ET: Who are the gatekeepers in web 2.0 environments?
NK: All of us. We're all opinion leaders among our communities. all can be. My blog I see pretty much as my own chance to edit & bring out music writing whenever I want or can. Granted I’m no good at it yet but it’s my tiny empire and I couldn’t give two fucks about what others think we should be directed towards. If by ‘gatekeepers’ you mean glassy-eyed delusional fuckwits like that utter cunt Weingarten or Pitchfork or newly-webified traditional media corporations then I consider them a total irrelevance: these are the fucks who will blithely talk about how the future of music is about access and it all flowing like water whilst allowing rapacious multimedia-corporations to step into the same shapes and confines of the auld music industry. But yeah, like I say, I may have misunderstood your question.
ET: Do you read music criticism in print publications anymore? If not, where do you go for critical opinion?
NK: I don’t read print publications anymore. I read books and t’internet. I go to voices I trust, who've pointed me towards good music that's not being written about elsewhere, certain blogs and sites where the writers have infuriated/enraptured me enough to revisit. I STILL think – good writing will endure and people will come back for it. Whether the writers can still find a way to live off it is another matter – the same quandary musicians are facing really. We’re living in a world in which kids coming up are told that keenness/enthusiasm/hustling are all that matters without wondering whether what you’re hustling is actually any good. Those kids won’t last, they’ll give it a go for a few years then disappear. I’m still doing this, and still being asked to do this after 20 odd years and the only reason (pardon a bit of immodesty) is cos I’m a half-decent writer. Let Weingarten mewl about his/our future– no one is ever gonna remember a single fucking thing that twat has ever written. Immortality (for that, even though all writers refute it, is the point of imprinting letters on a page) can’t be gained simply by being in the right place at the right time using the right technology, it can only come from writing from yr heart head and soul.
ET: How do people engage with music criticism? NK: Usually from a position of injured defiance (how dare you etc) – a bristling resentment that anyone could even dare to take on such an inflated/superior position regarding music. What differentiates opinion from criticism? Knowledge. Criticism is a justified opinion, no? There’s an awful lot of opinion out there at the moment that doesn’t carry the joyful weight of being justified, an awful lot of criticism out there at the moment is dry/dead as dust cos it doesn’t seem to have an opinion. Music criticism at the moment is suffering from a surfeit of either one or the other. It’s like the difference between belief and faith.
ET: Does music criticism have economic and/or entertainment and/or sociological value?
NK: Economic? Hah hah heh heh heh bwahahahaha it is to laugh. Entertainment? If it's not entertaining I don't think it's music criticism. It HAS to be entertaining to read or you're not trying. Sociological? Whether it achieves it self-consciously or not the ambition should always be to change the world in some way. Music should change your world, so if critique points you towards it, it's changing your world. In my most arrogant moments I can con myself that I turned a few folk onto music they might not have otherwise heard. 'Eastern Spring', if anyone ever read it, might open a few avenues. Point is not whether it has done that, point is the ambition should be to change minds, and thus lives, and thus the world.
ET: Is it possible to become influential as a music critic via web 2.0 environments?
NK: Yes, probably. But at no point at any time should this even enter the head of a music critic. You might become ‘influential’ – that’s merely an occasional side-effect of what you do, your art, writing, shouldn’t even be thinking about that and should be a million miles away from worries about ‘legacy’. You'll cripple yourself thinking about influence. At the end of the day you have yourself and those around you and all those thumbs-up and comments and likes and hits and the rest are a supreme irrelevance. All you need to sustain you is the sense that at some point you got something off your chest and maybe just maybe you suggested to someone that the world is not how it seems, is not the way everyone else says it is.
ET: How did you gain authority as a music critic? NK: I don't have authority. I liked Limp Bizkit for chrissakes. I don't consider that I have gained any authority BEYOND people still for some reason wanna read my shit. I got hired cos I didn't think Melody Maker were covering hip-hop in any way other than a kind of vicarious, condescending way. Felt the same way about metal. I still have to kind of battle preconceptions that those two musics are the only genres I can write about. I hope that people still read me for the same reasons they always did - to get annoyed and hopefully amused here and there too.
ET: How did you build your audience? NK: By being awesome lolz. This comes down to a question I'm always asked by students: 'how do I become a music critic'? They always ask that question assuming there's some kind of magic set of things you can do, parties you can go to, people you should gladhand. That energy can open doors and that's enough. It is partly, luck helps as well, but what I always try and stress to them is - BE GOOD (a while ago my advice was 'BE MEDIOCRE' but that was just miserabalism). Find a standard and try and continually stick to it or surpass it. People will keep coming back if what you're putting out is good (kinda like a band eh?). I know that there are all kinds of methods and techniques now to build yourself as a brand, maximise awareness of yourself but all that self-marketing is a colossal irrelevance if you haven't taken the time to figure out what the fuck it is you want to say, how you want to say it. Visibility, like fashion, is easy. Longevity, like style, is trickier. Alot of people coming into music journalism now want in so badly they haven't figured out if all that leg-work and networking they're doing is actually in support of a voice that deserves to be heard. I got into writing for two simple reasons: immortality and anger. I suspect many don't have 'reasons', just an ego to fuel (which is PART of it always, but should never be the whole story). Even in the cattiest, harshest critics there's a counterbalancing swathe of warmth and generosity in what they do otherwise it doesn't work. Wonder and romance. Now being replaced by neediness and smirks.