21 episodes

A podcast companion to Dan Ozzi's REPLY ALT.

danozzi.substack.com

REPLY ALT Dan Ozzi

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    • 5.0 • 5 Ratings

A podcast companion to Dan Ozzi's REPLY ALT.

danozzi.substack.com

    Sellout Stories: Sarah Lewitinn (Ultragrrrl)

    Sellout Stories: Sarah Lewitinn (Ultragrrrl)

    Hello and welcome to REPLY ALT, the only and therefore greatest email newsletter about music in the known universe. I’ve been running a series here over the last few weeks called SELLOUT STORIES where I post extended chats with some of the people who make appearances in my BELOVED and BESTSELLING new book SELLOUT. Please see past episodes with Chris #2 of Anti-Flag, Norman Brannon of Texas Is the Reason, and Riley Breckenridge of Thrice. They’re all on Spotify and Apple and blah blah blah.

    Today’s guest is Sarah Lewitinn, who leads much of SELLOUT’s chapter on My Chemical Romance. Sarah has internetted her way into a ton of career opportunities. In the early days of the web, she used AOL to befriend Mikey Way, which eventually led to a brief stint managing My Chem. She also used her message board savvy to network her way into an internship at SPIN where she gained a following for her off-the-cuff online writings under the moniker Ultragrrrl. Obviously, using the internet to leverage yourself into gigs seems fairly intuitive now, but at the time, she was sort of a pioneer in the online-to-IRL-career pipeline. In fact, I’m not sure how much of this conversation will even make sense to a person who grew up on social media. Much of what we talked about involves the trials (and benefits) of networking during the dial-up days.

    Among other topics, we discussed making your voice stand out on the internet, why culture might have been better off with gatekeepers, how the role of A&R reps has changed over the last two decades, and Sarah’s famous controversial hill to die on: that My Chemical Romance is the Nirvana of their generation.

    (Also, some photos of Sarah as well as Frank Iero were published in my companion zine MAJOR LABEL DEBUT, which is still available in my merch store.)

    Obviously, only true posers have not read SELLOUT yet, but on the off chance you haven’t or in case you’ve been meaning to pick up ten additional copies, visit my website at SELLOUT.BIZ. (I paid $20 for that URL and I’m gonna get every penny’s worth!) But if 450-page books are too daunting for you and you’re looking to just read the part about Sarah, good news, Rolling Stone ran that section here:

    Oh and speaking of Rolling Stone, apologies to their social media manager but this was a very good typo and they should’ve left it up. RIP to this banger tweet:

    Order my book, SELLOUT, here: 
    B&N | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Bookshop | Goodreads

    Shop the SELLOUT merch store.

    Follow me on the internet. Instagram | Twitter | Website

    Get full access to REPLY ALT at danozzi.substack.com/subscribe

    • 1 hr 7 min
    At Home with Chris Norris (Steak Mtn.)

    At Home with Chris Norris (Steak Mtn.)

    Hello and welcome to REPLY ALT, the best/only newsletter about music. I’ve been doing a lot of supplementary interviews around here lately about my book SELLOUT since it has consumed my damn life over the last two months. As such, I’ve run interviews about the major-label experiences of The Bronx, Less Than Jake, Anti-Flag, Texas Is the Reason, Thrice, and Murder by Death. But today I figured I’d get back to some good old fashioned non-SELLOUT content by interviewing my elusive friend Chris Norris who, now that I’m thinking about it, designed one of the SELLOUT shirts I have for sale. Dammit. OK so I guess it’s not completely unrelated to SELLOUT. (You may also recognize Chris’ work from the book I released with Laura Jane Grace in 2016. He designed that book and some of you have its artwork tattooed on you forever.)

    Chris has a book of his own out now called HUNCHBACK ‘88. Actually, the book came out a few years ago (and I interviewed him about it then), but he’s just released a brand spankin’ new expanded edition. It’s a horror story which doesn’t really have a resolution. Bodies come apart and teens get disemboweled in poetic fashion. Call it a mystery, or a puzzle that doesn’t need to be solved.

