I’ve Walked Away From Things Much Bigger Than This

Six years ago, I started this blog because I was too depressed to be on the radio.

I’ve gone into this in the past, in various more personal posts on this site, so there is no real sense in getting into great, sprawling detail but here’s a condensed history—

From 2008 until 2014, I was an employee of the local radio station in Northfield, Minnesota—KYMN Radio. During the time I worked there, it was an AM station only, though within the last two or three years, they graduated to the big leagues, and now also broadcast on an FM frequency as well.

For those six years, I was the producer and co-host of an hour-long program that ran on Saturday mornings that was loosely associated with a youth center in the community. At the time I came along, the show was at risk of getting canceled because the station manager was tired of trying to wrangle and more or less babysit a bunch of teenagers—when I showed up, and they saw that I was responsible, or something, and managed to turn the show into something moderately listenable.

During those six years at the station, I was able to use whatever clout I had built up and pitch the idea of a daily, hour-long program, airing from 3 to 4 p.m., where I played a very, very diverse and eclectic mix of music and gave information and history about the music I was playing.

This show, the After School Special, ran from March of 2010 until December of 2012.

The show was always an extension of me—if I was not doing well, personally, it reflected in the music I would play, and occasionally into talk time I was allotted. 2012 was a difficult year for me, and while there were a number of factors contributing to it, there reached a point during the summer where I realized that I had become entirely too disinterested and depressed to do the show. I didn’t care if I was preempted by baseball, or if something else prevented me from doing the show—there were days I was glad I didn’t have to do it.

If someone gives you an hour a day, every day, to play whatever music you wanted to, and you at some point realize it’s not something your heart is in anymore, there’s a serious problem that needs to be addressed.

I talked to the station manager about it, and in October, during the peak of 2012 political advertising1 (there was, you know, an election soon), I said I needed to take a break and I would come back after Election Day, and then see how I felt. I tried for another three weeks, but realized it just wasn’t going to work out, especially heading into the holidays2. I gave the station two weeks’ notice, and my final show aired on December 14th.

The idea for the blog started to take shape in the weeks that followed, thanks to the encouragement from my wife, as a way to still care about music, and listen to music with an intent other than enjoyment, and try to share that with others.

I’m never going to have as much time or enthusiasm as I did that first year—I listened to so many albums, and wrote so many reviews. Things began to take a turn, again, after I started working for the newspaper in August of 2014—you can think that writing for a living is going to be great, but then you realize when you do it all day (and grow to have disdain for the kind of things you’re writing about) you certainly don’t want to do it when you get home.

I left the paper in 2016 because the kind of work I was doing was taking a serious toll on my mental health. The end of 2016, into 2017, as a time to try and regroup as a person, but also try to refocus my writing efforts and feel good about what I was doing, and the kind of content I was generating.

As I sit here, on my living room floor, at the tail end of 2018—what has been, without a doubt, one of the worst years of my adult life—I have come to realize that writing is not about content generation. So this blog, website, garbage dump—whatever you want to call Anhedonic Headphones—is going to be making some changes in 2019.

I’ve been down on myself, and the kind of pieces I’ve been writing, as of late because within the last few months, the amount of pageviews I’ve seen has plummeted. It’s been disheartening, and it’s made it, at times, an absolute chore to sit down and focus on putting a review together because I begin to think, “Well, what’s the point?”

I began wondering if I should just walk away from this completely.

I had some kind of stupid quota for both 2017 and 2018, once I started feeling better after I left the newspaper, that I needed to generate 10 posts a month. Sometimes they were linking out to something I had written for a magazine; sometimes it was a cop out and it was a mp3 for a hot mix I had cobbled together; sometimes it was a review of a new album, or a verbose thinkpiece on something celebrating its anniversary. Whatever it was—I had to meet that goal of 10.


I couldn’t even tell you.

‘Content generation’ is the wrong reason, or a misguided reason, to be in this—to write about music, and to still be operating a free Google blog after six years. I don’t give a shit what people I meet, in person, think about me, so why I should I care if a review of an esoteric electronic album released on an Australian label gets less than 50 page views? I shouldn’t—and if I do, I’m in this for the wrong reasons.

At the beginning of the year, I wrote a review of No Age’s album Snares Like A Haircut; I did so, purely, out of the need for ‘content generation.’ I don’t even really like No Age all that much—they are not a band I have ever really sat down and listened to for sheer enjoyment, and Snares Like A Haircut was not an album that I would have ever sought out for reasons other than feeling the need to write something in order to have 10 posts in a month.

