An interview with Justin Snow of Anti-Gravity Bunny
It would be hard for me to quantify how much Justin Snow has influenced my musical tastes and directions. I’ve been following his music review / interview / all around awesome Anti-Gravity Bunny site since around 2011. He has the ability to present interesting and challenging music with a sense of humor and charm that comes across as the nicest person in the room blowing’ ya mind with cool sounds. He also does a regular radio show “A Thick Mist” which airs on WMWM 91.7 Salem and BFF.fm. He has curated a huge compilation “You’re All The Fucking Best” and continues to be one of the most important figures in experimental music. I was pleased as piss to have Justin answer some questions for my humble blog! -RH
1. When did you first start writing about music? What got you interested in starting a website?
The first time I can remember writing about music is when I wrote about William Basinski’s The Disintegration Loops for an intro to music theory class I was taking in college. Besides that one-off, I never wrote about music before I started Anti-Gravity Bunny. I started AGB on my birthday in February of 2008 (which I just realized means I missed its 10 year anniversary) mainly because I was aimless after finishing college, I was buying a ton of really niche limited run records, and I was reading Aquarius Records’ bi-weekly mailings religiously. I loved the way they talked about music; it really resonated with how I thought about music but I never expressed my opinions because I didn’t have anyone to talk to about it. I had music friends but at the time they weren’t into super abstract stuff (noise, drone, etc.). I was so psyched about weird music that I had to share it with someone (anyone), so I started AGB thinking that maybe someone somewhere would see a record I talked about and get excited about it too. It seemed like a win-win-win where a random stranger could discover new music they liked, a musician could get a new fan, and I could help make that connection.
2. Growing up, what were your earliest musical / artistic influences?
The earliest music I remember having a strong impact on me was The Beach Boys and Roy Orbison, which I attribute to my love for vocal harmonies and over-the-top dramatic crescendos. This was music my parents listened to. I went through a period of listening to my older sister’s music (boy-bands like New Kids On The Block and Hanson) and then my own nu-metal phase in high school (the big players being Static-X and Taproot), none of which I would say affects my musical tastes now. However, I’ve been a huge Smashing Pumpkins fan from the first time I heard them in middle school. I credit “Starla” for getting me into post-rock because that was probably the longest and most instrumental song I’d heard at the time (I know it’s not actually instrumental but Billy stops singing like halfway through the song). Once I was in college/college radio, I listened to all the classic post-rock records. Then Explosions In The Sky’s The Earth Is Not A Cold Dead Place came out, which lead me to their label (Temporary Residence), and there I found Eluvium. Eluvium was my first drone love. I saw the weird wide world of experimental music and fell down the hole.
3. You’ve also put together compilation (You’re All The Fucking Best); what was that experience like?
It was cool. I wanted to do something special for AGB’s 5 year anniversary. I got the idea to put out a compilation of unreleased songs by some of my favorite artists that I discovered throughout those 5 years. So I contacted around 20 artists, hoping that enough would say yes so I would have enough songs to make something longer than an EP. 16 of them ended up contributing which was way more than I hoped for.
Around the same time, I was helping Dan Barrett (Have A Nice Life) and Thom Wasluck (Planning For Burial) play a show in Boston as part of a mini tour they were doing. I’d never booked a show before, so my pal John Kolodij (High aura’d) lent a hand and did all the heavy lifting that entailed. That show was the first (only) one AGB had officially presented, so I figured it would be cool to make a few special physical copies of the compilation for people who came to the show. My wife did the artwork for the CD and I burned around 20 copies. It was a pretty great way to celebrate 5 years.
