Wednesday, December 5, 2012

The Future of 'Geek': Interview with Rob Salkowitz

Author Rob Salkowitz has closely observed how Comic-Con and the geek world it embodies influence global pop culture.

Elaine Burke

Originally Appears in Issue 11

‘Futurist’ sounds like the profession of a character from a comic book but, in these days of fast-moving trends and companies trying to keep up with them, it’s a genuine job title; one that belongs to Rob Salkowitz, author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture. Salkowitz has been attending Comic-Con with his wife since 1997, not just as a fan but as a business analyst trying to find out how cultural trends are transforming old business models.

There are many comic book conventions, but we’re talking about the big one here: Comic-Con International, held every year in San Diego. Over time, Salkowitz has seen it grow into a giant pop culture singularity swallowing up comic books, Hollywood, TV, video games and everything in between.

If there’s any doubt that comic book heroes have become a cornerstone of pop culture, a glance at the summer box office takings puts paid to that. But we don’t need proof. This is nothing out of the ordinary. “It’s sort of part of the cultural furniture, the idea that The Avengers movie makes a billion and a half dollars worldwide, and The Dark Knight Rises – that these are routinely the highest grossing movies doesn’t move the needle. People expect that,” says Salkowitz.

But there are questions; the concerns of the purists. “Is that a permanent, sustainable part of our culture now? Has that bridge been crossed and has geek culture become irreversibly mainstream?” Salkowtiz wonders. “Or is this a sort of an oscillation that in a few years, maybe – for reasons that nobody can predict or entirely control – it goes back to being a subculture and people sort of look at it in the rear-view mirror as they would with disco or the Spice Girls or something like that and say, ‘What were we thinking? And why were we dressed like that?’”

It has happened before, and it could happen again.

Revenge of the Nerds
In Salkowitz’s crystal ball, the scenario where geek culture comes back to the geeks could be more challenging for business, but also more artistically and culturally rewarding. In fact, he sees this happening already with the success of independent production and distribution coming from surprising sources.

“You hear these stories every day,” he says and then asks me if I’ve heard of Axe Cop. I’m ignorant but intrigued. “So, this guy is a professional comics artist and he has a much younger brother who’s like five years old,” Salkowitz begins. “He was home for Christmas playing with his brother, and his brother was telling these stories about this character he invented called Axe Cop who was a highway patrolman who kills monsters with an axe. The [illustrator] was looking for new work to do in his portfolio and he said, ‘You know, this is a better script than I’ve gotten from most of my writer friends. I’m just gonna draw this’.”

And so, Ethan Nicolle, the illustrator, captured his little brother Malachai’s imagination in a web comic that he posted to Facebook. “In the time between when he got on the aeroplane to leave the family gathering and when he landed, this had gone viral,” continues Salkowitz. “‘Axe Cop’ became a top 100 Google search term and it became one of the most popular web comics overnight.”

As quickly as the popularity surge that brought it to public attention, Axe Cop was picked up by Dark Horse Comics and a graphic novel and animated series are already in the works. “It went from literally the mind of a five-year-old kid into the mass media machine that quickly,” says Salkowitz with a mix of awe and admiration.

Salkowitz also remembers when everyone got a Kindle Fire for Christmas and went online to download some comics to read on their shiny new toy. “They went to the Amazon store and the No 1-selling digital download graphic novel over the holiday season was called How to be a Super Villain. It wasn’t Watchmen, it wasn’t The Walking Dead, it wasn’t The Avengers – it wasn’t any of the usual suspects. It was this book called How to be a Super Villain, which was self-published by a person named Rachel Yu who is 14 years old. And this was her third book.”

When a teenage girl is outselling powerhouses like DC Comics and Marvel, and veteran creators like Robert Kirkman, you know that something terribly exciting is occurring. “It’s a whole new world,” says Salkowitz. “It’s not only gonna be Rachel Yu in the United States, or Ethan Nicolle, or any of these people. It could be somebody in India, or in Latin America, or in Ireland, or wherever. The barriers to access are gone.”

From Geek to Chic
Just like the creators are changing, so too is the fanbase. It’s not like the typified ‘geek’ – a myopic male with bad skin that hardly leaves his bedroom – is the only fan we associate with comic book culture, but, like all stereotypes, the image is persistent. To break down these assumptions, we see events such as GeekGirlCon, which recently took place in Salkowitz’s hometown of Seattle.

Even for a forward-thinker with his finger on the pulse, this event was an eye-opener. “This is the future of fandom,” he announces. “As a futurist putting on my business analyst hat and looking: the audience for this stuff is not the 40-year-old geek sitting in his basement any more; it’s not male-oriented nerd culture. It’s much broader, it’s much more international, it’s much more diverse in the things to be nerdish about, and it’s much more plugged into knowledge economy and engineering and science and those sorts of things.”

GeekGirlCon 2012 celebrated everything there was to nerd culture, beyond the confines of comic books and sci-fi movies. There were rocket scientists, roller derby girls, software designers and Quidditch players. (Yes, that’s right, with broomsticks and everything.) And, despite the title, the event wasn’t ‘girls only’, merely a geek-centred programme that completely defied the notion that all participants would be pasty-faced boys in Star Wars T-shirts.

In the Hands of the Fans
New voices – teenage girls and five-year-old boys – are coming to the fore, but at the same time that this is happening, we’re also seeing unprecedented consolidation of media channels at the top end. “Certainly one future of pop culture involves letting a thousand flowers bloom from all over the place, and letting all of these dissident voices and crazy, wacky new ideas get heard; but another future is that this is all being decided in committee rooms by brand managers and by teams of transmedia producers that are engineering this experience in a very top-down way and trying to consolidate all of these audiences around their product, around their channels,” opines Salkowitz.
So what’s it going to be? There’s billions of dollars backing the big guys, but the little guys are still making an impact thanks to the democratisation of distribution heralded by the Internet. Which will define the flavour of global pop culture in the next 10 years?

More than likely, it will be whoever has the fans on their side as even the big-shot Hollywood execs are out courting the fans at Comic-Con hoping for a thumbs up. “And that’s what makes fans different from consumers,” declares Salkowitz. “Fans are educated and engaged and passionate, and they feel themselves to be the co-owners of these properties along with the creators and to have an equal say in how they’re gonna be developed and how they’re gonna be brought to market.”

But while a thumbs down from Hall H (the largest room at Comic-Con with a massive 6,500 seats) can be a death knell for a project, that doesn’t mean a positive reaction guarantees success. “It’s a complicated relationship between what the fans like and what the mainstream audience likes. Not everybody has the deft touch to get that right,” explains Salkowitz.

“It, among other things, proves the extraordinary talent of somebody like Joss Whedon,” he adds, referring to Whedon’s work writing and directing The Avengers – a production that Salkowitz believed to be “fraught with peril”.

“It looked to me like it could very easily have been a ridiculous fiasco – just an embarrassment. And the script is not gonna win any awards,” he remarks. “Yet [Whedon] managed to get just enough of the nerd cred for everybody to be cheering at all the little Easter eggs that he put in there, and also have the mass audience not rolling their eyes and saying, ‘Ugh, I’ve had it with these superhero movies.’”

Very few people have this kind of skill, and pleasing the hardcore geeks and general public simultaneously is never going to be easy. “As long as Hollywood and the mass media is in marriage with the fan community, as demonstrated at Comic-Con, it’s always gonna be tricky, and that’s good. Because if it ever becomes a simple formula, then all of what is great about comics and everything that we love about them – as quirky and individual and personal as those creative visions are – starts to go away and it starts to become engineered, and it becomes a money machine,” says Salkowitz, who wants the geeks to continue making it hard for the mainstream media. 

“Even as big as Comic-Con has gotten, and as well exposed and as sophisticated as the brand people have gotten about managing that, they still can’t quite get it right. And I hope they never do.”

Friday, September 21, 2012

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

One More Robot - Issue 11



Chuck D (Legendary rapper and primary voice of political rap group Public Enemy)
By David Ma

Beth Jeans Houghton (Singer, songwriter, and leader of Beth Jeans Houghton and The Hooves of Destiny)

By Trisha Doyle

Ken Bruen (Irish noir novelist. His works include The Guards and Priest)

By Michael A. Gonzales

Le Galaxie (Irish dance music group)

By Karen Lawler

Adrian Tomine
(cartoonist and illustrator for The New Yorker and his own comic series, Optic Nerve)

By Sam Weiss

Akintola Hanif (Photojournalist, filmmaker and editor-in-chief of groundbreaking culture magazine Hycide)

By Colm Gorey

Cry Monster Cry (Folk duo)

By Jonathan Keane

RawDeal (Rapper and head of the record label Raw's House)

By Dean Van Nguyen

The Sanctuaries (New York-based indie band)

By Nadene Ryan

Rob Salkowitz (author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture)

By Elaine Burke

Pablo Nouvelle
(Swiss musician and filmmaker)

By Simon Mee

Rick James
(Funk icon who sadly passed away in 2004. This in-depth interview is previously unpublished)

By Charlie Braxton

Also Includes

Back to Fashion The 2009 film The September Issue took viewers behind the scenes at Vogue’s New York office, documenting the creation of their largest-ever issue and leaving many to wonder where the hype surrounding the all-important September issue of the magazine originates. By Niamh Hynes

I Was a Teenage Prog Nerd One music obsessive outlines his long-standing love affair with progressive rock. By Joe Tangari

and more

Saturday, September 8, 2012

Issue 11 Preview: The Interview Issue

The new issue of One More Robot compiles interview features with a wide variety of musicians, authors, filmmakers, artists and many other noteworthy people. The 11th edition features conversations with...

Chuck D Rapper and primary voice of legendary political rap group Public Enemy

Beth Jeans Houghton Singer, songwriter and freak-folk artist (Yours Truly, Cellophane Nose)

Rob Salkowitz Author of Comic-Con and the Business of Pop Culture

RawDeal Rapper and head of the record label Raw's House

David Stern Frontman of New York band The Sanctuaries

Akintola Hanif Photojournalist and filmmaker

Michael Le Galaxie Member of Irish dance music group Le Galaxie ( Laserdisc Nights 2)

Ken Bruen Irish crime-noir author (The Guards, Priest)

Adrian Tomine Cartoonist and illustrator for The New Yorker and his own comic series, Optic Nerve

Rick James Deceased funk music pioneer (interview previously unpublished)

And loads more interviews besides. Also includes our look at the September fashion craze, prog rock and regular album reviews, including new releases by Jessie Ware and Joe McKee.

New issue out later this month. For the latest news please 'like' us on Facebook.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

Hal David 1921-2012

Years ago, while preparing to write an essay on Burt Bacharach, my good friend and mentor, the late writer Tom Terrell, said, "Everybody is always talking about Bacharach, but nobody ever talks about the great lyrical contributions of Hal David".

Up until that time, I hadn’t thought about Hal David one way or other. Burt, of course, was the cool symbol of the sixties, muc
h like an American version of James Bond, while Hal was "just the writer". Yet, as singer Dionne Warwick once told me, "If it wasn’t for Hal David, people would just be humming".

Listening closely to lyrics, with "Windows of the World" and "Message to Michael" being favorites, I realized just how powerful a pop lyricist Hal David really was.--Michael A. Gonzales

Thursday, August 30, 2012

The Master Clan

Originally Appears in Issue 11

The world of online gaming is fast becoming one of the largest entertainment movements of the modern age and there are communities taking full advantage. Colm Gorey delves into the world of online battle clans.

Illustration by Louise Butler Sherlock.

The realms of the Internet are often assumed to house a number of sinister groups who either intend on hacking world governments or socially inept psychopaths looking for their next thrill. In reality, online gaming is in the midst of one of the biggest booms in entertainment, culturally and financially, and is fast out-growing the traditional money-spinners of cinema and music. Millions of people across the world are online at any given time playing each other on a variety of different games from the Hollywood-esque shoot em’ ups like Call of Duty to the far removed world of resource gathering and friendliness found in Minecraft.

Despite playing with millions of people, online gaming can be a relatively lonely existence. You drift from one game to the next playing with people who are, in most cases, unidentifiable except for their chosen character name. Games like Battlefield 3 often require teamwork to succeed and the actions of your online teammates can be the difference in whether you win or not. That is why gaming clans developed across the globe for gamers who may be new to a title but want to experience it with a group of similar minded people. Through online forums and getting to talk to people online, clans turn virtual strangers into friendsh through gaming. One gamer I spoke to, Seán Callaghan, is one of 23 full members of one of the largest battle clans in the UK and Ireland: Dogs of War.

Dogs of War
“I got into it about eight years ago,” says Seán, “I had just gotten one of the biggest games at the time, Medal of Honor, and decided to join a server called ‘Newcomers Only’ since I was jumping into the game having never played online before. After a while we got to know each other better after talking and decided that we should join a league for a bit of competitve fun. Sadly, this fell apart after a while and another clan I joined just got too involved in the competitive side of things which is how I ended up at Dogs of War and I’ve been with them for seven years now.”

So what makes a clan identifiable? Similar to a soccer team wearing a particular pattern of colours, a clan will have their own tag. Whether you are playing on an Xbox 360, Playstation 3 or PC, an identifiable tag before a person’s name identifies them as a clan member; in Seán’s case ‘DoW UK’. The average clan has around 20 members who, in most cases, have gotten to know each other personally over a number of years. DoW have regular voice-chats through Ventrilo, a chat application that the members pay for so that they can communicate on a regular basis from all across Europe including the UK, Ireland, The Netherlands and Slovenia. This raises an interesting question: is it possible to form a close relationship with someone in a clan if you very rarely, if at all, meet? Seán explains: “The friendship between everyone in the clan is akin to talking to a friend that has moved to another country yet you talk to them everyday on Skype. When I’m not playing games I’ll go on to Ventrilo and find the rest of the clan doing a range of things whether one person is gaming, I’m browsing the web and another is watching TV. For me, it’s always been about making it a shared experience.”

The make up of a gaming clan member is far removed from the cringeworthy stereotypes of spotty teenagers taking out their social frustrations on virtual characters. For PC gamers in particular, the average age is about 35 but can range from people in their mid-twenties to late fifties. In comparison to the relatively inexpensive costs of the leading consoles, a PC gamer has to put a significant amount of money into a PC set-up. Graphics cards, sound systems and plasma screens are just some of the expenses needed to make a dedicated gaming set up which will likely set a person back a couple of thousand euros.

Can’t Teach an Old Dog
DoW are one of many clans that live and breath first person shooters. Call of Duty, Battlefield and Counter Strike are their bread and butter when it comes to gaming. Whether you’re running around Rambo-style blasting away your friends on a clan server, or teaming up to take on another clan, these games are the grand daddies of the gaming scene, raking in millions of dollars in game sales, merchandise and expansion packs each year. And yet, as each new installment in the franchise comes out, the older stalwarts of the DoW clan are resistant to change. As one of the younger members of the group, Seán has found that the older members are prone to sticking to what they know by playing the older games like Call of Duty 4 and Counter Strike, while younger players, including Seán, have expanded into playing newer games like Battlefield 3.

What is important to know is that membership is not exclusive. If you were looking to join a clan, one of Ireland’s most popular forums,, has a subsection dedicated to a whole variety of games. Similar to Seán starting out with Medal of Honor, a new player to a game can visit one of these subsections and join a number of servers that can cater to their playing style or limitations. One example you can find on is a Battlefield 3 community known as Craggy Island (no prizes on where the inspiration for this name came from). An online community made up of hundreds of members, Craggy Island is a go-to source for all Irish Battlefield 3 PC players whether they want to find clans to enjoy a more competitive side of gaming, or share YouTube videos of their thoughts and ideas on the game, or recorded clips ranging from bloopers to strategy guides and weapon loadouts. Much in the same way that Seán moved towards clans through a Medal of Honor server, I decided to jump right in and try my hand at putting on my warpaint and joining one.

Diving In
I must admit, I am what many would call a ‘casual gamer’ in that I play maybe three times in a week for an hour or two despite the fact I do follow the current gaming news. I own an Xbox 360 and only usually buy a handful of games in a year that I sometimes play online with a friend; possibly the least fearsome duo the internet has ever seen. As a regular member of a particular UK soccer forum that caters to people from all walks of life, I began posting on a thread for a dedicated Xbox Battlefield 3 clan ‘Awooga 365’, which consists of people from both the UK and Ireland. Much like being the only stranger at a party, a shyness came over me as I introduced myself. What struck me first, and what Seán had spoken to me about earlier, the friendliness of total strangers takes you aback. After a bit of back and forth chat, the first game was arranged and I jumped in to their rented server.

In the first few matches I sheepishly tried to talk to my new teammates through my microphone but gradually I found myself laughing and making fun of virtual strangers, for want of a better word. As a teamwork-orientated game, having a larger group of people to play with was a far more enjoyable experience but also as a place to mess around with the almost never-ending possibilities that can be found when playing such a vast game like Battlefield 3. Once we finish up, it’s back to the forum where we laugh or moan about the battle.

Looking at the other end of the scale, there are hundreds of clans who take gaming that bit more seriously and wage war virtually for a lot of money. When I spoke with Seán, he explained to me a world that is simply beyond my comprehension. Throughout the United States and South Korea (and, to a lesser extent, Europe) clans come to events to compete for prizes that can range from a few hundred dollars to hundreds of thousands. Started in 2002, E-sports website Major League Gaming (MLG) is to gaming what the Premier League is to soccer. Clans of any skill can go onto the MLG website and challenge one another to a battle in a variety of games including Call of Duty and FIFA.

In Game Battles, prestige and boasting rights are the prizes on offer as hundreds of matches are scheduled between teams of all sizes on a daily basis. “It’s great entertainment to watch,” says Seán. “I pay $20 a month and with that I can watch all of the matches on MLG in live high-definition.” This watching of clans and computer games in general has started, what might be considered by some, to be a strange experience. With increasing regularity, bars like Captain America’s are taking part in a new scene called Barcraft. In a similar way to soccer fans coming to bars to watch soccer, gaming enthusiasts can come to the bar and watch some of their favourite players and teams compete in one of the biggest and most lucrative games in terms of cash prizes, called Starcraft 2. A real-time strategy game based in a far-future conflict between different races, alien and human, players try to out-skill their opponents by building a better army using a variety of tactics. Similar, in almost every way to watching a popular sport, people in their hundreds turn up to Barcraft events, cheer on their players and teams while eating and drinking to their hearts content.

Understandably, many people unfamiliar with the game can be taken aback by the sights of a large group of people cheering and shouting at a computer game. Indeed, people like Seán do not see a day when Ireland or the rest of Europe will reach the mainstream heights experienced by the professional players in South Korea or North America: “In the past, there were attempts to create an E-sports community here in Ireland but it just hasn’t reached the same levels as in other countries. This is mostly down to a number of reasons including broadband infrastructure which is weaker compared to other countries.”

The Future
So what does the future hold for clan gaming? DoW has continued in the same manner for a number of years now and it would appear any major changes to what games are being played will be unlikely. The Irish scene has much further room to expand, but ideas like Barcraft are pushing the boundaries of how being a gamer is perceived in popular culture. No longer are games played solely by spotty teenagers, but people of all ages, men and women, who see the fun Internet gaming can provide given the increasing power and speed of modern broadband.

As we spend more and more of our time logged on to the Internet, the huge growth of social communities and groups online are inevitable or already with us. Through gaming, people like Seán found a way of making new friends across a number of countries with like-minded people without having to leave his computer at home. And yet, this summer DoW will be putting down their mouse and keyboard and raising a drink during their annual meet-up in the UK and continue where they left off, except this time in person.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Crack and the Conspiracy to Destroy Urban America?

by fayemi shakur, photo by Akintola Hanif

One month before the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover sent out a memo outlining his then secret Counter Intelligence Program (COINTELPRO). After decades of speculation, the goals of the program were made public under the Freedom of Information Act revealing Hoover’s plan “to prevent the rise of a black messiah, who could unify and electrify the black militant movement, to publically discredit and embarrass black leaders, and to prevent the long-range growth of militant black organisations, especially among youth”. The public documents confirm the FBI successfully infiltrated black nationalists groups and caused major disruptions within the civil rights and black power movements which indirectly and directly led to the assassinations of Dr King, Malcolm X, Fred Hampton Jr and numerous others.

The FBI’s tactics also included the introduction of drugs like heroin and LSD, and the manipulation of communications to cause dissention, chaos and confusion. Hoover’s memo explained the purpose of the endeavor ­–  “to expose, disrupt, misdirect, discredit, or otherwise neutralise the activities of black nationalist hate-type organizations”.

What does any of this have to do with crack?

If you think about it, crack was another effective way to ‘neutralise’ would-be leaders in America’s urban cities. Didn’t crack also prevent long-range growth of black youth and fulfill the goals of COINTELPRO?

In the early eighties LA based drug trafficker ‘Freeway’ Rick Ross (not the rapper, the real Rick Ross) hooked up with CIA agent Danilo Blandon and his partner Norwin Meneses Cantarero, two Nicaraguan exiles, who supplied him with cocaine. The government was well aware of the activities and didn’t try to stop it. Blandon supplied access to the drugs and used profits to fund the Contras, a nasty guerilla army he was connected to in Nicaragua also connected to the Iran-Contra scandal. It was a mess. 

By 1982, Ross was allegedly selling over $3 million worth of cocaine a day and buying 455 kilos a week. He sold it to street organisations like the Bloods and Crips who turned it into cheaper, potent crack cocaine. Eventually he had thousands of employees who helped distribute it all over America’s urban cities. A documentary film, Bastards of the Party directed by Cle Shaheed Sloan, portrays how efforts of the Bloods and Crips to unify their communities were undermined early during their formation particularly once drugs and turf wars broke out. Ultimately, both street organisations were criminalised and overcome by criminal behavior. 

In 1996, the San Jose Mercury News published a three-part article, ‘Dark Alliance’, by journalist Gary Webb which laid out the Ross, Blandon, Contra connection in full detail. Congresswoman Maxine Waters called for hearings on the matter but the CIA connection was never proven and nothing ever came of any of it. America’s ‘War on Drugs’ campaign first coined by the Nixon Administration was a sad joke. Ross was incarcerated for seven years and Blandon went on to work for the US Drug Enforcement Agency.

While Ross was in prison he created a socially conscious website,, with a simple agenda: education, not incarceration.

“You can't get rid of the dope dealer and solve the problems. They'll find themselves another dealer. This is not a problem you can incarcerate your way out of,” explains Ross.

And how can anyone explain declining crime rates and exploding prison budgets?

Mandatory minimum drug sentencing in the US gave offenders three times more prison time for crack cocaine arrests than powdered cocaine arrests. This led to racial disparities in sentencing filling America’s profit based prisons with thousands of black and brown non-violent drug offenders.

