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Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Former Live 105 DJ Blogs for Mother Jones: BetterKnowanSFBlog - The Riff Blog

Posted By on Tue, Jan 15, 2008 at 9:00 AM

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Mother Jones, American labor activist and namesake of Mother Jones Magazine.

By Tyler Callister

There's nothing like an old woman to inspire a young journalist in his crusade for blogospheric glory. My inspiration is my grandma. For others, it's Madonna. And, for a select few, it's Mother Jones.

Take former Live 105 DJ and renowned mashup artist Party Ben who writes for the Mother Jones Riff Blog. There's no doubt that Mother Jones is watching Party Ben from heaven and smiling. I mean, how could you not love a guy named Party Ben?

The Riff Blog, a culture and art blog, stands out in a mostly news and politics publication. They often tease out little oddities in pop culture, like an mp3-playing TASER, and thoughts about some guy who, for some weird reason, played Stone Temple Pilots' "Plush" at Mit Romney's campaign headquarters in New Hampshire.

In an e-mail interview, Party Ben gave us insight into the state of journalism and music in a digital world.

How did you get into blogging?

I stumbled into The Riff, really. My personal website is mostly a place for my own music and production but every year I'd write about my favorite albums of the year just in a fit of self-indulgence. Weirdly, my jabberings attracted the attention of a Mother Jones editor, and they asked me to do some contributing to the blog as part of their desire to expand their arts and culture coverage. I don't think they knew what they were getting themselves into.

What's your favorite part about blogging? Least favorite?

I love writing but coming up with an interesting idea or angle is always a challenge for me, and sometimes my stories are just lazy takes on news stories since that's all I got. I once heard from a friend who wanted to write for The Onion that they request 10 headlines from potential contributors, since if the headline's good, the article writes itself; I've always remembered that, and it really seems true, especially for short pieces like blogs usually need. In the over saturated online world, it's hard to be original; there's a lot of "this sucks, that sucks" blogging, and I try to avoid that, although bitter sarcasm is my natural state.

What do you hope to accomplish with The Riff Blog?

Since the Mother Jones is mostly a political magazine, I've tried to shake up things a little bit. Sometimes I think the other writers only want to cover art that has a kind of political or cultural edge, whereas I don't give a hoot and will just write about something because I think it's super awesome. Like French techno. But every once in a while I throw down some random Marxism just to keep everybody on their toes.

How do you think blogging has effected the music industry?

Blogging's decentralizing effect in general is probably even more pronounced with music since mp3s are so easily posted and shared, although it still takes some spelunking and experience to know where to look.

A lot has been said about the way in which digital technology has freed independent musicians from reliance on major record labels for distribution. Some say this is one of the best times in history to be an independent musician? Do you agree?

As far as whether this is a great time to be an independent musician, I don't know. Times are always changing; back in the early '90s, it felt like every garage might hold the next Nirvana, and there's something to be said for that kind of excitement. On the other hand, maybe it's better to be more realistic: get enough blogs to talk about your new release and you might be able to make some money on a low-budget tour, and that ain't so bad.

What do you see in the future of music blogging?

Blogging is still in a kind of chaotic stage, where there's a lot of expansion as well as some winnowing -- I think the blogs that will stick around and retain readers will be ones with a clear purpose and personality, or maybe just the inside scoop on some hot Britney gossip. We don't have the latter on the Riff, so I hope we can aim at the former.

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Ty Callister

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