Actually, I'm never asked anything more frequently than 'Is it really that hard to check some facts before you publish a review, jackass?', but let's play along...
Who the hell is CapnMarvel?
CapnMarvel is a stupid on-screen nickname I've had for some 10-odd years now, and comes from The Beatles' White Album song 'The Continuing Adventures of Bungalow Bill', where my namesake 'zapped 'em right between the eyeeeees...uh!' (just like the Fall, eh?) I don't use my real name, Ryan, because it sounds dull and boring and I like to hide behind the anonymity of the Internet and the access to free porn that such anonymity provides. If you want to know a little more about me or the purpose of this page, please move on to the Site Introduction.
(2004 Update: I'm still not sure why I've continued to use this stupid nickname since I've never done anything with it (no 'themed backgrounds' or anything), but I guess it's here to stay.)
What's the History Of This Here Site?
The Bonanza was started on or around September 30, 2001, my 25th birthday. I wrote a few reader reviews for Mark Prindle's site, including Eric Clapton, Spacemen 3, and my massive Grateful Dead page, and was feeling bummed I couldn't review all the bands that other readers (or Mark) had already done, so I decided to take the plunge into doing it for myself. At the time, all I knew was I wanted it to be as complete for each artist as possible, and to have an easy-to-use A-F grading system. Everything else I stole wholesale from Prindle, and later from others. I only nick from the best.
Why is your opinion better than Mine?
It's not, but in short, my album collection is frigging huge, and I've probably heard more different kinds of music than anyone who isn't either a DJ (I was), works in a record store (I did), or reviews records in print or on the Web (I do). I also write fairly well and don't really have a lot of prejudices (I like prog and punk, and rap, and jazz, and country, all at the same time, and make fun of each of them equally). I don't make any claims to being purely objective in my reviews, but I do try to make it perfectly clear when I'm unable to give a record a fair listen (check out my Exile On Main St. review on the Stones page for an example). I also am rule.
(2004 Update: Still am.)
What Are Your Reviewing Criteria?
I mostly base my opinions on as many listens to a particular album I can handle or have time for. I make no 'minimum 2 listens' claims, but probably incidentally do so in 95% of cases, and oftentimes have heard an album zillions of times if I've owned it for awhile. I listen mostly for A) How much I like it and what exactly I may like about it, or B) How much I hate it and what exactly I may hate about it, or C) Whatever's in the middle. I have done some writing that may illustrate my particular ideas on 'music goodness', and you may find that here.
I used to make all these claims about not reviewing albums by groups I don't own complete catalogs by, and then I discovered that I have all of these discs to review, almost zero chance of owning everything by the group, but dammit, I feel inspired to write a single review about a single artist, or even about a *shudder* compilation. Live with it. I'll still spend 99% of my time reviewing entire catalogs, or at least huge chunks of entire catalogs (e.g. my never-finished Bob Dylan page), so you won't have to worry about the quality of your bathroom reading.
(2004 Update: I don't exactly do ENTIRE catalogs all of the time, but if I need to, I'll stop at a decent point (say, at the end of a decade or lineup) and make a good attempt to return later to finish. This has happened more and more lately as I try to hack and slash my way through the likes of the endless Jethro Tull catalog. I'm still not going to move onto a 'one-by-one' format. I don't believe in it.)
What is the estimated size of your record/CD/cassette/MP3 collection?
I estimate I own about 50 cassettes, 300 vinyl LPs, 400 CD's, and probably anywhere from 1200 to 1500 albums on MP3-CD ROMS. I have some redundancy, but in probably less than 30-40 cases.
(2004 Update: I've been slowly compiling a complete list that I'll post soon, hopefully. It's inSANE, and it makes George's list on his site look positively miniscule. Just a little album-collector's envy there! Actually, go to the Index page for a link.)
How did your collection get so big? No Soul Brotha, Too Beaucoup!
Various and sundry forms of thievery mostly. I don't think I've probably bought more than 50 or 60 new, full-priced, shrinkwrapped CD's in my life. I started out buying tapes as a kid, but began buying music with a vengeance about age 14, usually going to a store called Phar Mor in Shawnee, Kansas because of lax security there. I didn't actually steal anything, but at this particular store they used to have open jewel boxes, sans discs, out on display. The sticker price was conveniently affixed to the (easily exchangeable) front cover, wherein I had a fun time buying $14.99 CDs for usually no more than $8.59. Then I had a good friend work cash register at the music department of the same place and didn't even need to switch jewel covers any more. I got all the discount I could handle.
