Ten years ago this week my life changed forever. For the price of just ten dollars, loaned to me by my parents, I registered the domain underthegunreview.net. The promoted purpose of my site was to build a name for myself in the music industry, but in reality, I just wanted more access to the music I loved. A book by the late Abbie Hoffman had informed me that it was possible to get free albums and concert tickets by starting your own music publication, so I set out to do precisely that. Was it selfish? Yes. Do I regret it? No.
The first article I ran was an interview with PLAYRADIOPLAY!, a popular indie project from Texas native Daniel Hunter who had developed such a rabid following in the early days of social media that Island Records decided to give him a record deal. Today’s alternative historians would probably describe his sound as something exclusively created by and served to teenagers addicted to Myspace, with sugary-sweet lyricism laid over largely simple synth productions. His biggest hit was titled “I Am A Pirate, You Are A Princess,” and in my mind, it was destined to change the world (spoiler: it did not).
It’s funny how days like that stand out in your mind. I’ve lived more than three-thousand since, but that afternoon and evening is permanently engrained in my memory. If I try with all my might I swear I can still feel the cold March winds blowing through my hair as I walked by Hunter’s side 1.5 miles from Mac’s Bar to the nearest Panera Bread. My college girlfriend had split with me earlier in the day while I was on my drive down from college citing the fact we were growing in different directions. It left me shaken and sad, but Hunter was friendly and took an interest in my woes. We made our way to a late lunch and I asked questions that I read from my Dell laptop while running Audacity to record the conversation with a $25 microphone I had - once again - borrowed from my parents.
Looking back it all seems so basic, so simple. To be perfectly honest the thought of sitting inside that restaurant while fussing with my backpack to retrieve and set up the gear that I had misleading swore to the band’s publicist would be discreet makes me wince with embarrassment. Then I remember how Hunter looked at me when I spoke, and how he listened to my opinion when he really had no reason to care at all. I felt heard, and more importantly, I felt connected to someone I had long respected in a new way.
That night I watched PLAYRADIOPLAY! perform to a modestly sized crowd and I sang along with every word. The label had mailed me a physical advance of the record, another achievement that I felt marked my introduction into ‘the business,’ and I had made sure to memorize every line in advance of our interview. None of that was useful, as I ended up being far too nervous to ask anything complex, but that effort to research and know my subject established a foundation for work that I continue to follow to this day.
When I finally made it back to college, a mere three-hour drive, I was too excited to sleep. I stayed up all night listening to the interview and transcribing every line. The work excited me. As far as I was concerned I had just experienced something like my own Almost Famous moment, which is to say I felt accepted into the strange and magical world of music I had long worshipped. I was an outsider no more because I had made a decision to try and have a conversation with someone I admired. I had made a decision to pursue an interest and it had, almost immediately, provided some kind of reward.
The rest may not be history to everyone, but it has become my life story. Under The Gun grew to be one of the leading voices in alternative music coverage, helping to usher dozens of current industry professionals through the front gate of the industry. The site was later sold to BuzzMedia, who then became Spin Media, and a whole bunch of corporate mismanagement later the site was returned. We laid the whole thing to rest back in 2016, but I stepped away in 2015 to pursue other interests.
Everything - and I mean everything - I have been able to accomplish in music over the last decade has in some way been a result of decisions made during this week ten years ago. My experience traces back several years prior to my interest in writing, but launching Under The Gun Review from my dorm room was and forever will remain one of the most important decisions of my life. I took a chance and it paid off, which is not something I can say for every chance taken in this life or career.
Many of the conversations I have with my peers today revolve around the fact we’re all getting older. Numerous team members we started with or watched rise through the ranks of this business have long moved on to other things, and as we stare at an ever-uncertain future we too ask ourselves what might come next. These kinds of questions can lead one to ask if their efforts were foolish, or if they have otherwise wasted their lives chasing dreams that will ultimately never be fulfilled.
That’s not me. I am grateful for every moment of this journey and I keep my hopes high that it will continue. Nothing has been easy, but it sure has been fun, and I cannot wait to see what happens next.
Thank you. For everything.