The history of a music fan in four decades, part two

[John Zorn - Naked City]

Read Part One.

As my high school career drew to a close, I went off the rails because I couldn’t make sense of what my hormones were doing, so I channeled that insanity-making into my choice of music.

I badly mimicked Björk at a time she could barely stay in tune herself. I made regular trips to the library to borrow anything on Nonesuch. I swore off radio and depended entirely on music magazines to determine what I listened to next.

In 1993, the first alternative radio station launched in Honolulu, and seemingly overnight the music that put me on the outs with everyone was socially acceptable. Of course, my young, dumb reactionary self couldn’t abide by that. So while everyone was catching up with where I was five years earlier, I found ways to go further afield.


[Various Artists - Macross Song Collection]Robotech was a huge hit in my household, probably the only thing on which the siblings in my family could agree. But when the home video market made it possible for anime to be released stateside, a whole world opened up, particularly J-Pop. One of the first CDs I bought — and still own — is the Macross Song Collection. In fact, the first few CDs I bought were anime soundtracks — Megazone 23Bubblegum Crisis and Akira.

But the prohibitively expensive Japanese imports made exploration of J-pop economically unfeasible for a broke college student. As much I liked J-Pop, I still wanted something that something closer to the Replacements than Paula Abdul.

Downtown New York

Nonesuch’s release of John Zorn’s Naked City sent me down a rabbit hole of downtown New York jazz, but the independent nature of the scene guaranteed I wouldn’t track down a fraction of the recordings connected to it. Not from Honolulu, at least. So I concentrated on the major label artists I could access — Bill Frisell, Robin Holcomb and for a while, Wayne Horvitz.

A political science class finally gave me Internet access, and a few pioneering sites attempted to connect music fans with rare recordings. I was ordering albums from the Internet even before Amazon launched.

Celtic music

[Clannad - Banba]Clannad really took off after Volkswagen featured “Harry’s Game” in one of its commercials. Enya laid some groundwork in introducing the beauty of the Irish language, but her siblings in Clannad took it further with their catalog of folk albums.

I think this passing fascination wouldn’t have spiraled if it weren’t for USENET and a newsgroup called This precursor to the web message board offered a few more recommendations, and I spent a good part of the mid-90s listening to Altan, Capercaillie and Talitha Mackenzie.

Emmylou Harris and country music

Asylum Records sent an interview disc of Emmylou Harris and Daniel Lanois talking about the making of Wrecking Ball to the school newspaper where I was the features editor. I was familiar with Harris’ name but not her work, and I can’t say I was entirely open to covering country music.

But Wrecking Ball wasn’t country, and it made me receptive to listen to Harris’ previous work. A year later, Warner Bros. released the Portraits boxed set, and I became a fan for life.

I learned right away that Harris’ music bore little resemblance to the kind performed by Faith Hill, Tim McGraw and Shania Twain, and the country music I preferred drew its lineage from Uncle Tupelo.

Welcome to Austin, Texas

[Bruce Robison - Wrapped]My college career concluded with an internship to the Austin American-Statesman and my first job out of college. The homegrown music scene focused mostly on Southern music — blues, country and its derivatives — but it had enough versatility to include a diverse rock scene.

In my first years in Austin, I supported the likes of Asylum Street Spankers, 8 1/2 Souvenirs, the Kiss-Offs and Bruce Robison. Toward the end of my time in Austin, I became a fan of … And You Will Know Us by the Trail of Dead and Explosions in the Sky.