Snares Like A Haircut isn’t even in my iTunes library anymore—it’s long gone.

There will still be album reviews on Anhedonic Headphones; I mean, that was the whole point of this site in the first place. But there will be exponentially fewer of them, and the ones that I will write are going to about albums that I have a genuine interest in listening to; they’re going to be thoughtful, or as thoughtful as I can be, and not just some bullshit I’m cranking out because I have a quota I’ve set for myself for a month.

Additionally, with the encouragement of my wife (bless her heart) I am going to try to record a Podcast—this will be different from the Podcast that my friend Adam and I tried during the first year of this site, where we recorded roughly six episodes, claimed we’d pick it back up again in 2014, but after one last episode, we never did.

My goal for this new Podcast—Anhedonic Headphones Podcast 2: Electric Boogaloo, if you will, is to interview my co-workers about the music that they like. Either, like, music they are currently listening to and enjoying, favorite songs of all time, things that they didn’t appreciate the first time around but have now come to understand, or music they have a strong emotional connection, or deep memory associated with.

So far, I’ve asked three of my immediate co-workers—two of them were incredibly nervous and anxious about the sheer idea of thinking about music this critically, and then having to talk about it; the other one is on board, but needs time to think of what songs she wants to play.

Needless to say, it will be a slowly rolled out Podcast, but hopefully one with interesting conversations and insight into the lives of the people I work with, what tunes they like, and why.

Lastly, there will be a change in how I present my non-music writing—pieces that put together for the places I semi-regularly contribute to, like The Wagazine and River Valley Woman will be still be shared here in conjunction with the availability of the print edition of the publication.

Since the end of 2013, I’ve been working at developing my voice as a writer of personal essays, or creative non-fiction. It started with the opportunity that was provided with my monthly column, “The Bearded Life,” from the Southern Minnesota Scene magazine. “The Bearded Life” came to an end in the summer of 2017 when, after the unceremonious dismissal of my editor, I chose to leave the publication, and developed a new column for his then fledgling website, The Next Ten Words. “The Column of Disquiet” allowed for longer pieces—he set an arbitrary word limit of 5,000 words, which was something I regularly ignored—as well as more freedom with what I was able to write about, and how I was able to write about it.

Due to circumstances that are entirely out of my control, at this time, I am no longer able to contribute “The Column of Disquiet” to The Next Ten Words. This is something I am not happy about, but for myriad reasons3, at least for right now, I need to move on.

Because “The Bearded Life” was the name of the thing I wrote for Southern Minnesota Scene, I chose to call what I was doing for The Next Ten Words, something else. So, because “The Column of Disquiet” was the thing I did for The Next Ten Words, whatever personal essay/creative non-fiction pieces I put together that will be housed on this website will be put under the banner of “Today, I Wrote Nothing.”4

I was on a pretty rigorous schedule with “The Column of Disquiet”—it took me a week to write the piece, and then by the time it was published online, I should have, really, started on the next one. The rhythm would get off, occasionally, but I really tried to have two pieces a month. That will more than likely not be the case here—I’m not even sure what kind of goal to set. There will be non-music writing; it’ll just be done on my own time, and on my own terms.

If you’re still reading this, 1,800 words later, thanks—that means you, probably, have been one of the people who have stuck with this site and read whatever dumb garbage I’ve put out into the world, whether it’s been something about shelter cats, or my debilitating depression, or some idiosyncratic reissue on 180 gram translucent vinyl.

Thank you for that too.

1- Outside of my own personal issues, I was becoming frustrated with how little time I would get to do the show because of how much advertising had been bought prior to the election. In my 55-minute time slot, I would lose upwards of 15 minutes simply to commercial breaks, and that made it difficult to plan how much music to play, and how much time would be dedicated to talking in between songs.

2- Additionally, the same thing would happen, w/r/t advertising, in the weeks leading up to Christmas.

3- The easiest way I can describe this is while The Next Ten Words was down for, like, roughly two months, it took almost just as long for me to realize I need to be an advocate for my own work, and I can’t be an advocate for something that isn’t mine.

4- Today, I Wrote Nothing is the name of both an album by the rapper Billy Woods, as well as a book by Daniil Kharms. The book is not as good/profound as I was expecting it to be, but that expression has really resonated with me in recent weeks.