Grant Aldan Implores You — Cheer Up
Morehead, Ky.’s Grant Alden is the co-editor of No Depression magazine, the premiere voice of roots music in the United States. However, they recently made the announcement — to a swirl of press, radio interviews, etc. — that the print edition will be no more after this June. The magazine not only had a unique voice, it had a unique look: it was meant to seem like a ‘zine that would be left around a 1950s-60s body shop. It’s a tough world for publishing, but there are plans to keep it online at www.nodepression.net. You can even listen to MP3’s of artists currently featured there.
Graffiti: Are you hanging in there, with the end of the print edition of No Depression?
Alden: Yes. I’ve had longer to live with the idea than our readers have.
Graffiti: What artists or bands would you say ND had a hand in “making?”
Alden: “Making?” I guess I don’t quite know what that means anymore. If it means climbing the commercial ladder to platinum albums, nobody. If it means finding some size of audience … the obvious choice is Whiskeytown, who we wrote about in our first issue. We’ve been advocates for acts like Steve Earle, Allison Moorer, the Drive-By Truckers, Rodney Crowell, Gillian Welch, Lucinda Williams and lots of artists who might not have been written about anywhere else. Maybe they sold some CDs, maybe they didn’t. They made music worth hearing.
Graffiti: Are you contemplating, personally, going in another direction?
Alden: I have no idea what’s next. That’s OK. Nature abhors a vacuum and we have a dirty house.
Graffiti: Are you from Morehead originally?
Alden: No. I’m from Seattle, originally, spent something like 36 years there. Left after grunge for L.A. to get out of debt from an art gallery I started after leaving a music magazine there called “The Rocket.” It’s gone, too. Not my fault, that one. Left L.A. after 16 months because L.A. and I were wrong for each other. Moved to Nashville. Met a gal from Morehead (she was publisher of the first ND book). Got married. Had a child. Some other stuff happened, but we ended up moving to Morehead four years ago.
Graffiti: You’ve had to travel a lot for business. Why is staying in eastern Kentucky. important to you?
Alden: I’ve actually traveled less than I thought I would. High-speed Internet has its virtues. And I’ve seen a ton of music over the last 30 to 35 years. I still love it, but I no longer need to be out four or five nights a week. I’ve seen just about everybody alive I really want to see. Not quite everybody, though. Staying here is important because this — oddly enough — feels like home. It’s a good place to raise our daughter. I like the people here, and the fact that what I do is singularly unimportant to most of them. What I did. Whatever.
Graffiti: Who are your favorite artists from eastern Kentucky, West Virginia, southeast Ohio?
Alden: I have no sense of direction, and though I understand where people are from is important here, it’s not something I think about.
Graffiti: ND is an Americana/roots mag. Are there other kinds of music you enjoy, but don’t write about?
Alden: I like music. I don’t like opera and musical theater. Rap and metal speak to people who live differently than I do. After that … for fun, I spin old (black, mostly) gospel at home, and sometimes I write to classical music. But I came from grunge. It’s all music.
Graffiti: Do you play any instruments?
Alden: No. I had six years of piano and a bit over a year on banjo. I have no rhythm. It’s a fatal flaw. And I can’t sing, not even a lick. My daughter hits me when I sing, and she’s right to do so.
Graffiti: What places do you like to haunt around home? What do you do for fun?
Alden: I work from home. I rarely leave home, except to go down to the Fuzzy Duck and CoffeeTree Books, adjoining businesses my in-laws own. Fun … hmmm … perhaps I’ve worked too much these last years. More seriously, I help some with the garden, which is nothing I know about, follow sports, and occasionally make a little sawdust. My work really has been my hobby as well, though. And I will miss that. And relish it, perhaps. It will change the relationship in all sorts of ways.
Graffiti: You also have a strong visual sense — as strong as your musical preferences — as you have noted in your experiments with typefaces, formats, commercial art, etc. Does that ooze into your personal life?
Alden: I used to have an art gallery. Briefly. Its failure is on our walls.
Graffiti: Indie artists have a hell of a time making a living. Why is Nashville spewing out crap when there’s more interesting stuff out there?
Alden: Get off Nashville. Great music is made there, just not by the machine. But the machine has made that music possible, in various ways. Why the marketplace disagrees with me constantly … I cannot say.
Graffiti: Outlaw country musicians were never anything much to look at. Why do we care what musicians look like these days?
Alden: I give up. I don’t.
Graffiti: What do you think about the record companies going after downloaders?
Alden: Horse left the barn. They goofed up when they went digital and didn’t count the cost. They thought it was easy money, repackaging music again.
Graffiti: Some mags have sought out an existence as a non-profit — like Oxford American. Is that something you’d ever be interested in?
Alden: I think the marketplace has voted us off the island. Oddly enough, I believe in the marketplace. I would never want our magazine to become an opera company. Though I suppose there’s always a chance it might.
Graffiti: Do you get an ungodly number of CDs, or do you still travel to seek out new talent?
Alden: I probably have 500 here in the to-be-listened to stack. Which sounds better than it is.
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