Academic journal article Afterimage

Persistence Is All: A Conversation with Jon Whitney of Brainwashed.Com

Academic journal article Afterimage

Persistence Is All: A Conversation with Jon Whitney of Brainwashed.Com

Article excerpt

It started with a question.

When the band Meat Beat Manifesto promised a release in October of 1995 and nothing showed up, devoted fan Jon Whitney began to wonder. When a single finally came out in 1996, he recognized the fan club address as the address of a friend. Soon after contacting him, Whitney was busy creating and maintaining the band's official website. From now on, he would know.

It was this thirst for not only discovering but also distributing first-hand information about lesser-known and experimental music which lead to the creation of Combining his questioning nature with a healthy dose of panache, erudition and humor, Whitney and his band of volunteers provided an online home to some of the most creative musical minds of this generation and helped to shape a new independent music subculture. And with the recent publication of Daniel Keenan's book England's Hidden Reverse and noise artist Emil Beaulieau's summer performance at Afterimage's own Visual Studies Workshop, the striking sounds of the members of the Brainwashed family are starting to attract a more academic audience. After seven successful years on the internet, Brainwashed now hosts a roster of over 50 bands, with many sites serving as official ones. As if this wasn't enough, the site now provides a weekly magazine, The Brain, complete with album reviews (and music samples), news, polls and even a record label--all, until just very recently, without advertisements. The BBC routinely links to the Brainwashed Brain as a source of independent music news, and the site itself has been reviewed by publications as diverse as Billboard, CMJ and Entertainment Weekly. But Brainwashed has come to symbolize more than just an internet promotion opportunity for independent musicians and their fans--it has created a community that spans nations. As one writer at the fakejazz website ( describes, "Brainwashed is a valuable resource to any serious music fan. It has come to represent the open expanse of possibilities in music ... to intone Brainwashed is to invoke a complex set of ideas and ideals in an instant."

Suzanne Bestler: Can you capsulate the mission of Brainwashed in a sentence?

Jon Whitney: A place where people can waste some time and learn something about music they will probably never see on TV or read about in major publications.

What necessitated the being of Brainwashed? Was there an impetus to its formation?

Rich histories of important musical artists without appropriate representation on the Internet.

Why first did you choose an online format? (Not text/print based?)

Online wastes no paper. Corrections can always be made-and I think this is important in a number of ways-people seem to take printed words as being completely infallible. This has led to the gross misconduct by people reading various bibles and reinterpreting the US constitution even. Interactive publication is a living thing and has to accept when it's wrong and change appropriately.

Is this complete fallibility part of what often makes the Internet so suspect?

Printed words are equally as fallible. It's all about whose words you, as a reader, trust.

Why do you think that the printed word still evokes such responses? Are we as a culture attached more to the printed word because of its history, or because of its actual physicality?

Or portable convenience. People love CDs because of their convenience over records and MP3s because of their convenience over CDs. You don't need a computer to read a magazine or newspaper on the bus on your way to work.

What do you think is responsible for Brainwashed's longevity? Is It more your organization or the strength of the artists?

So long as there are people who are willing to contribute. I don't do the whole thing myself-not even close-but so long as there's a staff of people who share similar visions and are eager to put their time in, it will continue. …

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