Monday, August 23, 2010

TONY RETTMAN: Do Less, Be More

Portrait of Tony by Ben Chasny

Tony Rettman is a music journalist and radio personality, which is saying very little about someone who's experienced so much. He's been to more shows than most people you know, which at this point makes him something of a music historian. Tony is also one of the few to weather the change from zines to blogging with elan: Revelation Records recently published his book "Why Be Something You're Not: Detroit Hardcore 1979-1985", and he can be heard on WFMU like crazy. 

What do you do? What are you doing the most lately?
I work a lot for a major financial entity and occasionally write stuff about music that people seem to enjoy. Lately, my time is taken up by whining about my job to my girlfriend, trying to tie up loose ends on a book I've written and cooking decent meals. 

 How long have you done these things? How have the things changed?
I've worked all my life. I've written all my life (sorta). Nothing has changed with the work as far as I can see. It just gets more demeaning and crappy as it goes on. The writing has changed on many levels. First off, if you do anything for a long enough amount of time, it's just going to get better. So I think plugging away at it for so long has made it qualitatively better. I'm happier and less embarrassed of stuff I turn in these days. The subject matter has sorta stayed the same as far as being based on music, but the actual...(uh...) 'genres' of music have slipped around to different stuff. I started out doing a Hardcore punk 'zine when I was 14 and sorta went through the musical 'coming-of-age' alotta people did and explored other sound avenues in my late teens/early 20's and wrote about it in various fanzines I self-published. Strangely, I've got back into writing about Hardcore as it's kinda the only thing people ask me to write about when it comes to paying pieces. So, I've just come back to where I came from sorta, just with better referential ammo than I had when I was a kid. The writing has also changed in that I think I use it more as a vehicle to wrestle with words than hip anyone to some new crazy sound. I guess I'm 'trying' less these days. It's just like Brother JT said, 'Do Less, Be More'. 
Why do you do these things? No, really, why? How does it make you
feel? What's it like when you are unable to do these things?

To be honest, the reason I do most writing these days is to earn some extra loot. The intial reason I started writing I guess was because I was bowled over by the fanzine culture of Hardcore when my brother started taking me to shows. I was very inspired by merely holding these things in my hand. The idea of being interested or inspired by someones' writing style or musical taste came much later in my life. As stated in the previous answer, the writing - these days at least - is more of a thing where I graple with the words to get them to submit to what I'm trying to convey. I like twisting them into my own definition. I also like working with editors as well, which I'm sure most writers will think I'm crazy for stating. Some really do push you to come up with some great stuff. They really help in trying to convey certain things that might be lost in the cobwebs of your mind. I only get frustrated when I am unable to write when I have a deadline looming. Other than that, I can take or leave writing. 

When was That Moment in your life that told you you would become what
you are? What happened? 

I don't think I really know that moment. Whenever I read or see someone in some documentary/book say something like 'And when I saw (fill in the bands name) my life changed', I think they are full of shit. No one goes around documenting their lives for themselves like that. If they are, they're fucking nuts! I hate to keep going back to this, but I guess the first couple times my brother took me to Hardcore shows, I kinda got a feeling of defintion in myself. It made me feel it was OK to be a bit twisted. There's a few things that are popping into my head now...First time seeing Black Flag...First time seeing Youth of Today...My brother playing me 'Space Ritual' by Hawkwind, 'Psychedelic Underground' by Amon Duul and 'Patty Waters Sings' all in one sitting during a snowstorm...Seeing NNCK for the 1st time... These are some things that flash into my head that made me think about the power of sound in ways I couldn't fathom before hearing them. 

How has your life changed to accommodate That Moment's effect on you?
It's made me into a bum!
How has your work affected your life in return?
It's made me into a bum!

 How does your location affect what you do and who you are these days?
My lady and I have moved out to the North Shore of Long Island. To most outsiders, anything related to L.I. is bad news, but this area is very, very quiet with a sparse population and a low amount of football jerseys and gold chains. We are near the water and it's so quiet around here, some times all you can hear is a train whistle. I think the new location has really helped the writing as far as letting me get (as corny as this might sound) lost in my own thoughts. When we were in Brooklyn, I was always trying to find some quiet while drug dealers and general retards prowled in front of my window. Here, I can see or think one little thing and I just start flying. Personally, the location has just helped me be more at peace with myself and Danielle. I have to prepare a slow cooker meal everyday before I leave for my hour long commute to work, but I think it's worth it. 

What do you think of the future?
For the first time in a long time, I look forward to it. By the way, my hope for it has nothing to do with political climate, social climate, actual climate, etc. I just feel good about it...that's all. 

What does David Lee Roth mean? 
He is a celebration of the self. 


No comments: