A retro-futurism/synthwave skyline backdrop with warm neon colors. In the foreground, evoke the vibe of various music artists and genres discussed in the blog post: Paula Abdul, Bing Crosby, The Who, Flock of Seagulls, Nirvana, Metallica, The Clash, Marilyn Manson, and Skinny Puppy. The overall aesthetic should have gothic undertones, featuring elements like dark clothing, mysterious shadows, and a slightly eerie atmosphere to capture the eclectic and diverse music tastes described. Image generated by DALL-E

Just the beer light to guide us

I recently realized that I like a lot of different types of music.

Okay, yes, if you know me, you know that’s not a grand discovery. But.

What I mean is that, I like — have always liked — contradictory and conflicting styles of music.

Again, perhaps not a shocking revelation.

What I really mean is that, I actually think that’s okay and not weird. That’s…new.

Listen, this realization came at the same time as I remembered just how into Paula Abdul I was at one point in time and thinking “‘Opposites Attract’ was actually pretty dope, tho.”

I credit my dad with my passion for music. I don’t know if he feels it the same way I do about music. I’ve never asked. All I know was that my childhood had a soundtrack. It wasn’t just my dad’s records, of course. There was Bing Crosby, Kenny Rogers, Dolly Parton and Alvin & the Chipmunks at my grandparents’ house, too. And I guess my dad was into pretty typical stuff for a dude his age during that time. A combination of stuff from the late 70s — The Who, the Stones, sometimes even Sweet — and new stuff that was on the radio — Flock of Seagulls, The Fixx, INXS, Fine Young Cannibals. There was Heart and Fleetwood Mac and The Tubes and the Talking Heads. There was Bowie, so much Bowie. Occasionally, there’d be Zeppelin. The Go Gos, The Clash, The B-52s, it’s all there rattling around in my childhood.

I have strong memories of watching Purple Rain at an age that I would characterize as probably way too fucking young for that movie. I watched Awake on the Wild Side on the brand new MTV and met Twisted Sister and KISS. I saw Lou Reed at some probably single-digit age and thought the concert was too loud until he played “Walk on the Wild Side” when I came alive and started dancing on the bleachers. I saw The Who at Candlestick Park during one of their (many) farewell tours. I saw Blue Oyster Cult at the San Mateo County Fair and marveled when one of the band members left the stage and came back in a Godzilla costume during the titular song.

When I started listening to my own music collection, it was a weird hybrid of stuff my dad liked (but didn’t own) and stuff I thought was cool and different. I joined the BMG music club because I saw an ad that said you could get 10 cassettes for a penny (not realizing there was a contract involved) and conned my way into getting the Top Gun and Rain Man soundtracks, Aerosmith, Tracy Chapman. When I was in middle school, I had an unfettered devotion for New Kids on the Block while the kids at school were “Down With OPP” and I tried to figure out what a “Funky Cold Medina” was. I secretly made copies of Mariah Carey while going through a very deep and serious Doors phase after watching the movie (another one I was probably too young for).

Later, I fell into the lush, velvet lined straightjacket of hair metal. Prince posters were replaced by magazine pinups of Sebastian Bach, Brett MIchaels and Mötley Crüe. When you’re 13 and you’re getting into metal, there’s no room for admissions that you might actually like “99 Luftballons” or Falco or A-ha or Debbie Gibson. Those are secret pleasures that only come out accidentally when you hear something playing over the mall speakers.

In 8th grade the metal got heavier. From Slaughter to Sepultura, Warrant to Cannibal Corpse. You picked sides in the Megadeth vs. Metallica feud (Megadeth, obviously). It was a race to find the darkest, evilest, fastest, most growly music. But I still was looking for hooks and melodies.

Somewhere in there, Nirvana happened, and grunge, and flannel shirts were my uniform. I recently went down a rabbit hole after listening to “Black” randomly on Spotify and realizing damn, this was an amazing song. How could I have forgotten how good Ten was? Alice in Chains, Soundgarden and Pearl Jam but mostly Kurt Cobain led me to grunge’s roots, where I found Black Flag and the Dead Kennedys. At this point, I was already all over the place, just rapidly consuming sounds like they were oxygen. And as I started making my own sounds, and my friends were going down their own musical rabbit holes, we traded sounds. His discovery of ELO, mine of some random punk band who’s tape I found at the second hand store (The Leaving Trains). I had a ‘zine — those were a thing — and I got music sent to me. And it was amazing. Bands like Dripping Goss and Onespot Fringehead and Bubblegum Crash and the bizarre yet wholly listenable Linus P. Smile (which was a little like Wesley Willis except nerdier and less of a one trick pony).