    The expanded HUNCHBACK has a ton of original grotesque artwork from Chris as well as guest contributions from artists like Mark McCoy, Chris Farren, John Jr., and others. It’s like a tiny brick of compressed macabre art that I cannot recommend enough. The original HUNCHBACK was sort of a daunting undertaking that read like one unbroken train of deranged thought, but this new version is a bit more manageable. I personally keep my copy next to my nightstand and flip it open to a random page before bed. Then I have nightmares about being sliced in half on the beach all night.

    Anyway, please enjoy this interview with Chris where we discuss among other things: Being introduced to art through Marvel comics, doing the bare minimum, being notoriously and deliberately difficult to work with, and growing up in America’s two most undesirable locations: Florida and Salem, Massachusetts. Enjoy! Listen above or anywhere you listen to podcasts: Spotify, Apple, blah blah blah.

    And pick up the new HUNCHBACK ‘88! Give it to your goth crush this holiday season. (Note: If your goth crush is me, I already have a copy, sorryyyyy!)

    And to see who’s really paying attention, I am gonna mark down the Steak Mtn. SELLOUT shirt in black by 20% in my store in honor of this interview. Just enter the discount code HUNCHBACK88 at checkout.

    Order my book, SELLOUT, here: 
    B&N | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Bookshop | Goodreads

    Shop the SELLOUT merch store.

    Follow me on the internet. Instagram | Twitter | Website

    Get full access to REPLY ALT at danozzi.substack.com/subscribe

    • 1 hr 16 min
    Sellout Stories: Riley Breckenridge (Thrice)

    Sellout Stories: Riley Breckenridge (Thrice)

    Hello and welcome to REPLY ALT, my perfect email newsletter about music which has never had a single typo or msitake in it!

    I had my West Coast SELLOUT release party last week in Los Angeles and it still amazes me that an entire venue’s worth of people will show up to hear about A BOOK. THE WRITTEN WORD! Thank you for coming if you did! I really do need to set up some events in other cities, huh?

    I shook a lot of hands and took many pictures with people and as a result I got sick for the first time in two years. Don’t worry, it’s not The Big C. I got tested just to be sure. Just a regular boring cold. Aha, suckers! Your best efforts to infect me with your Covid germs have failed! I AM UNKILLABLE! I’m feeling much better now thank you but you’ll have to excuse the scratchiness in my voice in this interview I recently recorded with Thrice’s Riley Breckenridge.

    As I mentioned, I’ve been running this series called Sellout Stories in which I talk to some of the supporting players in SELLOUT about their major-label experiences. (Check out previous interviews with Norman Brannon from Texas Is the Reason, Chris #2 from Anti-Flag, and Chris DeMakes from Less Than Jake.) Glad to add Thrice to that list today.

    I’m forgetting who said it at the moment, but someone I interviewed for the Thursday chapter of SELLOUT told me that around the time the New Jersey band went to Island Def Jam, the label also signed Thrice, almost as a backup plan. You know, in case Thursday didn’t work out. Good to have another ‘Th—” band on deck.

    I don’t think it was as simple as that, but Thursday certainly did cast a long shadow at Island Def Jam. When the band got bought out from Victory Records for $1.2 million, there were a lot of expectations. The New York Times Magazine compared the band to Metallica and U2. There wasn’t nearly as much drama surrounding their West Coast counterparts in Thrice, but the band did have a similar experience with the label. They got a ridiculously overblown budget to make their major label debut (likely also somewhere around the half-mill mark) and had months to overanalyze it. They were also caught in the unfortunate transitional period when Lyor Cohen left the label and L.A. Reid stepped in.

    The result of Thrice’s big-budget effort was The Artist in The Ambulance, which was released in July 2003, two months before Thursday’s War All the Time. I figured, since Thrice only got a few passing mentions in SELLOUT, they deserve to have their story expanded upon here. So I convinced drummer Riley Breckenridge to chat about the band’s major label experience.

