The 6X7 Interview: Sasha Frere-Jones, Writer

Sasha Frere-Jones is not your average writer. He holds communion in an unoccupied percentile somewhere off the standardized charts, even beyond NYC or Weston, CT. When he's not dropping science on music for The New Yorker, he can also be found supplying "the mad love and raw justice, the garbage and the free food" on his weblog. Because we made the near-fatal mistake of confusing him with his brother Tobias, Sasha turns 5X5 on its ass and makes it 6X7. Really, there was very little we could do about it.

1. One of the great perks of your job as the music writer for the New Yorker, obviously, is free stuff. What's some of the best booty you've received? (Extra points if anyone ever tried to bribe you with dinner with The Shags.)

My new boss doesn't want us to accept gifts, so I must give wise men the Heisman. The old days were another matter. I was like a Senator playing PACs off each other. One day I'd get an XXL Jeru tha Damaja shirt, for no money. The next day, I'd receive a powder blue XXXL Nas shirt that made me look fat and harmless. (As my lifelong dream is to become fat and dangerous, this was a complicated feeling.) One day-this was such a day-I got an XXL t-shirt bearing the name of an MC I had never heard of. I lived well.



2. Your blog writing and your New Yorker writings: let's compare. Your blog writing is often vague and stream-of-conscious, but in your New Yorker writing all your "i"s are crossed and "t"s dotted. Even a simpleton like me can follow that stuff. Are you hoping that your readers follow you online, or is that where you "let the dogs out"?

The point of blogs is precisely that you can write "stream-of-conscious" and no one will stop you.

I am mocking your loose grip on the idiom, but I am also totally serious. Gawker has an editor and a paymaster, but most blogs don't. No one will stop you from being extra smart or super stupid. This is good. I am happy any time there is no ax over the writer's head, save the prospect of getting tossed by your ISP administrator (a small but tangible threat if your transgression is copyright-related).

I like high intensity, bouillon-style forms: pop songs, essays, poems, photos. Blogs can link to songs and poems and photos. Right? So if the bits all line up correctly, blogs create an extra high-density poetics. Blogs are flexible and fast; with no editor, you don't have to wait for yes or brace for no. The blogger can do parodies without consulting the Legal Department; drum up instant audience participation; or shift into mayhem.

Newspaper and magazine writers work in a logical key: Start here, take a little promenade and then circle back to the beginning, careful to not knock over anything on the way. This smooth revolution feels good. I need it more than I'd like to admit. But someone's got to supply the mad love and raw justice, the garbage and the free food. I hope this is what blogs do. Lusty overstatement leads to good things, and full-on commitments are a requirement of the fully engaged life, even if the commitment is to Christina Milian.

I don't just like blogs for the pub fights. I like sentences and I think blogs are a good place to find them. I like blogs with very short sentences. I like blogs with very long sentences. I like the music of the prose on a lot of LiveJournal pages, because many of the writers haven't necessarily figured out what writing means, and won't necessarily be better off when they do.

The blog is a nice model for storage, too. The words and photos are on one private server, but millions of personal computer nodes. It's a public file cabinet. My recurrent apocalypse dreams often resolve with a G-rated coda, kind of like Threads meets Babe: Some kind stranger has my words and photos backed up on their 1985 Macintosh SE and I can get my work back without going through some institution that's blacked out all the naughty words. And it's free. Free. Free free free.

3. Were you surprised when one of the members of the Russian pop duo Tatu turned out to not be involved in anything as taboo as they claimed? Or were you ahead of the curve on that one?

They were so OBVIOUSLY not Russian. Duh.

4. Your recent piece in Communication Arts about type is, well, um, about the nerdiest thing ever. Are type faces really that interesting?

Many readers think this piece was written by Ellen Shapiro and contains quotes from my brother, typographer Tobias Frere-Jones. Not you, though. Not you.

5. Baseball, the American past time. I prefer bong hits, Budweiser, and Bobby Labonte. Convince me otherwise?

Walk slowly and calmly out of your apartment building. When you reach street level, stop. Sit on the curb. Watch the passing traffic. Smell the smells. Hear the voices of laughing children and the lovers who speak to each other. Do not, at any point, become weak. Do not give away your keys to a pedestrian. When you have achieved satori, please call me. I will hang up on you.

6: Supposing the respective feuds could be put on hold so they could team up, in a metaphorical musical cage match to the death, who'd win: the Von Bondies and the White Stripes versus Jay-Z and Nas?

Well, numbers kinda give the white dudes the edge
plus Jack is a proven pugilist. But: Jay-Z could drop 16 acapella bars and simply scare the other side to death, or Nas could endorse Bush and puzzle them to death. And if guns are involved, you know the Von Bondies clap last.

Sasha Frere-Jones' Top 5+2

Because you can't tell me from my brother, I am going to pretend I can't tell the difference between 5 and 7.

1. Bridgeport Bluefish: Twelve dollars to sit near the dugout? Hearing the announcer say "Rolo Avila" over and over? A crazy man who screams through the whole game but never gets ejected? Get your season tickets now.

2. Wilson A1030 Max Viz baseballs: Round. Yellow. Visible.

3. The first two seasons of The West Wing on DVD: Best show EVAR? probably and it would be just as good if it was about a sandwich shop. (In the 1980s, I worked in a sandwich shop not unlike Bartlett's White House.) But it's about the POTUS and this content is useful when I'm actively deluding myself into thinking we swallowed the blue pill instead of the red one. Or the green one. You know.

4. New Left Review: When I need to admit what we swallowed.

5. South Norwalk, CT: I've spent the last seven summers in Weston, CT and I've discovered something. The food choices in the Fairfield area cluster around two unchanging poles: restaurants that feebly imitate New York spots from seven years ago, and fast food chains. It is not facetious or inaccurate to say IHOP is the best restaurant in Westport. The only places worth leaving the house for are in South Norwalk. You can go for killer high-end Italian at Pasta Nostra or take the kids Sono Seaport Seafood, a basic fish joint right on the water. Sometimes the salt ends up in the margaritas and sometimes they run out of steamers early, but the oysters and fried clam bellies make me want to hijack summer and hold it hostage forever. If you're lucky, the drawbridge will split apart and rise up when you're eating. Then it goes back down. Just like that. And people drive right over it!

6. Dizzee Rascal: He makes me feel all waked up, like there's an extra 10% part of my brain that lies dormant until it hears "Stand Up Tall." I could listen to him rap all day, so I look forward to the triple CD, which will make it easier.

7. Frank O'Hara: My current obsession. O'Hara is the perfect summer poet. Goes down smooth, hits hard, leaves a long trail. (He's the perfect autumn poet, too, so stock up.)

Andrew Krucoff and Chris Gage conduct a daily interview for Gawker.