After my friend quit there I discovered used CD's, never more than $9, and used vinyl, rarely more than $4-5 around my neighborhood in Kansas City. I worked at one of those for a few weeks over summer break, but found myself spending more money there than I made in wages. My favorite ever used vinyl store, Exile, shut down in 1997 and now there aren't hardly any in the city at all that sell records for less than $8-9 a pop. Before coming to Russia my favorite vinyl source (in Dallas, Texas, anyhow) was Half Price Books, usually stocking LPs for less than $5 or so. I almost got into ordering CDs through the Internet, but it always seemed like the shipping cost was outrageous.
By far the most impressive expansion of my music collection, however, has taken place during the time I've lived in St. Petersburg. There, they legally sell complete MP3-format collections of an entire artists catalog, often including items that are very difficult to find in the States. The quality is always top notch, the selection is impressive (and they release new artists on a weekly basis), and the price? $2 for one disc, usually containing anywhere from 7 to 12 hours of music. I now own about 200 of these particular things and am running out of new artists. I'm also planning on leaving here in a few months, so I want to grab as many as I can. I highly recommend anyone who cares to buy a plane ticket into St. Petersburg or Moscow and grab as many of these things as you can, it's seriously worth the money. That is, if you don't mind that it's completely illegal in the rest of the world, and probably quite immoral. Me? I just want entire Zappa CD collections for less than $15.
(2004 Update: Nowadays, back in the US and highly web-connected (my engineering job pretty much wires me into a PC for 50 hours a week), I'm a big proponent of WinMX for free stuff everyone else already has, although my traffic there has dropped off precipitously in the past couple of months. I've simply already got everything they've got to offer. For rarer stuff, I love the stuffins out of www.allofmp3.com, a Russian pay MP3 site that follows the quirky tastes of Eastern European recordbuyers (LOTS of prog, long-forgotten 60's bands like the Gods (not the Godz, but the Gods), and wacky new stuff like Ozric Tentacles and millions more, allowing semi-legal downloading (hell! It's legal in Russia!) for 1c per megabyte. Let's see itunes beat that! Whatever I can't grab from there I buy cheap from www.half.com, which is a grand improvement on the old everything-is-$9 used CD stores I used to haunt. I probably obtain more music per week now than I ever have in the past, both illegally, semi-legally, and totally legit, and I'm only limited by my imagination about what I decide to pick up next. I'm simply nuts about this shit!)
(2004 Update: Used music? MP3? LPs!?!? Doesn't that sound like ass? Don't you miss the booklets...the...the...PACKAGING?!?!?
Fuck no. I don't need to dig through three layers of shrink wrap and stupid fucking stickers to prove to myself that no one's touched the album before me. Gimme a scractched-ass LP with bongwater stains on the cover (my favorite!) or a 128 kbps MP3 and I'll be happy as a pig in heat. I still buy cassettes, fer chrissakes! If I'd spent my life worrying about who'd touched my record albums before me, I'd never have found the time to somehow collect EVERY PIECE OF MUSIC SAMMY HAGAR HAS EVER PRODUCED. And that, friends and countrymen, is something I'm not willing to sacrifice.
About sound quality...Why is it that they always demo such SHITTY music (Phil Collins, anyone?) in those ultra-high-end stereo stores? Because people who buy $10000 stereos have ZERO taste in the actual music. Just like those people who pay thousands upon thousands of dollars for plasma-screen high-def TVs to watch Jean Claude Van Damme movies on. All this high-end hi-fi bullshit is for idiots who care more about bragging to their friends about their expensive-ass stereo than they do about appreciating music. The truth is, all you need is something that won't skip, where you can hear all the notes, it doesn't distort too bad, and won't chew up your media. Most Sixties music was produced and mixed with mono AM-radio playback in mind, do you think you need a fucking harmonically-tuned composite plastic room to listen to it? Hell no. Leave your stereo alone...go build model airplanes or something instead. Anyway, new technology stuff sounds fairly horrible to me anyway. Like Pro-Audio, that reverb bullshit they build into all the amplifiers now? Simply horrible. Let's make a decently-produced recording sound papery and hollow! Surround sound? Unless you have a mixing board to fix your mistakes, you're guaranteed to fuck up the mix if you start running the bass through a 15-inch subwoofer and all your mid-ranges through some tiny little bookshelf speakers that can't keep up. Gimme two speakers, or, even better, some good headphones, and leave me alone.