    Check it out above or at all the usual podcast places: Spotify, Apple, blah blah blah.

    Order my book, SELLOUT, here: 
     B&N | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Bookshop | Goodreads

    Shop the SELLOUT merch store.

    Follow me on the internet. Twitter | Instagram | Website

    Get full access to REPLY ALT at danozzi.substack.com/subscribe

    • 53 min
    Sellout Stories: Norman Brannon (Texas Is the Reason)

    Sellout Stories: Norman Brannon (Texas Is the Reason)

    Hello and welcome to REPLY ALT, the only/greatest newsletter about music in the world. Welp, SELLOUT has been out for a week and the response has been so overwhelming. Every morning I wake up to dozens and dozens and dozens of nice messages from you all. Apologies if I haven’t gotten to all of them but I really appreciate the support! I’ve done approximately 9,000 interviews about the book recently if you want to read/listen to any of em. There have been a few new ones I’m probly forgetting. I was interviewed by Mark Hoppus, which kinda blows my mind. He asked me to settle the debate: The Blue Album vs. Pinkerton. Naturally, I panicked and asked him to settle MY debate: Dookie vs. The Blue Album. He chose wisely. (Dookie.)

    Aaaaaanyway. I mentioned the other day that I was starting an interview series called Sellout Stories, where I expand the major-label tales of people in the book. (My first guest was Chris from Anti-Flag.) Since Texas Is the Reason’s Norman Brannon makes an appearance in the chapter on Jimmy Eat World, talking about how great Clarity is, I figured he should be the second guest and woooo boy what a story his band had!

    This conversation ended up being so much deeper than I’d expected. We talked a lot about putting mental health first, the added difficulty of being a closeted gay man in the face of rock stardom, and lots of other heavy topics. Also, haircuts. This was a really special chat and I hope you like it.

    You can listen above or on Spotify, Apple, etc. If you want the short text version, below is the section about Norman that appears in my new photo zine, MAJOR LABEL DEBUT, which you can pick up in my online store.

    Oh, and if you’re in the NY area, come to Vitus this Saturday! I’ll be in conversation with Geoff Rickly. Non-ticketed. Just show up. I’ll have books for sale. Happy to sign em. Also, the first 20 people who buy a book there will get a FREE photo zine. The first 10 people to buy multiple copies will get a FREE tote bag.

    SELLOUT is a book about bands releasing their major label debut albums, so technically Texas Is the Reason was ineligible for inclusion. But as far as major-label signings go, the New York band might take the award for all-time closest near miss. 

    The band had people interested in them from their very first show in 1994, says guitarist Norman Brannon. They played six songs in his Manhattan living room for their group of friends, who happened to be members of bands like Youth of Today and Sick of It All, as well as people who ran or worked for record labels. So, there were eyes on them from day one, and they had the chance to go major very early.

    “At that time in New York City, there were only two streams,” says Brannon. “You were either going to be an indie band or you were going to be a major band. Quicksand, Into Another, Orange 9mm, Sick of It All, CIV, they were all on major labels. So it wasn’t foreign to us because those people were all our friends and they didn’t seem to be having a difficult or miserable time on a major label. I wasn’t super anti-major, but it didn’t feel right.” 

    Wanting more time to figure out what their band was about, Texas Is the Reason shooed away major label A&Rs by locking in a deal with indie Revelation Records for two full-lengths and an EP. “‘That way, all the major labels will leave us alone.’ That’s what we thought,” he says. “But that did not happen. As soon as we signed, they actually got more aggressive. It got crazy.”