In her book, The New Jim Crow:  Mass Incarceration in an Age of Colorblindness, author Michelle Alexander explains how the criminal “caste system”, as she calls it, affects not just the 2.3 million people behind bars, but also the 4.8 million others on probation or parole (predominately for nonviolent offenses), and says nothing of the millions more whose criminal records stigmatize them for life.

Apparently, those who control America’s criminal justice system see it another way and though the crack epidemic has faded, America’s addiction to drugs and lies has not. It’s hard to think of the full arc of possibilities that could have existed without this type of institutionalised and internalised racism, without COINTELPRO, without crack.

fayemi shakur is a freelance writer and a Managing Editor of HYCIDE, a photojournalism and art publication based in Newark, N.J., USA.

Friday, May 25, 2012

One More Robot - Issue 10



Let’s Talk About Sex, Cindy
The self-appointed ‘Michael Bay of business’, Cindy Gallop, talks entrepreneurship, gender equality, and, most importantly, sex.
by Elaine Burke

A History of Dublin Subcultures
Since the fifties, Dublin has seen its fair share of cultural movements, with mods, rockers, teddy boys and bikers, among others, all being popular among the city’s youth.
by Ruraidh Conlon O’Reilly

Gothic City
Dublin’s small, secluded Goth scene exists with the help of specialised night club Dominion and event organisers Sedition Industries.
by Jonathan Keane

Peace, Unity, Freedom: Rocking and Rolling in Eastern Nigeria
A look at the music of Nigeria’s underground rock’n’roll subculture of the 1970s, featuring Fela Kuti, Monomono and The Funkees, among others.
by Joe Tangari

The Master Clan
Despite their members often being scattered around the world, online battle clans share a unique brotherhood.
by Colm Gorey

Memories of Crack City
How crack cocaine wounded New York City and the artists, musicians, filmmakers and writers who captured the drug’s impact.
by Michael A. Gonzales

Also Includes

Adam ‘MCA’  Yauch 1964-2012 Miles Marshall Lewis remembers the sadly departed Beastie Boy.

Trayvon Martin and the Quest for Justice Charlie Braxton describes how the senseless slaying of a teenage boy heightened racial tension across America.

Label Perils Karen Lawler spoke to First Music Contact’s Angela Dorgan about dodgy record label deals and how unsigned bands can avoid getting conned.

Half Life On the back of De La Soul’s recent side project, Dean Van Nguyen examines how alter egos have affected the output of hip-hop artists.

Femme Fetale Simon Mee on the tragic demise of ‘Chelsea Girl’ Nico.

and much more!

Thursday, May 24, 2012

Living in (Crack) City

by Michael A. Gonzales

In Spike Lee's half-brilliant Jungle Fever (1991), when protagonist Flip Purify (Wesley Snipes) wanders through the gritty streets of Harlem looking for his crackhead brother Gator (Samuel L. Jackson), the filmmaker chose to highlight the harrowing sequence by using Stevie Wonder's powerful soul anthem 'Living for the City'.

When the drug was introduced to the Harlem scene in the early-1980s it was only a matter of months before the foundation began to crumble. A year later, the majority of New York's low-income neighbourhoods looked like the war-torn landscapes of Europe during WW2. Watching the film during it's opening week-end twenty-one years, I related well to the disgust on Flip's face as he stared at the devastation that crack cocaine caused in our community.

As a native New Yorker born and raised on the uptown streets of Harlem, my personal version of  'Living for the City' went from stickball games in the street to dodging bullets in the day as crack vials shattered beneath my sneakered feet. Yet, while smoking crack rocks began its raging rein of terror in 1984, the same communities were also contributing culturally with the rise of rap music.

With rappers becoming the aural equivalent of Italian neo-realists directors, my favorite being Vittorion De Sica, these young poets were unafraid of showing 'the real' in their material. It was only a matter of time before crack culture (selling, buying, dying) and rap music began to overlap. Twenty-eight years after I first heard a cocaine corner boy on a 145th Street muttering, "Crack, crack, crack," there has been thousands of rock related songs released.

When I began working on my latest drug-related essay 'Memories of Crack City' for the forthcoming One More Robot Summer Issue, I spent a lot of time on YouTube getting lifted and inspired by crack songs created by everyone from Schoolly D to Lil Wayne to Rick Ross. However, since this is issue #10, I decided to pick my personal top-ten crack classics based discs to serve as the soundtrack. In addition, since the piece is about New York, all the songs selected are East Coast based. As one crack head screamed to the other, "Rock on!"

1. Cracked Out by Masters of Ceramony

2. Ten Crack Commandments by The Notorious BIG

3. Rap Game/Crack Game by Jay-Z

4. White Lines by Grandmaster  Melle Mel & The Furious 5

5 Crack Attack by Fat Joe
6. Night of the Living Baseheads by Public Enemy

7. Incarcerated Scarfaces by Raekwon

8. Shook Ones by Mobb Deep

9. Just to Get a Rep by Gang Starr

10.  NYC Crack by The Wu Tang Clan featuring RZA

Bonus Track. The P is Free by Boogie Down Productions

Read Michael's essay 'Memories in Crack City' exclusively in the new issue of One More Robot.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

Issue 10 Preview: The Subculture Issue

In our upcoming Summer edition One More Robot have turned their attention to various subcultures the world over. From Dublin's Goth scene to the underground Nigerian rock movement of the 1970s, our staff never cover the obvious. Here's a small preview of what we have in store.

To be one of the first to receive your copy, not to mention our Autumn and Winter editions later this year, be sure to subcribe right this minute.

We examine Irish subcultures through the second half of the 20th century, with very special photography provided by Garry O'Neill.

A look at Dublin's small, secluded Goth scene, including specialised night club Dominion and event organisers Sedation Industries. 


A look at the music of Nigeria's underground rock'n'roll subculture of the 1970s, featuring Fela Kuti, Monomono and The Funkees, among others. 


Michael A. Gonzales remembers how crack cocaine wounded New York City and outlines how it was captured by artists, musicians and writers.


The tragic demise of the mysterious and haunting Nico. 

Album reviews include Nicki Minaj, Bear in Heaven, The Futureheads, Too Short and M Ward.

And there's a ton more we couldn't find decent YouTube vids to match up with. New issue out later this month. For the latest news please 'like' us on Facebook.

Friday, May 11, 2012

Adam ‘MCA’ Yauch 1964-2012

I nearly never heard Licensed to Ill back in 1986 because a Five Percenter almost robbed me for daring to support white MCs. 16 at the time, I’d just copped my shrink-wrapped copy of The Beastie Boys classic debut album from Crazy Eddie electronics store in The Bronx, along with a ham-and-cheese hero from my local Bibbo’s Deli. New York City DJs Red Alert, Chuck Chillout, Mr Magic and others spun ‘The New Style’, ‘Hold It Now, Hit It’, ‘Posse in Effect’ and the rest of the group’s Roland TR-808-powered beats on their late-night hip-hop shows on a regular basis. But the Five Percenter – Rashawn was his name – was set to toss my Licensed to Ill in the garbage that cold winter’s day right along with my swine sandwich.

“Fuck those whiteboys,” he said, a fine way to dismiss MCA, Mike D and the King Ad-Rock. Hip-hop’s Ramones. The Caucasian Run-DMC. I was never able to see The Beastie Boys live in concert, and now I never will.

Adam Nathaniel Yauch, rapper MCA, died on May 4th of salivary gland cancer. He was 47. Licensed to Ill, Paul’s Boutique (1989), Check Your Head (1992) and Ill Communication (1994) represent an uninterrupted stretch of crazy-high quality hip-hop in a genre that often struggles to put out more than two consecutive classics. As a group, The Beastie Boys are matched only by De La Soul in that regard.

