The Bookshelf Report is an ongoing series where we ask 5 questions and share 5 pictures of a bookshelf belonging to a Bushwick reader. Today’s bookshelf comes from long time Seattle music journalist Travis Hay. He has written for many notable publications such as MSN Music, the Seattle-Post Intelligencer, and Seattle Weekly, and is the creator of GuerillaCandy.com, an amazing website dedicated to documenting the Seattle music community.
What’s your favorite book on the shelf?
Asking me to name my favorite book is like asking me to name my favorite record. It’s a very tough thing to do. As you can tell, most of my books have something to do with music and I consider the music books in my collection to be good reference material. If I had to name a single one as my favorite it would have to be “Everybody Loves Our Town” by Mark Yarm. It’s a massive oral history of the Seattle music scene from the late 1980s to mid/late 1990s, aka the grunge era. I own quite a few local rock history books (“Love Rock Revolution,” “The Strangest Tribe,” “Sonic Boom” too name a few) but Yarm’s book is the definitive book on grunge and everything comes from first-hand primary sources. There’s stories about Eddie Vedder drinking bile as part of Jim Rose’s Circus Sideshow, The U Men lighting a pond on fire outside of the mural Amphitheater at Bumbershoot and tons of other really great stuff. It’s a must read for any fan of the Seattle scene from back in the day.
Because it’s an oral history from events that took place 20 to 30 years ago the details are all left up to the memories of those who lived the experience. And some of the best stories in the book are the ones told from different perspectives because the details often clash. Also, I’ve interviewed a lot of local musicians who lived through that era and most of them don’t really like reliving or retelling events from when they were in their twenties. I’m amazed that Yarm, who is not local and is not related to Mudhoney’s Mark Arm, was able to get the hundreds of people he interviewed for this book to open up the way they did.
If I were to choose one non-music book out the mix it would probably be Neil Gaiman’s “American Gods.” I read it for the first time last year and I loved it. It was my introduction to Gaiman’s work and his storytelling and the way he writes his characters really captured my attention. I’ve since read four other Gaiman novels and I highly recommend his latest “The Ocean at the End of the Lane.”
How do you organize your books?
I don’t really have a solid organization system. I guess you could say they are arranged by height, except for the first cubby which has all of my Pearl Jam books together. Well, I should say all of the official Pearl Jam books together. “Pearl Jam Twenty,” “5×1: Pearl Jam Through the Eyes of Lance Mercer,” “Pearl Jam Place/Date” and “Ames Bros. vs. Pearl Jam” are all together and the unofficial biography “5 Against 1” by Kim Neely is elsewhere because, well, it isn’t that good and it’s not an officially sanctioned book.
Be honest. What percentage of the books on this shelf have you actually read?
Read through completion? I’d say 50 percent. But I know I have skimmed through all of my books. I own a lot of essay collections and collected works by some of my favorite journalists (Jim DeRogatis, Chuck Klosterman, Lester Bangs and Everett True to name a few) and I like to pick them up and thumb through them for inspiration when I’m feeling a bit stuck for words or I think my writing is getting stale. The Da Capo “Best Music Writing” series of books is good for that too, but sadly they are no longer in print.
What book do you plan on reading next and why?
I used to be a teenage metalhead and Metallica was one of my favorite bands in high school so a few weeks back I went with a buddy to see the Metallica 3D IMAX movie. And surprisingly it wasn’t that bad. It made me go back and listen to most of my old Metallica records again. I say most because who listens to any Metallica album that was released after “Load?” I own all of the band’s albums, but that’s for reference really and it doesn’t mean I listen to them often. Anyway, about five years ago I bought the book “Metallica and Philosophy.” It’s a collection of essays written by college professors and other highly educated folks examining the philosophical themes in songs like “Master of Puppets,” “Creeping Death” and the rest of the Metallica catalog. So that’s the book I’ll be digging into next.
Wild Card: That looks like a pretty nice record player you got there. How often do you find yourself using it and why are records more fun than mp3s?
I typically listen to vinyl between three and five times a week depending on what sort of mood I’m in. I like to keep my records next to my books because most of my books are about music and it just feels right to sit by the fireplace, put on a record and read a good book. I grew up listening to old vinyl records so there’s a sentimental attachment to owning records, and a lot of the records in my collection come from my parents and having them in my collection feels like having a family keepsake. Although I’m not sure if you could consider a copy of “Pronounced ‘lĕh-‘nérd ‘skin-‘nerd)” a family keepsake. But to be fair, I was raised in the south and Lynyrd Skynyrd are more or less gods in the deep south.
I’m sure audiophiles can tell you all about how vinyl sounds better than mp3s but for me I just enjoy having a physical product as opposed to digital files. Having bigger album artwork, larger liner notes and even flipping sides of a record are parts of what make records fun. This also makes listening to music a more interactive and less passive experience. And as a bonus you can often hit up antique shops or other shops and get classic records for dirt cheap. But I will say having digital music has made my job as a music journalist a lot easier. It’s great to be able to hear about a band, click a link to download music or go directly to their website to get more information. And you can’t easily send vinyl like you can digital music. So as a professional music journalist and blogger I prefer mp3s, but as a music fan I prefer vinyl.
Thanks for sharing, Travis!
For more info on Travis Hay you can check out his site at GuerillaCandy.com