I opened the lonely door to the building that is Radio Exile World Headquarters and, with a measure of slow regret, climbed the creaky stairs to Shawn M Smith’s office on the top floor. I hadn’t been here in some time but nothing much physical had changed. I paused outside his door and looked left, then right. The wood was as worn as ever, the framed photo of Jeff Buckley listed to the left as always, and the water-stained ceiling remained stained.
My three sharp raps on the door where quickly followed by an equally sharp command to enter.
Read more of Tom’s eulogy to Radio Exile “after the jump”
“Can you believe this?!” Shawn spit, launched right into a tirade, something about Kanye. I hadn’t seen him this agitated since the time Chipotle forgot his side order of guacamole.
“I don’t know what you’re talking about. My Dark Beautiful Twisted Fantasy is one of the best albums I’ve heard in years. Look at Lost in The World. It samples two legendary but wildly divergent songs – Bon Iver’s “Woods” and Gil Scott-Heron’s “Comment #1″ – but ends up being something far more lasting and memorable than all the parts combined. Who else in music today, or ever for that matter, can do that? Love him or hate him, Kanye is operating on a completely different plane than anyone right now.”
Shawn gave me a dumbfounded look. “….You would say that.”
“So why’d you call me here?”
“I’m closing Radio Exile. This is our last day”.
I sat silently for a moment reflecting. This didn’t come as a huge surprise but still, it hit me harder than I thought it would.
“You alright? If this crummy office of mine had a window you’d be gazing out it, longingly”.
“I was just….reflecting. Thinking about where when I first started writing for Radio Exile in the summer of 2008, right after I’d graduated from college. I remember when I got your e-mail asking me to write for you. I was on a Chinatown bus heading to Boston. I was so psyched about it.
My first review was of The Charlatan’s You Cross My Path. I’d never actually reviewed something that I wasn’t already intimately familiar and in love with. Writer’s block doesn’t even describe it. I was so freaked out. I’d never actually written for an audience before.
It took me a few months, until I wrote a piece on The Knux, to find a voice that I could call mine….”
“Some would say you found Chuck Klosterman’s voice”
“Yeah, I know. Thanks.
“What was your favorite piece you wrote for Radio Exile?”
“Well, that aforementioned piece on The Knux was exciting. I remember coming up with the idea one afternoon as I was headed to lunch and then excitedly punching out the piece on my laptop at the restaurant as my ex-girlfriend looked on bored and annoyed. It was such a great feeling to feel like I was saying something original and funny but also worthwhile.”
“It’s a shame the piece ended up being better, and lasting longer, than The Knux did themselves”.
“Yeah. That piece probably had more fans than The Knux too”
“But I digress. After that it took me a little bit of time to figure out how to actually bottle what I had for that Knux piece. But once I did, I hit a streak where I wrote some stuff I was, and remain, proud of. My eulogy for Beat the Devil nailed exactly how I felt about that band. My Radio Exile’s License for Music as Torture (Seriously) was probably the most creative thing I did for Radio Exile. Second most creative thing I wrote was my review of Osama Bin Laden’s 1/14/09 tape.”
“What do you think was the best thing you wrote?”
“My review of Super XX Man’s There’ll Be Diamonds was certainly up there. Also the The Undeniable Genius That Is Lil’ Wayne, The Cherry Chapstick Scale For Measuring Music, and The Untold Influence of Neutral Milk Hotel.”
“What are you proudest of?”
“That I was actually about to write about new music, bands that were completely undiscovered, that nobody or almost nobody had written about before but who deserved attention. People like Common Prayer, The Chairs, Oberhofer, Yellow Ostrich, the Rural Alberta Advantage, Victorian English Gentlemans Club, and others”
“I regret not telling those guys from The Volunteers what childish douchenozzles they were. “
“You didn’t need to tell him that for it to be true.”
“Yeah, I know. But I would have enjoyed it”
“Any last words?”
“I love you, Jeff Mangum”
“You would say that”.
“It’s been a pleasure Shawn. It truly has.”