What’s in My Buds? With Damon Krukowski
On this edition of “What’s in My Buds?” we talk to Damon Krukowski. Krukowski is the co-creator of Ways of Hearing, the first of many limited series to be featured on Radiotopia’s Showcase. In the ’90s, Krukowski was a member of indie band Galaxie 500. Today, he’s half of folk-rock duo Damon & Naomi, and he recently published The New Analog: Listening and Reconnecting in a Digital World. He’s very invested in all things audio, so we were delighted when he agreed to a Q&A about his listening habits.
What’s your go-to podcast, and why?
I really like Song Exploder — maybe that’s what every musician would answer? It’s such a great look behind the scenes at how people are putting songs together today. It’s weird, because music is such a social pursuit most of the time, but musicians tend to record more or less in isolation from one another. I mean, you know how your own records are put together, but unless you’re a professional producer or engineer, you don’t really get to know much about how anyone else’s are made. Song Exploder pulls back that curtain.
What’s a podcast that doesn’t currently exist that you think should?
I wish there were more podcasts devoted specifically to music. Radio has always been such an important medium for sharing music, and podcasts are related to radio, and yet … copyright issues have kept music more or less out of the podcasting format. My own podcast is intended, in part, to put music — or ideas about music, and sound — at the center of our earbuds.
If you’re not listening to a podcast, what do you put on to listen to?
You should see my overflowing record storage at home! I’m still a devoted listener of vinyl, and CDs, too — I love albums. At the moment, I’m taking advantage of the fabulous $1 bins at a local jazz record store — I’m awash in big band music from the 1930s … I also listen to a lot of music from all over the world, both that I bring back from tour and that I find online (digital is excellent for wandering very far from home). Last winter, my partner, Naomi, and I toured China, and I brought back some amazingly strange singer-songwriter records. I have a Tumblr where I write about some of that music, called International Sad Hits.
What is your favorite listening environment, for music or podcasts?
I really prefer speakers. I hardly ever listen on headphones if I can help it. And I’m not comfortable listening to music in the street — partly because I like the sounds of the street! When I’m outside, I listen to what’s going on outside. It’s actually a great, simple pleasure in my life, to hear what’s around me. So for music, I listen mostly on my home stereo — which means in the dining room or living room, where I keep speakers. Very traditional, 1970s-style living! As for podcasts, I have a different habit — I actually listen to those on my iPhone, but using the built-in speaker rather than earbuds. I find the iPhone speaker makes everything sound like an AM radio (another favorite device of mine for listening, but these days it’s just for the ballgame, pretty much). So you’ll catch me cooking in the kitchen, listening to podcasts on an iPhone resting on the counter or propped up on a cutting board. Not very hi-fi, I know!
What do you think the future holds for the relationship between music and podcasting?
I think the music industry needs to catch up with the digital world and stop “protecting” musicians from having their music shared more places. I’m a bit of an anarchist about this — I think efforts to stop music from being shared usually benefit intellectual property holders, like record labels, but hardly ever the musicians themselves. Free the streams!
What do you think the future of the podcasting industry looks like?
Podcasting is a really powerful audio format, I think — it’s emotional and tied to storytelling, and yet it shares so much with the commercial formats we’re used to relying on for mundane things, like traffic and weather, together. I love how it brings powerful and big ideas into very regular parts of our lives — like I listen while I’m cooking, or many listen while they are commuting. I wanted to try podcasting because its an ideal medium for sharing thoughts I have about the way daily listening habits intersect with very big aspects of our lives: our sense of time, of space, of love, money, and power.