MCA was the face of The Beasties’ evolution, from the teenage faux anarchy of their hit ‘(You Gotta) Fight for Your Right (to Party!)’ and the inflatable penises of their live shows to Tibetan Freedom Concert appearances and Yauch’s own nonprofit organisation for Tibetan independence, the Milarepa Fund. Yauch is survived by his wife, Dechen Wangdu – an American of Tibetan descent – and their daughter, Tenzin Losel.

As their labelmates on Def Jam brought hip-hop into suburbia, Beasties samples introduced Led Zeppelin, Black Sabbath and The Clash to the hood. Urban cultural exchange at its finest. --Miles Marshall Lewis

Saturday, April 28, 2012

Tara Stewart

Australian born Irish/Indian musician Tara Stewart has been on the Dublin scene for just over a year now with previous music featured on an RTE2 television show (The Importance of Being Ernest) a song that was recorded with Martin Furey of The High Kings. She has also supported Australian rock band Jet and played with the tribute to The Last Waltz in The Olympia last year.

This year is a complete change in direction and new makeover of the style of music that was once heard by Tara this includes new songs and a new line up, with what was a solo act turned into a five piece band. With catchy pop melodies and indie/rock sprinkles mixed in they have been playing together only a couple of months and are set to record a much anticipated debut EP at the end of April with Producer Barry Murphy (Leaders of Men & Machine Gun Baby).

The band is currently made up of Lead Vocal Tara Stewart, Guitarists Nicole Billings and Russell Keogh, Bassist Stephen Banim and Drummer Anthony McMahon with inspiration from The Smiths and Fleetwood Mac to Michael Jackson.

Already 2012 summer is planned to be a big year with Communion Dublin in Academy 2, Ruby Sessions, Dublin INK live, Festivals, London shows and the official launch in August at The Workman’s Club.

Keep an eye out for dates to be announced very soon on twitter and facebook pages and some new music previews/videos to be released in the next few months.


Saturday, April 7, 2012

StyleSiren and One More Robot presents 'Singles Bar'

In a new colaboration with, One More Robot staff will be writing a weekly column where we review some of the latest pop singles. This week our attention turns to Damon Albarn, Justin Bieber and Toy.
Damon Albarn – ‘The Marvelous Dream’
Damon Albarn’s varied and accomplished career has itself done a lot to remove folksy, Nick Drake-style music from my appetite. Whence the African poly-rhythms, US backpack rap, and iPad synths? Nowhere to be found on his latest, ‘The Marvelous Dream’. The song is premised in part on the life of Elizabethan mathematician and astronomer John Dee. Other than some references to the moon and “god fire”, you’d hardly know it, though. It is, rather, a hypnotic, quiet piece of music: two-and-a-half minutes to pause, turn off my phone, stop checking email, and just listen. ‘Marvelous Dream’ creates a space where hand claps are captivating, and a relatively tuneless tune entrances. It’s a solid reminder that life and music don’t require super-saturated aesthetic pleasure to feel good. Or at least, “not quite dead.” – B. Michael Payne

Justin Bieber – ‘Boyfriend’
[Island/Def Jam]
A decade ago teen idol Justin Timberlake made a run for adulthood with acoustic-driven pop tracks about hooking up with grown-up girls. Cut to 2012 and this Justin seems eager to repeat the formula. Unfortunately, everything about ‘Boyfriend’ feels a bit Timbo-lite, from the awkward spoken word/rap segments to the wayyyy toned down sexuality. I was as guilty as anyone for enjoying the adolescent Bieber’s weird collaborations with hip-hop’s elite, but hearing the now 18-year-old’s deepened voice for the first time, it’s evident that he’s growing into a sluggish, soul-less singer. – Dean Van Nguyen

Toy – ‘Motoring’
Channelling the spirits of seventies post-punk and their 21st century successors in equal measure, London’s Toy have a strong formula that also exudes a love of seventies psychedelic with their heavy Korg-driven sound. Unfortunately, that formula is bastardised a little too obviously and single ‘Motoring’ is actually just plain pedestrian. – Jonathan Keane

Tuesday, March 27, 2012

Broadway Buddhas and the Birth of Hip-Hop

By Michael A. Gonzales 

Originally Appears in Issue 8

New York City, 1977: it was the humid summer of a serial killer named the Son of Sam, the infamous blackout and Bronx bombers the Yankees heading towards the World Series. Uptown in Washington Heights, the sweltering streets were alive with musical ice cream trucks, the sweaty slaps of Dominican domino games, perspiring boys pitching pennies on the corner and young kids darting through the fire hydrant sprinklers.

The bustling block where I lived on 151st Street between Broadway and Riverside from the age of four was full of rowdy kids who were like family. My best friend was Kyle Jenkins, who was cool as the Fonz and lived upstairs in apartment 4-F with his gossipy mother Miss Josephine and five fine sisters.

For full article visit:

Sunday, March 4, 2012

One More Robot Magazine Opens New Online Store // Subscriptions Now Available!

Now open: A smart new online store via Storenvy. Current and back issues available now and, for the first time ever, you can subscribe to One More Robot:

Due to the recent success we've had selling issues online via eBay, we at One More Robot are extremely happy to announce a new online store via social community website With a smart new look and easy to use interface, will make purchasing current and back issues of the magazine easier than ever before.

Also available via the new store, readers can buy a subscription to One More Robot for the first time ever. So for a mere €15 ($20) excluding p&p, you can be one of the first to receive the next three issues (Summer, Autumn and Winter 2012), which will be delivered straight from the printing press to your front door. And believe us when we say these issues are going to be hot!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Resurrecting The Stone Roses

 Originally appears in Issue 9

The Stone Roses are back and they wanna be adored once more. Announced last October, the band’s reunion will see the original line-up play two dates at Heaton Park in their home city of Manchester next year before embarking on a world tour.

Tickets for the gigs at sold out in 14 minutes, with some later surfacing on eBay for as much as £1500 – nearly 30 times the retail price – suggesting that anticipation for The Stone Roses is high. Indeed, new songs are being written and, according to the lead singer Ian Brown, an album for 2012 is potentially on the cards.

The band’s eponymous debut, which burst onto the Manchester music scene in 1989, still remains a seminal classic. Songs such as ‘Waterfall’ and the transcendental ‘I Am the Resurrection’ have ingrained themselves into the consciousness of a generation and show no sign of loosening their hold on younger listeners. After 1994’s disappointing follow-up Second Coming, however, the band disintegrated into acrimony.

If there remains hard feelings among the four members, they certainly weren’t on show this October. Speaking at the band reunion’s press conference, Brown joked: “We’ll ride this until the wheels come off, like we did the last time.”

But while many fans are ecstatic at the opportunity to see The Stone Roses relive old glories, others are more sceptical.Was it not only two years ago that guitarist John Squire said that he had, “no desire whatsoever to desecrate the grave of seminal Manchester pop group The Stone Roses,”? Of course, the usual crowd of jeerers accuse the band of shameless profiteering. Worse still, they say, they’re destroying the legacy of a wonderful group.

Perhaps a friend of mine, still disillusioned by the feeble reunion of The Pixies, summed it up best. “Seeing your favourite band reform is like bumping into an ex-girlfriend from years back. The only difference is she is now older, fatter and, yeah, probably even balder”. Wise words, particularly so when you’re talking about Frank Black. But will it be the same case for The Stone Roses?

It is hard to tell at this early stage. Pulp’s reunion last year showed that revival acts can not only be successful, but can also steal the show at several music festivals. But then again Pulp has Jarvis Cocker, a wit of the Morrissey and Mark E. Smith vintage, at the helm. All the Stone Roses have is Ian Brown. Not exactly the finest vocal talent in the world.