From across the benches at lunch there was the “freak table” and, at some point, I was there, too. One of the freaks. And the freaks had sounds, too. Beautiful, sad sounds like The Cure and Sisters of Mercy, angry, rebellious sounds like Nine Inch Nails and Marilyn Manson, and cerebral, danceable sounds like Frontline Assembly, Skinny Puppy, Front 242. I made the mistake of mixing peanut butter with my chocolate with the freaks once, suggesting that prog metal band Voivod was to guitars what FLA was to synthesizers; they weren’t impressed. But we still shouted the lyrics to “Nature’s Revenge” and “Deep Down Trauma Hounds” at the top of our lungs (and on top of the tables) at lunch.

Goths are a varied bunch, but still, they like categories, and I was some kind of hybrid between a guttergoth, a stompy industrial goth, a flowy, ethereal goth, and a punk. Who still listened to Madonna, occasionally, on the side. When I was old enough to get in and I had a car, I was at clubs in San Francisco almost every weekend. The insides of Shrine of Lilith and Roderick’s Chamber as familiar as the clove smoke that followed me home and the burning sensation of way too much eye shadow making my eyes water. I remember the first time I went out, I drove to a parking lot to apply my makeup in the car, in the dark, because I didn’t want my parents to think I was weird. Eventually, I stopped caring about being weird. Being weird was cool. Especially after spending a few hours in a building full of weirdos like you, all swaying and stomping and gliding and floating to the same sounds as you.

But, even as I grew into the goth scene, and the goth scene evolved to incorporate a weird hybrid of EBM — so that listening to ATB and Paul Van Dyk and Moby was actually pretty normal — there were still secret sounds that were weird even for the weirdos. It’s okay to like The Legendary Pink Dots and Siouxsie and Peter Murphy and even Bowie’s Black Tie, White Noise, but maybe cool it with the hip-hop CD by The Spooks you picked up at your record store summer job.

My eclectic tastes always felt like they put me on the fringes of groups. In college, my create-your-own-major program advised depth and breadth, and that was how I approached music. Depth into deep realms that deconstructed rock and punk (post-rock) or dug into the origins of electronic music in the school archives through Alvin Lucier, Steve Reich, Terry Riley, Wendy Carlos, Morton Subotnick, Pauline Oliveros. Breadth into ever-expanding subgenres of happy hardcore alongside swoopy indie goth — Alice Deejay next to Faith and the Muse, Don Caballero bumping elbows with Babes in Toyland.

I didn’t question it. When I started DJing, I would risk a room full of groans to see other weirdos like me dancing to the Spice Girls and “Closer” mashup, “Closer to Spice.” When I went to England on my study abroad program, I apologetically danced to Brittney Spears in full Robert Smith makeup, my Americanism somehow claiming “Baby One More Time” as my own.

When you put music into boxes, there are always things that push at the edges of those boxes, that question the existence of the lines between. Acts like Girl Talk and mashups like Wugazi the Rainydayz Remixes by AmpLive and djBC prove that there are people that enjoy blurring those lines. But that’s what we do. Put music in boxes. Alternative. Indie. Classic Rock. Country. Hip-hop. Pop. This or that.

I like my Brooke Candy with my Trent Reznor. I have been on a kick recently of re-listening to music I listened to 10, 20 years ago, rediscovering The Magnetic Fields, Shudder to Think, L7. But tomorrow I might listen to Tori Amos or Grimes or The Electric Six.

“jazz” “sequence” has always been about the juxtaposition of things and even when I put things together in a DJ set list, I often try to see how far I can swing the pendulum without losing momentum. And maybe after all, me thinking that liking conflicting genres of music was weird was actually the weird thing. We’re not this or that. We’re clusters of atoms moving into and out of everything else and the sounds that move us are a fingerprint of our psyche, a collection of identities that, when combined, form a cohesive and complete whole.






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