I met Bobby Carlson at some mutual friends' apartment in August of 1997 in Phoenix. He had recently returned from a short stint living in Baltimore, where I live now. We attended college together and I can say with little doubt that Bobby's left-leaning sensibilities and —paradoxically enough— his pragmatism have been a major model for my own thinking since we met. He is an excellent sounding-board and a patient man.
We have known each other since 1997. That’s ten years now. So a lot of these questions will focus on that.
What would you say is the biggest thing to change over the past ten years on a global level? A personal level for you? What do you think has changed most about me over the past ten years?
I didn’t really get exposed to the internet in a big way until I came to college in December of ‘97. I learned to type in high school on an electric typewriter. I was in the last class before they got computers. So I grew up pre-internet, playing video games on Commodore 64s and nerding out on Nintendo. I can’t imagine growing up and having the information, never mind the porn available to anyone with a third grade education. I don’t think it makes the world any better or worse, but it’s certainly different and a lot more could be said about it, though I don’t think I’d have anything interesting to say.
You lived in
I think it was 97/98, but I could be mistaken. I lived in a three bedroom apartment (it was very nice) with six other people and paid 100$ a month for rent, which I did so with high school graduation money. (I had about $1000 saved up, and it lasted about four months. Besides rent, I bought ramen and vinyl.) I feel like my memories have been skewed a bit by watching four seasons of the Wire. However, I would walk everywhere, as I didn’t know how to drive and would walk downtown almost everyday. I was pretty amazed by anything East Coast or that was different than
Since that time, you've lived in
It was either a giant mistake or a happy accident to not move out of
As an outside observer,
That’s a lot of questions. To answer the last couple first, there is a big emigration rate, for sure, not just by college graduates, but people that just don’t want to live here anymore, that think the big city might be better, perhaps, maybe for those reasons you listed, (though I think Flag is a pretty good place to raise a kid.) And I think that’s why a lot of rad shit hasn’t been as documented as it should. What Flagstaff needs, I think, more than anything is a record label like K or Dischord or Sub Pop, or rather, a regional label that does well and grows into a label with the stature of those labels, and whether it stays regional, like Dischord, or not, at that point, wouldn’t really matter. Or, you had an idea, that always stuck with me, of the big outdoor music fest, but thus far attempts have been too half-assed and local for anyone to really notice. I think if an Arthur writer ever witnessed a good Flag show… that particular publication seems very like-minded.
Is the era of "the next big thing" over?
I’m assuming you mean like music or literary trends. And I don’t feel qualified to say, regardless of what you mean. I can say that for the young (hearted) person, that era is never over. When a young person discovers some form of like-mindedness and a light switch clicks in their brain, for one to say, oh, well, been there, done that is pretty culturally destructive.
Can you be part of the system (see the immediately above) and still be revolutionary? How? Is location a big factor in the possibility?
I guess it depends how one defines ‘revolutionary.’ I’m not sure it’s possible outside of a personal level. Sure, we can kick the managers out of the office and hire new ones, and we can put the workers in charge and see what happens. In the past, they’ve just become asshole managers. I’m not saying that’s inevitable, like some might, but I don’t know if humans are capable of getting out of the office. The best we can do is make it a nice office. Well lit. Available resources. If that makes any sense at all. I guess to say it more plainly: I don’t think being separate from the system is at all an option. I don’t think there is such a thing.
What's on your plate for the next ten years of our mutual relationship?
Getting to hang out once would be numero uno. After that, the sky’s the limit, to end this installment with a cliché.
Clarifying my "next big thing" question a bit… I suppose what I meant by that was more the idea that it seems harder for the media/mainstream public to find and propel the kinds of previously underground phenomena they did when we were younger. It doesn't seem to have happened in a long time. Do you agree with that assessment? Is underground art better or worse off for this?
I think my previous answer addresses what you mean to a large degree. To repeat, I think for the young explorer, none of this is very relevant. The kid today discovers Nirvana and Dinosaur Jr. the way I discovered Led Zeppelin and Thin Lizzy. I do think it’s actually easier to propel the next big thing, the cycles, or the ‘hunger for the new’ has just grown exponentially. To answer more fully, as an older dude, I’m not so sure there is underground anymore, if there ever was. And I’m not sure whether that’s good or bad. Reading that book, Rip It Up and Start Again it seems like that gap was bridged in the early eighties. I feel like Myspace, and like technologies have really leveled the playing field to a very large degree, as far as getting your ‘art’ out there, for people to see or hear it. Again, this is good and bad. In many ways, there’s just too much, and most of it is mediocre at best. But any joker can get a show anywhere, if they present themselves the right way on a Myspace page. It makes the whole Black Flag oeuvre of recording and touring constantly somewhat obsolete in my opinion. In that when Black Flag was doing it, there was no one else doing it. Now, an entire generation is doing it. For a weekend warrior like myself, this is fantastic. I play where I’m wanted. Again, these trends are neither good nor bad, they just change the landscape, and folks just update their maps or they don’t. I think it’s fantastic there are so many bands. I wish they were different bands, but that’s my problem.
How do you find new music/art/lit, etc? What have you found lately?
What ruined my life forever was discovering skateboarding in fourth grade. Since then it’s guided my tastes to a very large degree.