Listen, my point is...it's not about the technology, it's about the music. I've never preferred any system to the simple setup of running my 30-year-old vintage Pioneer headphones directly into the headphone-out of my 1994-circa single-tray CD player. And anyway, all those MP3 discs sure conserve space. I gotta find space to put my wife and daughters, you know!)
What are your favorite athletic shoes ever?
Absolutely the best pair of shoes I've ever owned was pair of black suede Adidas Campus I had about 3 or 4 years ago. They lasted for like 2 years and always looked great right up until the very end. Only when the stitching gave did I give them up. Sadly, they're no longer in production, but if I could find an identical pair I'd probably pay upwards of $100 for them, they're that good.
(2004 Update: I'm now wearing out my second pair of Campuses (after a year and a half), and once again can't find replacements. I'm considering just buying some All-Stars, but I keep holding out that I'll somehow stumble on another pair. We shall see.)
I also had a cool pair of Nike Air Jordan V Reissues that lasted me almost entirely through my time walking through the dirty, filthy streets of Russia. I always wanted these shoes when I was a dorky 13 year old kid, but they were too expensive and my parents too cheap, so I had to settle for some sort of lame $25 closeout Reeboks. But when they were reissued in 2000, maaaan, I was first in line.
Are you ever going to review books/movies/singles/comics/marital aids/insurance companies?
Who's your favorite guitar player/singer/bassist/drummer/piano player/synth player/sitarist/sax player/trumpet player?
Keith Richards/Otis Redding/Chris Squire/Charlie Watts/Nicky Hopkins/Brian Eno/Brian Jones/John Coltrane/Miles Davis
How long are you going to continue to update the site with new reviews?
Until I get tons of money to spend my free time doing something else.
What about compilations?
What about them?
You gonna review them or what, smart guy? Or are you gonna have some rule about them like those Watson and Arseroy fags?
Well, on one hand I'd like for someone to define for me exactly where an album ends and a compilation begins, but that's just me. Is the Buzzcocks' Singles Going Steady considered a compilation not to be reviewed? It certainly compiles singles, but a whole bunch of them not available on any of their other (shitty) LP's. Same thing goes for the Who's Meaty, Beaty, Big, and Bouncy. I mean, aren't 90% of live albums just glorified greatest hits compilations? Isn't Tattoo You a compilation? You telling me you wont review Robert Johnson or Minor Threat or the Vaselines because their entire recorded output is most easily located and purchased on a compilation? Fucking no way you can draw a line on these things and say this is a comp and this isn't. Never say never.
But, then again, on the other asscheek, we have the simple case of the Greatest Hits collection I don't want to review. I used to try to review everything, including each and every cash-in hits comp, but quickly learned that the number of words one can use to describe a hits collection is something less than 20. What do you say? 'Hey, this one has all the songs I already described, so buy this instead of an album'? No way...I'm not wasting my reviewing time hashin my way through 10 different Rolling Stones compilations or trying to decide which Jimi Hendrix hit package is the best. I personally don't like even listening to comps as a rule unless: A) I really am not interested in exploring the artist deeply at all or B) the artist is a blues/soul/early country/50's-early 60's kind of fellow who never cared a rat's patoot about the albums he put out anyway, just as long as his singles sold.
(2004 Update: I now almost NEVER feel like reviewing compilations. It's too pointless. Boxed sets, either. I mean what can you say about a bunch of live and outtake tracks? There's just too many great bands to review, why should I waste my time rehashing how great all the songs on Forty Licks are?)
So you lived in Russia, huh? Why the hell did you live there?
Yeah, I've lived here since September 2000, and haven't seen the US since then. But there isn't much more until I'm back and reunited with my big beautiful vinyl collection and my lovely guitars. I'm here because my wife is Russian and the INS still has cold-war relic rules in place that force educated, intelligent, and talented (not to mention married! To a citizen!) foreigners to leave while happily allowing all the dishonest, law-avoiding, public assistance leaches to stay as long as they want. But that's just one man's opinion. Anyway, our exile is completed and now we wish we were back again.