Regardless, The Stone Roses will no doubt headline several festivals this summer playing classic track after track. Perhaps it is 2012, and not 1994, that will be known for The Stone Roses true second coming? --SIMON MEE

Monday, February 13, 2012

The Dime Squad #3: Jonathan Bogart

One More Robot Editor Dean Van Nguyen enjoys an e-mail back-and-forth with Nineties Hip-Hop Issue contributor and pop documenter Jonathan Bogart.

Can you remember the first time you heard hip-hop? What was the song that made you aware?

I don't remember the first time I heard hip-hop with any clarity -- there was never any head-turning "what is THIS?" moment, because I had heard it described long before I ever heard it. Because of my sheltered upbringing -- I was homeschooled for most of the 80s, and my parents were evangelical missionaries -- I'm pretty sure I didn't hear any hip-hop until 1990 or 1991, when I would have first been exposed to Christian rappers like dc Talk, Stephen Wiley, Mike-E, P.I.D. (Preachers In Disguise), and others I can't remember on a sampler cassette that filtered into our house from some kind donor. But it would have only been a few months later that I turned on local radio and heard "Ice Ice Baby," which was the first mainstream hip-hop I heard. I remember envying the kids at the Guatemalan school I was going to, who danced to "Ice Ice Baby" and knew all the words even if it was the only English they knew.

You're really well known and respected among music journalists and readers alike but, unlike many of your peers, most of your work crops up on very alternative websites and, of course, your many blogs. Was this intentional on your part?

Well, I've only been writing seriously about music for two or three years, and I think I'm about where that deserves. I don't try -- or necessarily even want -- to make a living writing about music, so I haven't pursued the kind of exposure or access that someone paying bills by their pen needs. I think of my peers as other enthusiastic amateurs; I've never even pitched anything that hasn't been solicited first.

I think I first came across you when I read your 'best of the decade' song lists of every era right back to the 19th century. I used to listen to those lists song-after-song. Can you tell me a little bit about that project and when did you become so enamoured by musical history?

The project actually started as a response to Pitchfork's 200 Songs of the 1960s feature -- and after doing the 60s, I realized that it was so much fun I wanted to do one for each decade. I've always been interested in history, so when I started becoming fascinated by the broad scope of music around the turn of the millennium thanks to the endless availability offered by Napster and the canon-making of end-of-the-century lists, it was natural for me to be as interested in the music of the Coolidge Administration as in the music of the Nixon, Reagan, or Bush II eras. (That's the 20s, 60s/70s, 80s, and 00s respectively, for non-American readers.)
Are you a big time music collector? I'm thinking about the piece you wrote for The Vinyl Issue. Also, it can't of been easy to Napster some of the tunes on your list like 'Russian Scissors' by The Oriental Orchestra or "Rock My Soul" by The Golden Gate Jubilee Quartet.
I've had my bouts of collector's fever; especially with older material, it's essential to be able to track down reissues on CDs and LPs. But there's more available online (or through certain ahem channels) than you might expect; the tricky part is knowing what information to trust. 
Finally, I just five minutes ago googled both our names and saw this: You call me "The Second Nicest Man in Pop Criticism". And Hendrik is #1! Care to comment on this travesty? I'd come after Hendrik's crown, but I'm actually too nice to do that.. 
There's such a thing as being too nice! You have an editorial judgment which makes you not a pushover.
haha. very flattering.

Saturday, February 4, 2012

The Dime Squad #2: Miles Marshall Lewis

Second up in our series of interviews with recent contributors is American cultural critic, editor, fiction writer and "bohemian b-boy" Miles Marshall Lewis.

DVN: As soon as we first start talking about a Nineties Hip-Hop Issue you straight away mentioned Hype Williams. Considering the scale of what could be covered, what drew you to Hype?

MML: Contributor Michael A. Gonzales is a close friend. We've had a lot of private conversations about enjoying Belly, the 1998 Hype Williams film. When Michael mentioned the Hip-Hop Issue to me, we both thought immediately of Hype. With his omnipresence on late 1990s MTV, a lot of folks expected Hype to graduate to Hollywood in a bigger way, like former video directors David Fincher, Brett Ratner, Spike Jonze and McG, for example. But his imprint on Nineties hiphop is enormous if you think for even two seconds about the images of the culture that flooded that era.

DVN: Why do you think Hype has never really made that step into Hollywood? Do you think if big screen recognition never happens for Hype it might be something he looks back on and wishes he had achieved?

MML: Right now Hype's supposed to be directing Lust, an erotic thriller written by Joe Eszterhas, who did the scripts for Basic Instinct, Flashdance and Showgirls. In 2004 Hollywood made a live-action Fat Albert film that Hype was tied to at some point. Someone else directed and it flopped. He got hired to direct Speed Racer too, another flop that fell through for him. Researching for my piece in the Hip-Hop Issue, I found another project, a zombie horror movie called Thrilla, that got stuck in development hell for him. The period between Belly and Lust may just not have been Hype's time for Hollywood. Better for him to have spent the years improving his craft than for him to have blown his shot directing flops.

DVN: You were also interesting in doing something on the East Coast/West Coast rivarly, but we already had Charlie touching on that in his Pac piece and Michael in his Bad Boy feature. Charlie describes hearing about Pac's death and MAG talked about crying when he heard Biggie died in a recent blog post. Do you have memories of both those incidents?

MML: When Tupac died, I was headed to a Giorgio Armani party downtown at the Armory. I found out from David Mays, the founder and publisher of The Source magazine. He had just found out somehow, and went through the office telling everybody the news. I was on the phone with someone in the Source's conference room. Dave peeked his head in and said "he's outta here" or something like that. News reporters were outside the Armory asking people about his death as we all went inside. D'Angelo was performing at the party dedicating songs to Pac, and everybody there was talking about it. I didn't cry for Big, but definitely I cried for Pac. I remember that moment, smoking a blunt and listening to "Old School," off of Me Against the World.

When Biggie was killed, I was spending the night at a girlfriend's house in New Jersey: Asondra R. Hunter, the second editor-in-chief of Honey magazine. She was out in L.A. at the party where Big was shot. She called and told me what happened. I checked messages from my answering machine in Brooklyn. My father had called, my best friend Marc and Asondra again. It was numbing.

DVN: Can you remember the first hip-hop record you fell in love with?

MML: My childhood in the South Bronx was full of hiphop I loved: "Rapper's Delight" and "8th Wonder" (Sugarhill Gang), "The Breaks" (Kurtis Blow), "Feel the Heartbeat" (Fearless Four). "Original Human Beat Box" by Doug E. Fresh too. But the first rap record I loved enough to buy was "Roxanne Roxanne." I bought the whole UTFO album. Mix Master Ice could cut.

DVN: The Bronx seeps into your work quite abit, from your first book Scars of the Soul Are Why Kids Wear Bandages When They Don't Have Bruises through to the title of your publication Bronx Biannual. Looking back to those early hip-hop records you just mentioned, could you tell something special was happening?

MML: Well, yeah. Something special was happening whether or not it ever spread worldwide. I was just a kid in the backseat of the car hearing his parents laugh at the Sugarhill Gang when their records came on the radio. Dad said rap would never last, Mom agreed with Dad, and that was the end of it. From their point of view. But especially once Def Jam Recordings took hold, plus Krush Groove and flicks of that nature came out, I knew hiphop was never going anywhere. I never bothered to see Beat Street in the movies; I lived on Beat Street

DVN: Ha! And I think all Dubliners who didn't see Once can relate to that... So how did you end up making the jump from hip-hop fan to hip-hop journalist?

