www.ArjanWrites.com is one of the best music blogs on the planet. When I first stared reading music blogs, Arjan's blog was and still is my bible that I read everyday for it's quality music musings and the occasional free download. Unlike other blogs that post illegal mp3s to generate traffic, the quality of the content is really what captivated me and was a huge inspiration to me when I had the idea of starting up EQ.
Just as the music and musicans are important to EQ, Arjan's blog is equally as important. I've had the opportunity to meet Arjan in London and not only is he an awesome music blogger, he's a really cool guy to hang out with. So enjoy this little blogger to blogger interview with Arjan and myself and if you get a chance too, make sure you vote for Arjan Writes for best blog at the Stereogum Gummy Awards!
Well hello Arjan – how are you today?
Doing great, Raj! Thanks for asking.
So first off – how do you pronounce your name? I know that I got it wrong until I heard Annie Lennox say you're name on a podcast.
Annie got it right. I'm used to the fact that people pronounce in different ways so if people don't get it right, I'm not bothered by it at all. Most people end up saying "Argen," and that's fine with me.
You've been blogging for years now. I know when I first starting reading blogs, Arjan Writes was one of the ones that came up and since then I was hooked. How did you get into the fun world of music blogging?
It all started in September of 2003. I can't believe it has been so many years actually… Time flies when you are having fun! I wrote music reviews and articles for some newspapers here in the States, and I was editor for GENRE, a national gay monthly. At a certain point when online publishing systems emerged to create blogs I was like "wow, I can publish myself whenever I want.' I no longer had to wait around for next week's edition to submit my column. Also, I really found blogging a great way to share my passion for music with others. This remains the #1 reason for me to blog – to share my passion for music with like-minded people.
Did you ever think that the blog would be as influential as it is today?
Not at all. I simply love music and I love to write about it. It is my passion for music that drives everything. It was never about becoming a noted blogger or something like that.
How much time a day do you spend on blogging? How has it effected your everyday lifestyle?
A few hours a day. Most of my time goes into checking out all the email I get and reviewing music submissions. Plus, I get loads of CDs in the mail that I like to check out as well. I've incorporated blogging into my lifestyle. It's part of my lifestyle. I get a lot of inspiration out it. And to meet so many creative people all the time, really gives me the opportunity to take on new perspectives. It's pretty amazing.
What other music blogs do you read and why?
Electroqueer is one of my favorites! You're blog is faboulous. Electro and queer. What's not to love!
Aww – thanks Arjan. Now do you read Perez Hilton? What's your opinion on him? Do you think he has a good opinion on music?
Yes, I read PerezHilton.com on occasion. He can be very funny and on-point. Like all of us, he has his bad days too at times. What I like about him is that he doesn't pretend to be perfect. His tone is authentic. What you see is what you get, and people connect to that. Here's a little tidbit only very few people know about. I befriended Perez (I call him Mario) when he started his first blog. I remember calling him and comforting him over the phone when he got sued for the first time. He was so nervous about the litigation. His blogging pushed boundaries and paved the way in many ways. He really was a pioneer and I respect him for that. A few years ago, we also spent some time together at the Hard Rock Hotel in Las Vegas. We went to see The Killers, ate yummy room service food and talked about music. During that weekend he met Paris Hilton for the first time. He was so ecstatic. He couldn't stop talking about it for hours. I think Perez has done a great job in creating a powerful brand in an environment that was very undefined at the time.
At the moment, you have a big musical crush on Chester French, The Killers, Janelle Monae and Roisin Murphy. Why do these artists really hit it home for you?
Chester French, Janelle Monae and Roisin Murphy in particular rock my boat. They are sweet and crunchy! They're fresh, innovative and passionate about what they do and I find that infectious. The guys from Chester French have become friends and I'm just so excited for them. Janelle is an amazing talent. She's so sweet, so gifted and such an inspiration. We live in the same town so I run into her at times and she is always full of smiles. She will be a huge star. I've no doubt. Brandon Flowers of The Killers just makes me giddy. He's the hotness. Foppish and fey.
What was it like to get to interview Roisin Murphy in the flesh? Were you a fan of hers before or after you met her?
I think I met you at a Borders in London the day before the interview. It was so very nice to meet you! I was a fan of Roisin before, but meeting her at the EMI offices really helped me to put her music into perspective. She is so down to earth and easy to talk to. The interview was much more a conversation. She kept asking me why gay guys are so crazy about Madonna. I think we ended up talking about that for almost half an hour.
The power of blogging, downloading and social media has really changed the way the music industry works, do you feel sorry for the music industry or do you think they are really just behind the times in technology?
I don't feel sorry for them. I think the music industry is trying to protect its interests, which includes artists' rights. They are trying to make sense of the digital and social revolution. I believe illegal downloading is a bad thing. It hurts the industry, it hurts the artists and in the end it will hurt bloggers and listeners too. ArjanWrites.com is home of the Guilt-Free MP3. I only feature music that has explicitly been approved by label and artists. It might not be popular opinion, but I just think that is the right thing to do.
Now we both have a mutual love for Darren Hayes music. What is it about his music that you identify with?
I connect with his lyrics, his storytelling. It is very real, from the heart, from his gut. Plus, I admire that he likes to take risks. "The Tension & The Spark" is one of the greatest pop albums of the last ten years that has been very underrated, I feel. "Dublin Sky." My gawd. It's one of my all-time favorites.
Now you recently had an award named after you via the Logo channel – what's that like? Didn't Semi Precious Weapons win that one?
That was amazing! To be acknowledged by MTV and help them plan the event and have the opportunity to nominate artists for an award named after me was out of this world. Seriously. I couldn't believe it when Michelle Williams of Destiny's Child announced my award. I had to pinch myself. Semi Precious Weapons won that award. A really spunky group from Brooklyn. Singer Justin Tranter definitely has the X factor.
Do you find it difficult to gauge the amount of good music that comes through your inbox. I can imagine you must get hundreds of requests a week.
Hundreds a day! Right now, I have more than 9500 unread emails. It is nearly impossible to read everything and writer proper replies. I guess after dealing with that for more than 5 years, I know how to spot the good emails. I just wish I could send a proper reply and thank you note to everyone that takes the effort to reach out to me. I feel bad about that sometimes. I hope they understand.
So what's your opinion on the British music scene. You been over here in London a few times recently. Both London and Berlin are my favorites cities in Europe. London has such a great, thriving pop and dance scene. There's so much happening there. New York is a lot more driven by rock and hip hop. Los Angeles has an emerging electro scene, but it is nothing compared to London. You're lucky to be right where it is happening. I think British musicians value the tradition of pop and are not afraid of it.
What things really drive you crazy when people submit their music to you?
That they don't read my blog. Why would they send me information about heavy metal?
Well thanks Arjan for chatting with me. Just wanted to say you've been a huge inspiration to EQ and if it wasn't for your blog, I might have never started up EQ in the first place. Any parting words for EQ readers…
Thank YOU, Raj. I think your blog is fantastic as well and judging from the comments on your blog you have readers that totally love what you do. That's the biggest compliment you can get.