(2004 Update: I still do, but only in the summer time.)
Don't people stand in 2 hour lines for bread in the snow there?
Yes, but only because it's real good bread and the people in the line are all real old.
What's your opinion on the current state of the Web Review Community (WRC)?
My favorites are the old timers, I check George Starostin's site daily, because the man is a machine running on CD's for fuel, and he's turning at 10K RPM every single day. He's also the hub for the entire community, and his objectivity and clear thinking should be the benchmarks for all criticism, not just our little group. And now that he's an American exile, I think his reviews are improving rapidly in entertainment value as well, not that they weren't good to start with. I of course owe a huge debt to the OG, funny but always thought-provoking Mark Prindle, but the man is sorta losing me lately. Either he's spot on brilliant or I just don't know what the hell he's trying to say. But those bright moments are still shockingly funny. He's just a lightning rod for humor, that's all.
There's lots, and I mean lots of sites (Brian Burks' site, Steve and Abe's, the MJA project, Martin Teller's site, CosmicBen's, Disclaimer, and others) that I really like as well, but tend not to spend a lot of time at. All of 'em need more reviews, and DEFINITELY more complete artist reviews. It seems lotsa folks go for the 'single album review' thing, and review like 100 artists, which is damned near useless for my tastes, but that's their choice I guess. There's many hours of fine fun reading there.
Oh, and an extra special shout out to Wilson and Allroy, singlehandedly sapping the entire WR concept of any charm or comeraderie while choking the airwaves with mountains of useless, snide reviews. Thanks, gentlemen! Your reviews suck! So you were first...Bill Haley had to come before Elvis and the Beatles. Take your place next to the All Music Guide where you belong.
(2004 Update: More or less everything has stayed the same. I almost never read anyone other than George, Adrian, or Mark. There's simply too many sites for me to keep up with otherwise. Many of them are quite good (Scott Floman's), but I just don't have the time...I prefer reading wacked-out nonfiction books about recent history to other people's opinion of record albums. George's recent ship-jumping drastically reduces my reading of other people's sites, especially now that I'm more interested in reviewing things with 'fresh' ears and a clear mind than I may have been before. )
So do YOU play instruments, Mr. Critic Man? Do YOU know what it's like to stand on stage and pour your soul out?
To both questions, yes I do. I play guitar and harmonica right now, but much less than when I was younger. I was also lead trumpet in my high school jazz and marching bands, and I used to play solos in front of stadiums packed with thousands of people, most of whom also played instruments. I have been in some joke rock bands with friends, but never got around to writing actual tunes other than just frigging around with electronic music on my computer.
(2004 Update: I also have a bass, but I don't do that electronic crap anymore.)
What kind of guitars/amps/pedals/trumpet/harmonicas do you have?
I have, quite possibly, the best $50 acoustic guitar ever made, a late 80's Harmony dreadnought bought at a JCPenney outlet store some time in the early Bush administration. The damn thing just wont go out of tune, and plays nicely if you keep the strings new. $50. New. Eat that.
My real baby is my 1988 Japanese Fender Telecaster Standard, my first electric bought in summer 1991 when I was 15 years old. It's the only guitar I brought with me to Russia. It's a tad rough and needs new frets and stuff, and could benefit from some relaxing visits with a soldering iron, but it's still my dream machine. There's just something about that neck, man.
Only a few years back, for a self-graduation present, I bought a perfect late 90's Epiphone ES-335 Custom reissue that fucking rules the school. It's big, it's bad, it's black, it's mad. Got the pearl neck inlays and gold trim and everything. I always wanted one of these after I heard the Rolling Stone's Get Yer Ya-Ya's Out for the first time, and finally was able to play 'Midnight Rambler' as God intended when I brought this one home. I never really got a chance to get to know her before I left for Russia, though, and she's now serving a sentence in her case in my parent's basement. I also had, for a short time, an Epiphone (cheaper and with better-shaped necks than real Gibsons, by the way) Les Paul Special double-cutaway that could play a million miles an hour, I promise. The fastest guitar I ever owned. Unfortunately I bought it with someone else's money (my parents), without their consent, and when the bills came it had to go. Someday I'll get another.
