on his site, The Passion of the Weiss, and I thought, "Well, maybe he's not so bad after all." Ever since then, I've become helplessly hooked on his blog, itchily clicking over there around 3 a.m. just to check if he's put up his daily update yet. I'm never sure what kind of post to expect, but I know it'll always fall somewhere between smart, witty, insightful and hilarious. Jeff's not only proven himself to be one of the best and most prolific music bloggers around, but he's one of the most unique, covering everything from hip hop, satire and pop culture to indie rock, movies and of course, everyone's favorite topic, outing gay wrestlers. Here's my interview with the man behind the blog:
NL: So what was your initial motivation to get into blogging?
POW: I was working as a journalist at a business newspaper in Los Angeles and while I enjoyed it, it wasn't something I wanted to make a career out either. I'd always loved music and comedy but never had the urge to do stand-up, so that was out. I'd been reading a bunch of blogs for a while—Sexy Results, Straight Bangin', Whatevs, Blagg Blog—and saw that there was potential to do something really creative in the medium. Since I couldn't get a paying music-writing job anywhere, because you have to know someone, go to Harvard, or have, like, four great internships (none of which I had), I figured blogging was the best way to put myself out there.
NL: What’s been the best part of blogging?
POW: Honestly, I know it sounds really hokey but I really do appreciate knowing that people actually read my stuff. I'd been working on a novel for four years before starting the blog and writing a book is a very solitary process where you get absolutely no feedback from anyone (or at least I didn't because I didn't want anyone to see it until I was absolutely finished). But blogging has a certain immediacy to it, with the comments and all, and it’s just awesome to hear that other people are interested in my self-indulgent ramblings. Plus, I've gotten to meet a bunch of like-minded souls and new friends to make snide remarks about pop culture with. Which is always nice.
NL: What’s the worst part of blogging?
POW: The worst part of blogging is probably the time commitment. When I first started, I would throw up posts chockful of spelling and grammatical errors. Now I spend hours and hours revising every post, which eats up most of my day. And sadly, they still remainj full of spelling and grammatical errors.
NL: Nice touch on "remainj.” Very clever.
POW: I try.
NL: How much time do you spend on an average post?
POW: It honestly all depends on what the post is. Those year-end wrap-up post/lists took about five or six hours each with revision and everything. But on average, I'd say I spend two to three hours a day blogging. Unless I've written something for Stylus that day and then I get lazy and just throw up a link to that.
NL: How do you decide what to write for Stylus and what to write on your blog?
POW: Well, Stylus has a ton of writers and I'm pretty new there, so the big-tent reviews generally go to the more experienced writers (as they probably should). Being one of the only two L.A. writers on Stylus, by default I have my ear closer to the ground out here, so I've done Cold War Kids and the Parson Red Heads reviews. I've got an Elvis Perkins review coming up. (I think he counts as L.A. kind of.) The London guys do a lot of London stuff. The NYC kids do a lot of NYC stuff…
NL: I'm noticing a trend here.
POW: It all just kind of works itself out. The truth is, the writers there are all incredibly impressive in their own way. I've never met a bunch of people who know more about music then those guys.
NL: Interestingly though, I have actually noticed that the way I listen to music has been affected by my move.
POW: Really? How so?
NL: Joanna Newsom, for example, sounded a lot better in San Francisco and El-P sounds a lot better in New York. San Francisco’s very mellow and poetic and trippy and tangential à la Joanna Newsom. New York is so much more chaotic and crazy and urban and aggressive—hence the post-apocalyptic rap.
POW: Yeah, all of Def Jux would seem to be tailor-made for the city. Can Ox and Aesop Rock too… though Aesop did move to San Fran.
NL: That probably would’ve been the perfect music for my plane ride over. So who are some of your favorite local artists?
POW: I really like the Parson Red Heads a lot. I like the Cold War Kids live show and I thought their album was a solid debut. I like the Stones Throw stuff, Madlib, Peanut Butter Wolf. Autolux is great. Little Ones, Mezzanine Owls, The Broken West are good too.
NL: I found The Broken West too poppy for my taste but then my pop quota is fairly low.