    Major labels pursued the band even harder after their debut EP sold an impressive 30,000 copies for Revelation. The band’s profile kept growing as more and more A&R reps took them out to lunch, bought them groceries, and gave them free CDs. The members started to fall under the major-label spell and finally conceded: Maybe we really are that good. Further bolstering their confidence were the price tags being thrown around. “The highest offer we received was

    • 1 hr 8 min
    Sellout Stories: Chris #2 Barker (Anti-Flag)

    Sellout Stories: Chris #2 Barker (Anti-Flag)

    Hello and welcome to REPLY ALT, the greatest email newsletter about music in the world/shameless hype machine for my new book SELLOUT, which is out NEXT WEEK. (BUY IT!)

    Today I’d like to introduce a new podcast segment which I’m excited about called Sellout Stories. These are interviews with people whose major-label experiences (or near-miss experiences) deserve a full hour of chatting. Some people will appear in SELLOUT, some won’t. Today’s guest does!

    Listen above or anywhere you listen to podcasts: Spotify, Apple, etc.

    I mentioned this in the introduction to SELLOUT, but there were a lot of bands to whom I would’ve loved to have devoted chapters. At the top of the list is Anti-Flag. Sometime in the early 2000s, the politically vocal and often deliberately anti-commercial punk band came under the radar of none other than Svangali producer Rick Rubin. Rubin pursued Anti-Flag for a while, prompting other labels to join the quest to sign them and the negotiations got competitive, but ultimately Anti-Flag turned him down to go with RCA.

    That last sentence should hang in some sort of museum of indie rock. Just a perfect encapsulation of a music industry moment that would never exist today. Anyway, I interviewed none other than bassist Chris “2” Barker for the book in Chicago, and once he started telling me about his wild major label story, I knew I had to have him tell it to me in full one day. So here it is—the story of how Anti-Flag came to sign with a major label.

    This story, as well as the above photograph, appears in my new photo zine, MAJOR LABEL DEBUT, which features over 70 original photos that I took while working on SELLOUT, as well as additional interviews, essays, and stories. Pick one up!

    Pre-order my forthcoming book, SELLOUT, here: 
    Bookshop | B&N | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Goodreads

    Follow me on the internet. Twitter | Instagram | Website

    Get full access to REPLY ALT at danozzi.substack.com/subscribe

    • 58 min
    At Home with Franz Nicolay (author, member of The Hold Steady)

    At Home with Franz Nicolay (author, member of The Hold Steady)

    Hello and welcome to REPLY ALT, the world’s greatest music newsletter which is also sometimes an interview podcast. Listen to all previous episodes on Spotify and Apple.

    The kindest praise I believe a writer can give another about their work is: I wish I’d written this. About 100 pages into Franz Nicolay’s debut novel, Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, that thought hit me like a baseball bat. God, even that title fills me with envy.

    Franz, an author and longtime member of The Hold Steady, touched upon so many themes in this book that have been running through my head over the last couple of years—how brief and fleeting generations are in the world of indie rock, the artist’s life vs. the domestic family life, watching time pass through the lens of music. Franz distilled it all into a story about a fictional aging rocker clinging on at the tail-end of his career. It’s an examination of the path indie-rock lifers face that is at times bleak, beautiful, authentic, sweet, and sobering. I can't recommend this book enough for Rockers Of a Certain Age.

    In today’s interview, Franz and I chatted about the years of touring experience that went into the book, his writing process, and how fast time moves in the rock scene. Listen above or anywhere you listen to podcasts: Spotify or Apple.

    And if you’re going to take my recommendation for one book this year, let it be Someone Should Pay for Your Pain, which you can buy here! OH WAIT actually hang on. If you’re only gonna let me recommend you one book this year, I guess it should selfishly be my forthcoming book, SELLOUT. But if you will take TWO literary recommendations from me, then they should be my book and Franz’s book. And if you’ll take THREE recommendations, they should be my book, then Franz’s book, then, of course, the Bible.

    Pre-order my forthcoming book, SELLOUT, here: 
    Bookshop | Deathwish Inc. | B&N | Amazon | Books-A-Million | Goodreads

    Follow me on the internet. Twitter | Instagram | Website

    Get full access to REPLY ALT at danozzi.substack.com/subscribe

    • 57 min

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