As for amps I've got a Fender Performer 1000 100W solid state, which I almost never play (too loud, you know, for apartment buildings) but sounds grand on the clean channel. I've got a shitload of pedals bought for cheap through Ebay, but my favorite is a tube overdrive box (with a real tube, you know) called Blue something or other. I also dig my wacky old Boss half-rack digital delay box, which will do backwards echo. Neato! But anyway, I've got a bunch of those. I also landed a nice, big Yamaha four-track, but had to leave that in America as well, so I never have used that one much yet.
My trumpet was a Bach USA, which was okay, and my harmonicas are Pocket Pals, which will bend from here till tomorow. Cheap, too.
(2006 Update: My G.A.S. is now horribly out of control. I own the following:
1988 MIJ Fender Tele Standard as mentioned above
1996-ish Epiphone Sheraton II as mentioned above
2004 SX GG-1 Les Paul Goldtop knockoff. $100 new and plays great.
2005 SX SJB-62 Jazz Bass knockoff. $100 new and looks and sounds better than a new Fender
2006 SX SST-62 '62 Strat knockoff. $100 new and...you get the idea.
1976 Marshall MKII 50W Head. $300 with 70's-vintage Acoustic-brand 4x12. Eat yer heart out.
1973 Fender PA-100 Head. $400 with a full rebuild by my amp guy. Does the clean Twin Reverb thing for about 1/3rd as much.
And enough pedals to drown a man.)
How frequently are you planning on updating? I only care about your website when you have new stuff to show me.
So, like, I try to update with a new band every two weeks at least, and do some sort of update on a weekly basis, but I've been inundated with lots of new opportunities for me to show off my diaper-changing and apartment-cleaning skills after becoming a father, so maybe it'll be less frequently than that. I realise most folks only want the new stuff, and that's okey dokey wit me.
(2004 Update: A new band a month has been about usual, though sometimes I can crank out a shorter one in a week. I've been concentrating on a lot of artists with biiiiiig catalogs lately, so I'm sure this average will decrease when I get around to some *ahem* more bite-sized artists.)
How do you select what you're going to review next?
Pure, unadulterated blind guessing. I'll give you a hint that I'm not very interested in reviewing new bands right now because, for one thing, I don't really like many of them, have a white-hot hatred of hyped-up bands that fall off the planet after a year on the cover of Spin frigging magazine, and I really think I need to have a strong basis in 60's and 70's music before I move onto the 80's in earnest. So if you see a lot of prog rock and Brit Invasion for the next few years, don't say I didn't warn you. But anything can happen, so don't mark me as a 'classic rock guy' and give up on me for good.
So if you were really hungry, and you were a hotdog, would you eat yourself?
What's your usual listening regime? Do you only listen for reviews?
Sadly, these days I pretty much listen either for review purposes or maybe as background while mopping the floors. The days of reading for 5 hours in a row and listening to two or three Dead concerts in a row are long gone. I probably get to listen to about an album a day lately, but when I get back to America that'll jack back up again.
(2004 Update: This is still about right. I'll listen to a lot of music at work, but I wouldn't exactly call it 'intense listening', it's too damned noisy and distracting there. But it's the best I've got until my kids grow up and start giving me a chance to rock out around the house again.)
What's your Hifi setup like? I bet it really fucking roolz!
(2006 Update: I actually put some effort into my system in the last few years. My old receiver decided to set fire to the speaker wires last Thanksgiving (no shit), so I ditched it and bought the highest-end Sony receiver they've got, simply because it has a built in phono amp so I don't have to dick with an add-on one. I have an early 80's Technics direct-drive turntable that probably needs a new stylus. I also bought a bunch of Bose speakers to go with it, and I'm enjoying having near surround sound on my movies, but my best listening is still on headphones.
So, you say you like all genres of music. Is that really true?
No, so I don't dig true Top 40 most of the time (at least, not since the early 90's), I really don't like classical or ethnic world folk (other than good ol' C&W...that rules. Not bluegrass though.) in any way other than the purely cerebral, and I particularly hate opera. Oh, and polka is frigging stupid. I can't understand people who like that godawful accordion so damned much. Like Russians do. Oh, and house music and Eurodance is the equivalent of audial nicotine...doesn't do anything for you pleasure wise, slowly rots all parts of your body into cancerous poison, wastes your money, and makes you smell bad.
But other than that, I'm good to go. I even go so far as to enjoy an avant-garde classical or free jazz record from time to time.
Is this FAQ gonna end soon?
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