Published Aug 04, 2011Despite the fact that his Exclaim!-approved new album is called We Must Become the Pitiless Censors of Ourselves, avant-pop weirdo John Maus did not take his own advice in a recent interview, where he inadvertently slagged of independent record stores by stating that he's glad to see them closing up shop.
Speaking with Pitchfork, Maus dropped the following bomb when asked for his favourite record shop:
You don't know how happy it makes me that the days of the record store are coming to an end. $20 for an LP? Do you remember going to the record store and not getting what you want because there was no other place to get it? Now we can get it all for free, and I think that's wonderful. There was always something really depressing to me about record stores and music equipment stores. There's something oppressive about them, like the guy who looks you up and down and looks at what you're buying. You're bound up in exchange with the snobby clerk. So I'm glad they all have little "closed" signs on their doors now.
Naturally, the shocking statement prompted a mass reaction from the record-selling industry on Twitter, with many stores announcing that they would pull Maus's releases from their shelves. Matador Records made reference to Jay-Z and Kanye West's recent indie store run-in by tweeting, "Jay-Z and Kanye West would like to sincerely thank John Maus for taking all the record store heat off them."
Hours after the backlash set in, Maus surely realized the hot water he was in and issued the following statement yesterday (August 3):
I wish everyone who is (rightfully) upset about my Pitchfork "guest list" would grant me the benefit of the doubt, but I suppose that is too much to ask seeing as how I did come off so incredibly mean. I can't understand why anyone would think I was referring to the small DIY record shops of the world (the only type that would carry my records in the first place, and many of which I have played in) and not the Megastores of the world, but I guess I didn't make that clear enough. For whatever it is worth now, the only reason I didn't make that clear enough was because I foolishly supposed anyone reading the "guest list" would grant that I was referring to the latter and not the former. I mean, what could anyone possibly have against the small DIY record stores of the world (unless they worked for one of the big ones)? If anything, by saying "I'm glad to see [big] record stores closing down" I imagined I was speaking on behalf of small DIY record stores everywhere! What I'd ask anyone who is (rightfully) upset to remember is that the "guest list" was torn unrecognizably from its context as a telephone call. The interviewer asked me what my favorite record store was, and I jokingly responded "torrents.com" or something like that, laughing about how wonderful it is that music and movies are becoming easier and easier to get for free. I then explained to him that where I grew up we had none of these little DIY type stores but only the big chains, and that I once worked in a Megastore and it was very unpleasant. Finally, I began to go on about the experience, which I cannot imagine I am alone in having, of being looked up-and-down by a snobby clerk when purchasing a record, or of not having enough money to get all the records one wants. I thought all of this would get laughs of identification, not accusations of my wanting small record store owners to die penniless! (Why would anyone, especially a musician, want this?) I hope those little store owners would grant me that I wasn't talking about them. But perhaps the damage is done. Finally, I just want anyone who is (rightfully) upset to know, that whenever I get up on the "platforms" offered in interviews and so on, I always try to imagine a world emancipated from interested exchange and the extortion of surplus. Even if it is a little too naive or too utopian of me, I don't see what is wrong with trying imagine a world where we share everything with each other for free. I always joke with the promoters and the labels about the contradictions involved in doing this from our standpoint, and I guess I just thought I could do it with the record stores as well. If what I said came across as anything other than this desire then I can only assure you that that was not my intent. The fact that anyone would react to anything I say is still a novelty to me, and I'm afraid I've made a terrible use of that novelty.
Still, we're guessing that you might have to dig a little deep if you want to get your hands on the new John Maus record, as this whole fiasco has left a bad taste in the mouths of many indie retailers.