MML: I'd interned on Vibe's first two issues in the summer of 1993. I published my earliest work around that time in magazines like Noir, Freedom Rag and Eyeball. Then The Source had a famous editorial walkout that I won't get into here, but it left them with no writers, and I was one of the freelancers to fill in the gap. My Grand Puba feature for them was the first time I ever got paid. A year later I was reviewing Erykah Badu's first album for Rolling Stone. Three years later I was the music editor of Vibe. In 2004 I published my first book, sort of a memoir of my relationship to hiphop, including interviews with Russell Simmons, KRS-One, ?uestlove and Afrika Bambaataa.

MML's work can be viewed at and he tweets @futhermucker

Friday, February 3, 2012

Welcome Friends

So maybe you saw the Irish Times piece today and wondering what's this whole Robot thing is about. Well, we're here to show you around a bit.

Firstly, The Nineties Hip-Hop Issue is on sale right now in Dublin City at Trout Records (George's Street Arcade), All City (Crow Street, Temple Bar), The Record, Art & Game Emporium (Fade Street),
The Winding Stair Bookshop (Lower Ormond Quay) and Blind Tiger Collective (South William Street). Anywhere else in the world it's available via mail order. There's also more background information on the issue via the editor's own blog. Back issues are also available and, for a limited time only, we've a good deal in bundle packs which you can check out here.

There's more info about the magazine itself on our About Us page and we're pretty active on Facebook and Twitter so be sure to check us out there and join in the fun.

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Dime Squad #1: Michael A. Gonzales

For the Nineties Hip-Hop Issue, I decided to dub our team of contributors 'The Dime Squad' as an homage to seminal hip-hop publication The Source who did a lot of important work during the decade documenting the genre. The Source's editorial team called themselves 'The Mind Squad' and we would be a low-rent equivelent (dime as in ten cents). But by the time we were finished a bunch of the old Source guys were writing for One More Robot too, so the name probably wasn't all that appropriate. Still, to accompany the new edition I'm putting together a series of blog posts where I enjoy an ol' tete-e-tete via e-mail with some of the writers about their pieces and careers in general. First up, its regular One More Robot scribe, and XXL, Vibe and Wax Poetics contributor, Michael A. Gonzales. --Dean Van Nguyen, Editor.

DVN: Your latest piece addresses Bad Boy Records in the nineties. Based in NYC at the same time the label was exploding, did you get a sense that something special was happening?

MAG: In 1993, when it was announced that Uptown Records had fired Sean "Puff Daddy" Combs, the entire industry was speculating on what would be his next move. At Uptown, Puffy was the chief conceptualist behind Jodeci, Mary J. and the emerging "hip-hop soul" era. So, when he announced the formation of Bad Boy Records a few months later, I was psyched.

Some of the best black music, be it soul or hip-hop, has been defined by their labels. Be it Stax or Motown, Sugarhill or Def Jam, the branding of these labels begins with the sound of the music. That said, I was a Bad Boy fan from the very beginning. Once their first single "Flava in Ya Ear" by Craig Mack was released, I was smitten by the Puff Daddy sound.

Working with the Hitmen, a crew of musicians, arrangers and real musicians, Puff threw in the attitude and swagger and a few stars were born including Biggie, Faith, 112, Total, Mase, The Lox, Carl Thomas and Puff Daddy. Still, it's somewhat amazing that nineteen years after the formation of Bad Boy, the biggest star Diddy has launched is himself.

Coming from Harlem, I thought the boom of Bad Boy was the perfect 1990s soundtrack for hanging out in bars, dancing with girls and making money. Whereas a lot of hip-hop encouraged anti-social/male aggressive behavior, Bad Boy music insisted you be cool as the winter wind and always have a fine woman by your side. In its first decade, Bad Boy was the James Bond of black music...I'm just saying.

DVN: You interviewed Faith Evans for this piece. How cool was she?

MAG: First, let me say I've had a crush on Faith since 1995 when I saw her signing autographs against the wall of a Brooklyn weed spot. Instantly, I fell in love. Ironically, that same night my friend Raymond O'Neal played me an advance of Faith's self-titled debut and I was smitten for life.

The first time I interviewed Faith was in 1998, when her second album Keep the Faith was coming out. Me and my friend Amy Linden were writing The Source magazines first R&B supplement and I insisted that Faith be my story.

Faith and I went out for sushi in Greenwich Village. Since her husband/manager sat in the car for the entire time, I could pretend I was on a date. But, jokes aside, she was very cool and down to earth and answered every question.

In 2010, with the release of her sixth studio album Something About Faith, I interviewed her again and the singer had lost none of her wit or charm. "The Ballad of Faith and Biggie" was written from the transcripts of that interview. 

DVN: You've interviewed so many of the greats! Like Curtis Mayfield, Barry White, Jay-Z, D'angelo...The list goes on! Is there anyone stand out you've met in your career, for good or bad reasons?

MAG: I would have to say Sade, but she was the not the ice queen I imagined her to be, but a sweet woman who was also very down to earth. During the interview, she and I sat in her hotel room smoking cigarettes. A few weeks later, she had her manager send me a book on how to stop smoking.

I would also put my old friend Tricky in this category, because he was the total opposite of his depressing aural persona and he always had the best weed on the planet.

DVN: Haha. Cool. How did you get into the whole pop journo game?

MAG: From the time I was a kid, I was a music fan. I was kind of strange because I listened to a little bit of everything and a few favorites was Elton John, Curtis Mayfield, Chaka Khan, David Bowie, Al Green, Isaac Hayes, anything produced by Gamble and Huff, Queen, Frank Sinatra and big band music. When I was in 7th grade, I self-published a school newspaper and wrote a review of the movie Tommy, mostly because it featured my man Elton performing "Pinball Wizard."

That said, I started reading pop magazines like Rolling Stone, Crawdaddy and Creem. Later, when I was an English major at Long Island University in the eighties I discovered the Village Voice and was turned on to a writers Greg Tate, Barry Michael Cooper, Carol Cooper, Chuck Eddy, Frank Kogan, Nelson George, Lisa Jones, Harry Allen, Bonz Malone and others who wrote about music in the same crazed way I often thought it.

Although I was well aware from the age of seven that I wanted to be a writer, it was those guys and dolls that sent me on the path to pop. Later, I stumbled on the Brit newspapers New Music Express, Melody Maker, The Face and various collections, which introduced me to an entire other level of pop appreciation in the works of Nik Cohn, Paul Morley, Julie Burchill, Tony Parsons, David Toop, Frank Owen and Simon Reynolds.

While I also write crime fiction, erotica and other types of essays, the world of pop, or "Planet Pop" as my buddy Frank Owen once put, is still appealing. From my long stories in Wax Poetics on Nina Simone and Curtis Mayfield to "The Ballad of Faith and Biggie" in the latest One More Robot, pop documentation remains important to me

DVN: School newspaper aside, when did you begin seriously covering "planet pop" and what publication gave you your start?

MAG: Besides the school paper and a couple of fanzines, my first music writing was done for a newspaper called Cover. It was a freebie monthly that was published by a Lower East Side poet named Jeff Wright. The music editor was a cool dude named James Graham, who taught me a lot about writing, jazz, Fela and the magic of the the Lower East Side. While at Cover I wrote about different kinds of stuff, from MC Hammer to Casandra Wilson to guitarists Jean-Paul Bourelly and Vernon Reid.

It wasn't until 1990, when my friend Havelock Nelson invited me to collaborate on the book "Bring the Noise" (1991, Random House) that the hip-hop writing thing took off. I was occasionally writing pieces for Word Up and Right On, which were teen magazines. A few years later, when The Source opened there New York City office, I began writing for them. My first piece was on Poor Righteous Teachers and my first cover story was about Cypress Hill.

