Jemsite Interview


What does it take to make it in the thriving jazz scene in New York or the indie hard rock scene of Seattle?

Jemsite wants to find out! In a new series, we've set out to find the best reps across the country to will tell us just what it means to make it in the big city music scene.

Music blogger Chris DeLine calls Minneapolis a dysfunctional community, but one with a thriving music scene—whether it's rock, hip-hop, or electro. He writes all about it on his hit music blog, Culture Bully, which was created nearly four and a half years when music blogs had yet to be as common as a JEM guitar for an Ibanez fan.

Culture Bully has a plethora of album reviews, concert reviews, music videos, band profiles, and music videos and is currently considered one of the most trafficked blogs in all of the "Twin Cities."

We had the chance to ask DeLine to wax poetic on the music scene of Minneapolis. Here's what he had to say.

How did you start writing music reviews? Is it a hobby or a lifelong career?

Culture Bully started as a Blogspot site when I was in college where it was loosely styled after the larger music blogs of the day. That's not to say that I didn't dump random thoughts, pictures, and videos on the site—but that was my main inspiration behind starting it up. At there time there wasn't the glut of music blogs that there is today so I was given the opportunity to review albums and conduct interviews right away without even realizing that doing so was an option. That was about four and a half years ago. Right now, blogging and freelancing is what keeps me going.

Chris Rock has this bit about jobs vs. careers; some people have jobs and some people have careers. The basis for the joke is how people with careers are essentially doing what they want and there aren't enough hours in the day, while people who have jobs are counting the minutes until they get to go home. I've had a lot of jobs and I wouldn't say that this is a career in the general sense of the term, but as far as Chris Rock is concerned—this is a career for me.

What performers, types of music do you like? Anything guitar-related?

Growing up, my musical tastes were as scattered as they are now, but they revolved far more heavily around guitar-based music. I could be listening to bands like Sepultura one minute and Stevie-Ray the next—if it was good, I liked it. In 1998 (when I was 14 or 15) I got to see BB King live and for years that remained the greatest concert-going experience I had.

Since then my tastes have changed slightly. When I'm meeting someone new and they ask me what I like to listen to, my stock answer is gangsta rap and death metal... seems to cover the spread pretty well. Just because so much music is pushed my way on a day to day basis I don't even know where to begin to start in terms of what bands I'm really into today, but some of my favorite concerts I've seen recently include those by Sonic Youth, Mayhem and the Jesus Lizard. Guitar music, right?

Have you ever dabbled in guitar? If so, do you use your own experiences when mentioning a guitarist in a review? If not, how do you describe the sound?

Each time I've tried to pick up an instrument, it's been a terrible failure. In high school I gave the bass a try, but even after taking lessons and giving it a go, I eventually lost interest in it. In college I had an acoustic guitar and learned a few songs, but I found myself gravitating toward other pastimes. My heart was never in it.

What is How Was The Show?

How Was The Show is one of, if not thee, longest running music-based sites (I'd get an ear-full if I called it a blog) in the Twin Cities. I attended college in Iowa, and after I returned to the Twin Cities I found that I really had no idea what was going on, musically, in the city. I found myself hooked up with the crew that was working on HWTS stuff at the time, and eventually took two or three stabs at reviews for the site myself. At one point in time it was the go-to place to find local concert reviews online, but now things have essentially dried up in that regard and it's shifted more towards an emphasis on theater reviews.

Culture Bully: What is it about and how did it start?

As mentioned, I started the site in college with no real direction. The first real moment that directed me to believing that it had any potential was when I had taken a trip to NY in the winter of 2005. That year I had started to take an interest in mashups and for kicks I created a list of my favorites of the year. Before I left on my trip I submitted it to a few sites including BoingBoing, and while I was away they decided to post it. So out of nowhere the site, which had been getting (at most) a couple hundred hits a day, got 25,000 hits. I figured it might be something worth paying attention to it after that.

Right now I've gotten together with a few friends and have reached out to a few other people to help contribute to the site and it's become one of the most trafficked blogs in the Twin Cities. We focus on solely on music right now: album reviews, concert reviews, music videos, band profiles, music videos, etc... Whether or not anyone actually reads the what we write is another story altogether, but we were recently named the best local blog by two separate alt-weeklies so I've got to think we don't suck too hard.

What’s the music scene like in Minneapolis?

Consider Minneapolis a city that has too many (good) bands to even name. Where last year there was a solid focus on neo-folksier-type bands, the hard and experimental rock scenes are what are really booming right now. But that balance still exists amongst an array of solid punk, metal, and Americana. For every Lucy Michelle and the Velvet Lapelles (one such neo-folksier-type band), there's a Gay Witch Abortion (a heavy two-piece stoner rock group). Just naming a few other great bands that are currently going strong here: Vampire Hands (who toured nationally with Wavves earlier this year), A Night in the Box (electric busker-inspired band), the Evening Rig (Replacements meet Bryan Adams), and the list goes on and on. Another standout in terms of last year's crowd is Caroline Smith and the Goodnight Sleeps; like Lucy Michelle she has expresses herself magnificently through her unique vocals and is backed by a tremendous band. But to use the old adage, that's simply the tip of the iceberg.

Also, that's not to say that Minneapolis is all rock and no play—the city's hip hop and electronic scenes are oozing with brilliance. If any interested parties are looking to find a good balance of everything, this year's release by P.O.S' entitled Never Better is it. A local MC who is also in a punk band, Building Better Bombs, has created the local it album of the year and national outlets have definitely taken note.

In your opinion, what are some of the best bands to come out of Minneapolis and/or Minnesota?

The stock response would be artists like Bob Dylan (Duluth), or Prince, the Replacements, or Hüsker Dü (all from Minneapolis). While I'd say the best ever is Dylan, I'm not from around here originally and don't have the same attachment to many of the states patriarchs. Honestly, I still can't recall hearing a song by the Jayhawks, and I'm not all that fond of the last three I just mentioned.

I just think of Minneapolis as a community. Possibly a dysfunctional community where neighbors are just as prone to fight and talk a lot of shit about one another behind their backs as they are to drink a few beers together. But a community all the same.

Where are the best places to go to hear these artists?

Right now there's a strange trend going on in Minneapolis. As some clubs are slumping due to the economy the city is attempting to push a vote forward that would see a ban on 18+ shows; making venues shift to either all ages or 21+ events. If this goes through, multiple venues are prone to die right there on the spot (and many others will have their legs cut off), and that potentially includes some of the best spots to see music. But at the same time, a few new venues have popped up. The bitch of the whole thing is that, for my money, the club with the one of the best soundsystem which also gets some of the cooler bands lies 30 minutes out in the suburbs and won't be affected by any of this. Either way, for my money, amongst over 20 solid venues around here I really dig the Cedar Cultural Center and St. Paul's Turf Club.

How does the guitar factor into the Minneapolis music scene?

Even in other genres the guitar plays a key role in the recording and performing process. The very same instrument drives a hundred different niches and at times is just as important to music as the songwriters themselves. Without it, I'd wager that a scene wouldn't exist at all.

[This article was first published by Jemsite.]