POW: L.A. just seems to have a knack for producing really catch pop/rock music historically with the Byrds/Doors/Love of the ’60s and the Paisley Underground of the '80s and then now these guys doing their thing. Yeah, The Broken West aren’t New Pornographers- or Shins-good, but I tend to go easy on bands with their debuts unlike some critics who want to smash every blog buzz band making its debut. I just don’t get it. If you heard A.M., you never would've thought Wilco would produce Yankee Hotel Foxtrot.
NL: Indie culture is still largely based on hate and one-upmanship.
POW: So am I supposed to rip on Cold War Kids just because Stereogum likes them? It doesn't make any sense.
NL: No, you’re supposed to rip on them because Pitchfork hates them. But on the other end of the spectrum, you do have some blogs that act like they've never heard a bad note.
POW: Yeah, I agree. The problem with blogs by nature is that when you're "discovering" a new band everyday, it gets hard to write about exclusively new bands. Eventually, the well runs dry. Not to hate on anyone, because I think the big MP3 blogs are big for a reason—they're mostly good sites—but keeping up can get dizzying.
NL: What do you think sets your blog apart from other people's?
POW: I think my blog is different because it’s effectively genreless. I don't really focus exclusively on any one topic, which makes it tough to pigeonhole. It's obviously heavily music-focused, but I like to branch out and do some comedy stuff at least once a week. I just try to make it funny because I know if I were trying to waste time at work, I'd want to laugh. Music is entertainment; it doesn't need to be treated with a heavy approach all the time. All I really want to do is make people laugh. I just try to be funny. Hopefully, people agree.
NL: What are some of your favorite local venues?
POW: I really like Spaceland because it’s five minutes from my house. I love the Troubadour even though it’s on the West Side, in traffic hell. The Hollywood Bowl is pretty incredible in the summer, but I wish they wouldn't be so damned punctual. They literally start on the dot and half the time you miss the opener because you're stuck in traffic.
NL: What band would you most like to see go away forever?
POW: Justin Timberlake. I don't understand why people like him and I never will. *NSYNC sucked. Granted Timbaland makes awesome beats, but you watch that Prince tape at the Super Bowl and tell me that Justin Timberlake isn’t just doing a bad Prince imitation. Or Michael Jackson at times. Zero originality. Terrible lyrics. And just a purely egotistical and arrogant stage persona.
NL: Interesting answer, but he’s not a band so you lose.
POW: Okay, then Coldplay. Why is Chris Martin on the Kanye West album? Or Jay-Z's?
NL: Or X & Y or Parachutes?
POW: Or ripping off Radiohead. Poorly.
NL: It was like he had this revelation: Radiohead + U2 + Tylenol PM = GENIUS! Even he doesn't sound like he cares what he's singing about so why should I care?
POW: It worked though, incredibly enough... I'm not even the biggest Radiohead fan in the world but you can't listen to the two groups side by side and not think, “Wow, Coldplay is just maudlin, watered-down tripe.” Whatever that means…God forbid you try to have any originality. You’ll get slammed like Jack White does in the press. The Jack White-hating is one of my biggest pet peeves about music critics.
POW: He's a true artist, a real original, and a brilliant musician, live and on record, and he gets bashed all the time no matter what he does.
NL: That's fair, but he is also building on a lot of blues-rock that came before.
POW: Every artist has his influences. It just depends how fluid your synthesis of them is. That Raconteurs album wasn't great though. I will say that, but it was still pretty good for what it was.
NL: What about Get Behind Me Satan?
POW: I thought it was an interesting musical evolution and a very good record though not as good as the stuff that came before it. It’s a good transitional record.
NL: Mm, I'm kind of worried that it is a transitional record. I hate to be one of those people who wants musicians to keep their sound the same, but I do kind of want them to keep their sound the same. Or at least make it a more subtle change like the transition from White Blood Cells to Elephant.
POW: Yeah, I feel you. I’m reviewing the RJD2 record and it’s sort of the same thing. Like, if it ain’t broke, don't fix it.
NL: I really want to like that record, but so far I don’t. Even with Since We Last Spoke, I was already like, stop singing and fucking around. It'd be like if I suddenly decided to turn this into a gossip blog, which P.S. I'm doing.
POW: Perez Litter. I like it. My cat would approve.
NL: Why a cat and not a dog?
POW: I took in a stray that was living in my parking lot. I named him F. Scott Fitzgerald (the Cat).
NL: That’s kind of awesome. So what are some of your all-time favorite concerts?
POW: My Morning Jacket over New Year’s at the Fillmore is number one. Seeing the White Stripes in New Orleans in the summer of ’03 is up there. Coachella ’02 and ’04 were incredible.
NL: Jesus, can you please stop talking about that MMJ show? It's like I don't feel bad enough about missing it already.
POW: I will be wherever they are every New Year's for the rest of my life.
NL: Maybe I can catch them this year. What is a day in your life like?
POW: I wake up to my cat jumping on my bed and trying to get me to let him outside and then I slowly drag myself to the gym. I blog in the afternoons, then write all evening. Unless I'm going to a show or working on some sort of freelance assignment. My life is incredibly boring really. I'm a homebody. I'm currently trying to watch all forty-nine Woody Allen movies. Thus far, I've seen, like, seventeen. And I try to read a lot, though not as much as I should.
NL: I don’t want to ruin it for you but most of Woody Allen's movies are less than great. And anyway, I like setting more manageable goals for myself, like, say, watching all of Christopher Nolan's movies.
POW: I kind of think Allen's a genius of Shakespearean proportion. I’m calling it The Manhattan Project.
NL: That's a pretty great name. Except Shakespeare never subjected us to Anything Else starring Jason Biggs and Christina Ricci.
POW: Haven't seen that one yet. Scoop was godawful though.
NL: Well, I'm calling my project Rollin' with Nolan and it’s already completed.
POW: I've only seen Memento, which was awesome obviously.
NL: It was a pretty easy task. He only has five movies—Following, Memento, Insomnia, Batman Begins, The Prestige—and they’re all well worth watching.
POW: Perhaps that will be my next project.
NL: What's your favorite Woody Allen other than Annie Hall?
POW: Yeah, I probably would’ve said that. Otherwise, I'd say Sleeper just because it’s so unbelievably funny. Deconstructing Harry is also up there though. Crimes and Misdemeanors too. They're all good though, at least before 1980.
NL: My two non-Annie Hall favorites are Manhattan and Hannah and Her Sisters. Sometimes, I even like Manhattan more than Annie Hall just for the Gershwin soundtrack and the black-and-white cinematography.
POW: Just saw Manhattan last week actually. It was incredible, definitely in my top five. Never seen Hannah.
NL: Oh, it's classic Allen. Adultery, obsession, neuroses, family, sex—all of which also happen to pretty succinctly describe my teenage years. What upcoming albums are you most excited about?
POW: Aesop Rock and El-P have never let me down, so I'd have to put them at the top of the list. I'm anxious to hear the Wilco album too. I'd say those are the top three for ’07 that I'm anxious to hear. Or whatever Spencer Krug is doing now, I'm sure will be great. Judging from the last two years, I'm sure he'll come out with something.
NL: There'll be a new Wolf Parade coming out, I believe. And I hear he has a new band coming out as well called Moonlight Handjob. How did you pick the name Passion of the Weiss?
POW: I'm a big Mel Gibson fan. The movies he's made over the years, I don't watch them much...but the virulent anti-Semitism, I respect that.
NL: He says what we're all thinking, but more eloquently.
POW: And more wild-haired and bushy-faced too.
NL: And stinking of whiskey. You know, I'd say that we should be friends if you weren’t too tall to befriend. We would look ridiculous hanging out.
POW: I slouch.
NL: Mm, maybe if you were always standing at least ten feet away, it could work.
POW: Plus I grew up around only Jewish kids. I look like Gulliver most of the time. I’m used to it.
NL: Well, I'm the tallest member of my family and I'm still barely allowed on amusement park rides.
POW: You should move out here then; it is not a land of tall folk.
NL: Nah, I'm too dirty and aloof for L.A.
POW: On second thought, yeah, don’t move to L.A. I can't actually encourage someone to do that.
* MP3: "Days of My Youth - Parson Red Heads from King Giraffe [Buy it]
* MP3: "O Is The One That Is Real" - My Morning Jacket from My Morning Jacket/Songs: Ohia split EP [Buy it]
* MP3: "We're Famous" - Aesop Rock ft. El-P from Bazooka Tooth [Buy it]