After that Vibe started, RapPages was launched, XXL was established, Ego Trip was hatched and in the matter of a few years I was writing for them all. I might be one of the few writers to write cover stories for all the major urban magazines during that era.

As an aside, I'd like to also point out that it was during this same era that I began writing for a full-figured woman's fashion magazine called Mode, that allowed me to do various types of stories outside of rap. Editors Abbie Britton and Corynne Corbett allowed me to do all kinds of writing including essays on torch singers, Burt Bacharach and female disco artists.

DVN: A lot of writers seem to be defined by their work in one or two publications, but your stuff keeps popping up all over the place, from The Telegraph to Aleim. How do you maintain such a super-human workrate and do you ever get to a stage where you actually have to tell an editor "NO!" lol. Also, is there anything you have coming out soon we should look out for?

MAG: First, very rarely do I say "no" when there might be some mean green attached, but at the same time I'm blessed because editors see my work and reach out to me. I started writing for the London Telegraph, because the editor Nisha Diu saw my work in New York magazine.

There are also other magazines where I've written pieces I'm proud of, like the late great Stop Smiling, that I developed a relationship with because of my publicist friend Tresa Sanders, who convinced the editors to meet with me about doing a Rza feature in 2006 and we worked together until their last issue a few years later.

My interest in pop is varied, and I've become comfortable writing about various subjects including visual arts and literary subjects. As a writer, I think it's important to absorb as much knowledge as possible on as many subjects as one can manage. For me, art, film, music, books and blogs fuels my desire to write, document and push pop culture as though it were a drug.

In the last few years, I've also started writing a lot of long-form music pieces, most of the about 6,000 words,  for Wax Poetics. When I write those stories, be it on Barry White or Nina Simone, I often think of the pieces as though I was writing movie like Ray, Walk the Line, Purple Rain, Velvet Goldmine or Grace of My Heart.

Currently, I'm proud to be a contributing editor for HYCIDE, which is an arts queterly and blog. The next one, which will be out next month, is the sex issue which features my essay "Through the Plexiglass," an article about the decadent days of old Times Square and the Screw magazine art of my friend Guy Gonzales.

I recently wrote the Notorious B.I.G. introduction for the Biggie special issue of XXL, an essay for Complex about the making of Society of Soul's underrated 1995 album Brainchild, an upcoming interview with George Clinton also for Complex and and I'm working with the editor of a classic hip-hop magazine that is about to be resurrected.

One of the upcoming articles I'm most proud of is my interview/profile with guitarist Jesse Johnson, who was originally a member of the funk group the Time. Remember the dude in the pink suit that played guitar with Prince's rival band in Purple Rain, well, that was Jesse. He played with the Time for a while, had a wild and crazy solo career in the '80s, recorded a single with Sly Stone called "Crazay" that and, with the exception of a few independent discs, kind of disappeared for a while. Currently, though, he is on tour in Europe with D'Angelo. Anyway, the piece is coming out in Wax Poetics, which is doing a special Prince issue featuring the purple clad maestro, a few of his collaborators and members from his various side project. Anybody that likes Prince and Wax Poetics will be happy.

Michael blogs at and the erotica blog Open is also a print journal that he co-edits with writer/editor Fayemi Shakur.

Friday, January 27, 2012

One More Robot - Issue 9


Featured Articles

R U Still Down?: The Legacy of Tupac Shakur
Examining the life, death and legacy of the most famous voice in the history of hip-hop.
by Charlie Braxton

Hype’s World
A critical breakdown of 15 nineties music videos from visionary director Hype Williams.
by Miles Marshall Lewis

Love & Hip-Hop
Exploring the interplay between R&B and hip-hop in the nineties.
by Quentin B. Huff

Rare Grooves
Counting out ten rare nineties hip-hop records every true fan should know.
by Cherryl Aldave & Monte Smith

Famous Last Words
The man once dubbed ‘Hip-Hop’s Official Cartoonist’ shares some of his favourite work from his time with The Source magazine.
by André LeRoy Davis, introduction by Michael A. Gonzales

Too Legit: The Neglected legacy of Pop-Rap
Analysing the influence of MC Hammer and the subsequent wave of ‘pop-rappers’ to achieve success.
by Jonathan Bogart

Young Blood: Lil Wayne in the Nineties
As a teenager in the nineties, Lil Wayne dropped hints of his impending stardom as both a solo artist and member of The Hot Boys.
by Joe Coscarelli

The Ballad of Faith and Biggie
Faith Evans discusses her role in the Bad Boy Records family and marriage to the legendary Notorious BIG.
by Michael A. Gonzales

NWA In Full Effect
A look at the various West Coast sounds that came on the back of NWA’s success, from the solo efforts of Eazy-E through to artists like Above The Law, Mack 10 and King Tee.
by Dean Van Nguyen

Also Includes

Heavy D 1967-2010 Inie Banigo remembers the influential hip-hop icon.

How MTV Got it’s Groove Back Recent inventiveness in their scheduled is making MTV worth watching again, argues Declan Aylward.

Spotlight: AM & Shawn Lee Jonathan Keane spoke to the funky duo about their recently released colaboration album.

Lesser Halves Derek Owens breaks down his five worst partners in the entertainment world’s history.

Bringing The Heat: Pacino in Dublin Matthew Jaffrey charts the history of the Dublin International Film Festival and previews this year’s event, including an scheduled appearance by Al Pacino.

Column: Ah Sure, Look It! Niamh King wonders if her peers are becoming increasingly quick to shrug off feminism.

Column: Half Nelson Jason Robinson examines the on-screen importance of a convincing accent.

and much more!

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Back Issue Now Available

Those bundle packs of back issues seen in stores that stock One More Robot are now available to buy worldwide via eBay. And at only a fiver a pop, they're super good value.

The Crucial Issues
Issue 8 (The 100 Songs That Changed The Game)
Issue 7 (The Pop Issue)
Click to view eBay page..

The Bumper Pack
Issue 5 (Dublin’s Sonic Boom! Local Band Interviews and Profiles)
Issue 4 (The Generation X Issue)
Issue 3 (Interviews with Anton Newcombe and John Cale)
Click to view eBay page..

Monday, January 2, 2012

Issue 9 Preview: The Nineties Hip-Hop Issue

In our upcoming special Winter/Spring double issue One More Robot's team will be focusing on nineties hip-hop culture, art, lifestyle and music. Here's a glimpse into just some of the pieces we have prepared.

To keep up-to-date with when the issue will be available and how you can get your hands on it, please 'like' us on Facebook and follow our Twitter.

Yeah Baby We Like It Rawwww!!

Charlie Braxton examines the life, death and legacy of the most famous voice in the history of hip-hop, Tupac Shakur.

Michael A. Gonzales speaks to Faith Evans on her role in the Bad Boy Records family and marriage to The Notorious BIG.

André LeRoy Davis, the man once dubbed ‘Hip-Hop’s Official Cartoonist’, talks us through some of his favourite work from his time with The Source magazine.

We inspect the nineties output of a teenage Lil Wayne and his group The Hot Boyz.

Exploring the interplay between R&B and hip-hop in the nineties, under the working theory that the increasing inclusion of R&B-style rhythms and hooks made an impact on the expression of love/sex/relationship in hip-hop music during the decade.

While NWA disbanded in 1991, their influence over nineties West Coast hip-hop was vast. We look at a variety work and sounds that came on the back of the group's success, from the solo efforts of Eazy-E through to artists like Mack 10 and King Tee.

Jonathan Bogart discusses the oft-dismissed influence of MC Hammer and the flood of pop-rap chart toppers that were released on the back of his success.

And there's a few words on the late, great Heavy D.