4. How are your ears doing?
Forever fucked. I’ve always had messed up ears. My right ear is essentially deaf. I had two major mastoidectomies to remove cholesteatoma that was eating away at the bone in my skull along with a few other minor procedures. As of last year, I finally decided I would get a hearing aid. It turned out the best route was getting a hearing aid for my better ear (left side). I did that and now I can’t live without it. While figuring that out, I learned I was a candidate for a BAHA (bone attached hearing aid) which is basically a screw in your skull that a hearing aid attaches to and it will stimulate the auditory nerves directly by vibrating your skull instead of going through the ear canal. This works for me because my auditory nerves work almost normally, it’s just the space between the outside of my ear and my auditory nerves that’s fucked. I had the procedure done in the beginning of March. Now I have to wait until my skull fuses with the metal (about 3 months) before I can attach the hearing aid part to it. I’m expecting it to be literally life changing.
5. When did you first start doing radio shows? What got you interested in that?
I started my first radio show at WMWM (Salem State College) when I went there in 2003. It was called “If It Wasn’t For The Banana This Would Be Terrible.” One of the reasons I chose to go to SSC was because they had a radio station. I don’t know exactly why I wanted to do radio but it seemed like a good way to listen to music I like, share that music with people, and find out about new music. So, basically, kind of why I started AGB. Once I graduated, I wasn’t able to continue my show, so I stopped for a while. I eventually missed it so much that I thought doing a radio thing with AGB would be a good idea, especially because podcasts and stuff were becoming especially popular at the time.
“AGB Radio” was my show on BFF.fm
, an internet-based radio station out of San Francisco that was started up by my friends who I met through WMWM (otherwise I wouldn’t have randomly joined a radio station 3000 miles away). That was a pre-recorded 2-hour show that took me at least 4-6 hours to complete. I got to be a huge burden and doing a pre-recorded show wasn’t nearly as fun as doing a live show. Then I started working at Salem State. I became the co-advisor for WMWM and started doing a show again. It felt different enough genre-wise from “AGB Radio” that I wanted to give it a new name, hence “A Thick Mist.” I didn’t want to entirely abandon BFF.fm
though, so now “A Thick Mist” airs in “AGB Radio’s” old time slot.
6. What is drone?
What it sounds like when you’re drowning.
7. Have your musician tastes changed as you’ve aged and started a family?
They’re always changing. The only major thing I’ve noticed over the past decade or so is listening to way less normal music. Which to me just means the stuff I shelve under “rock/pop.” I’m certainly open to it when it comes my way but I just don’t put any effort into seeking it out. I guess in general since my daughter was born a couple years ago, I’ve spent way less time actively discovering new music. I try to pay attention to what comes through my inbox or what my friends are listening to, but I used to read lots of blogs/review sites/etc. Not anymore.
8. What’s the deal with Massachusetts?
I fuckin love this place. The coast on the east. Mountains in the west. It’s old by USA standards. Super liberal. Cool cities. Close to other cool cities. Vibrant music scene, especially for being tucked away in the corner of the country.
9. Do you think vinyl is the best musical medium? Please explain your answer.
I don’t think there is a best. Best for the moment, definitely, but not an overall best. But vinyl is definitely my favorite medium.
CDs are fine. I have nothing against them but I have no use for them. As an archivist, I kind of loathe cassettes. The magnetic tape will become unreadable in no time at all. I spend 75% of my time listening to music digitally which is 100% because of convenience & portability (I can’t have a turntable at work or on the go). The other 25% is spent spinning vinyl. I have no unique reasons why I love vinyl, all the tropes apply. Browsing through my shelves, pulling a record off, slipping the LP out of the sleeve, the hesitating second between flipping the receiver’s switch on to when it actually powers up, dropping the tonearm down… it’s just an exceptionally pleasing experience.
10. What book should I read this year? Do I need to read the whole thing?
Every Cradle Is A Grave: Rethinking The Ethics Of Birth And Suicide by Sarah Perry. If you enjoyed Thomas Ligotti’s The Conspiracy Against The Human Race, consider this an unofficial sequel. Everyone thinks suicide is bad and new babies are good. Perry just wants you to analyze those (typically unchallenged) beliefs.
11. Closing comments?
Be excellent to each other.