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Examining Deep-Fried Americana in All Its Forms

New Musical Express with John's Music Blog

From neo-electroclash to the potentially real online emo-country scene and a studio visit with Margot DeMarco, this is New Musical Express with John’s Music Blog.

By John Chiaverina


John’s Music Blog is a twice-weekly newsletter created by an aging millennial hipster and failed musician. John also has bylines in T: The New York Times Style Magazine and Kpopstarz. New Musical Express is an exploration of the fractured and confusing contemporary music landscape, written by someone who is one mental breakdown away from moving to the Midwest and working at a gas station.

Before I was a music blogger, I was a touring musician. Precarity was built into that lifestyle: I spent many years crashing on floors and couches for extended periods of time, all in the name of keeping whatever little career momentum I had going. I really just had to play that bad show for 15 people at a dive bar in Lawrence, Kansas, and I put up with a lot of bullshit to do it. What was my problem?

Currently, from the look of the “media landscape,” it seems as if culture journalism, which at one point offered a slightly more stable career path than DIY music, is just as shaky as plugging away on the road. In the wake of the spate of layoffs within the industry, the critic and the artist are on more equal footing, which is to say that my recent move from musician to blogger has been a lateral one. Again, what is my problem? Have I learned any lessons?

The lack of arts funding in this country has been a major contributing factor to its musical narrative. “From blues to punk to rap, the history of American music is often intertwined with unstable living conditions” is the kind of stock statement that probably doesn’t even need to be stated. I used to take this all as a twisted point of national pride. I once got flown to Austria to perform an extended set at an arts festival inside a castle; everyone involved in this state-funded project was European, but somehow they felt the need to bring in a gonzo idiot from America to interject some chaos into the room. When I made an energy drink, I didn’t think of it as a conceptual art project, though maybe the Austrians who booked me did. For me, it was a piece of merch that I could sell so I could get to the next city.   

Over the years, I’ve softened and shifted my stances on culture. Creative people, be they musicians, artists, or writers, should be entitled to some amount of material support on an institutional level to help them live a sustainable life. But I don’t see that happening anytime soon in America. Until then, I’ll be riding the same storm I rode as a fucked-up 23-year-old touring via Greyhound bus, taking it one day at a time, trying to make stuff that I’m excited about. Welcome back, my friends, to New Musical Express with John’s Music Blog.



Whenever I listen to European hard dance, my above thesis about American music is somehow both affirmed and shattered. Anyway, It feels like just yesterday that I was watching a pixelated video of Dutch jumpstyle dancers on YouTube, but in reality it was over 15 years ago. Scanning like a cross between Dance Dance Revolution and European folk movement, jumpstyle was connected to an equally intense musical style, one that fused elements of banging hard house and hardstyle and likely a few other dance genres with “hard” or “tech” in their name. Now it’s 2024, and the New Jersey producer XXHARDBIT3S, who was behind one of my favorite rave tunes of last year, has started a record label called UNITED JUMPFRONT, which is dedicated to bringing back that old time jumpstyle energy. Taken from UNITED WE JUMP!, the label’s first compilation, this tune, which features a Steve Harvey soundbite, is pure jumpy madness. A label to watch, for sure. I’ve heard reports of coordinated dance routines on stage at raves…

2. Kaliii - “BOZO”

“BOZO” has some stuff going for it, namely, the Miami bass sound palate and the Keshia Cole sample flip. The Washed Millennial Poptimist that lurks inside of my soul wants Kaliii to pay off that chorus a bit more, but I also understand why it’s hard to make a song over three minutes long in the age of rap playlists. Regardless, the tune makes a nice companion to her 2023 club cut “K Toven,” which is the best Beethoven has sounded in almost 50 years.

3. Smerz, Allina - “My Producer”

Some of these neo-electroclash tunes sound as uncanny to me as I’m sure first generation electroclash sounded to people who lived through the actual 80s. The beat goes on. Smerz has been making music for a minute, and here the duo jack a Peaches drum groove and throw some knowingly boilerplate studio-focused lyrics on top. If I may go into free association mode for a second, “My Producer” makes me think about that weird era in the 2000s when hardcore kids started wearing two belts at the same time, but it also brings to mind the transitional montage sequences on MTV Cribs. All these data inputs, swirling around, connecting, breaking apart…

4. Fordis2 - “mid90s”

I do not know anything about this song or this artist except for the fact that Atlanta high school wunderkind FearDorian laced the beat. It has the producer’s trademark emo bounce, for sure, and a fairly focused vocal performance. If I had a time machine, I would use it to go back to 1997 and inform some emo band that their limited edition seven-inch would one day become raw sculpting material for a Southern rap producer. They might just spit that Coca-Cola out of their mouth! And get it all over their thrift store baseball jersey!

5. Bilmuri - “Better Hell”

Going to need a bit of a “late pass” on Bilmuri, but thankfully I have the Twitter account of DJ George Costanza in my life to let me know about recent developments inside of the confusing internet music/emo/county axis that may or may not actually exist. “Better Hell” sounds like New Found Glory gone to the honky tonk, and it comes complete with the kind of deep-fried Americana visual that we crave over here at New Musical Express. 



Margot DeMarco is a Manhattan-based artist who works in many modes: sculpture, furniture, drawing, internet. She recently opened an exhibition of drawings and sculpture at the Ace Hotel in Downtown Brooklyn, the result of a month-long residency at the space. I needed to know what kind of music she had banging out of her suite, so I paid her a visit. 

New Musical Express with John’s Music Blog: How many days have you been in this hotel?

Margot DeMarco: It’s been a full month. This is either day 30 or 31. I forget if I moved in on the seventh or the eighth, but tomorrow I move out. 

And you’ve been walking around the Ace Hotel observing stuff?

So, at first I had this little folding stool, this thing I got on that is extremely sick.


It’s like Alibaba, but even gnarlier. It’s exclusively ripoffs and fake products, but everything on there costs two dollars or something. It’s definitely the evil stuff I say is bad. So, my original plan was to carry my little folding stool in my tote bag, which was sort of fun at first, but then I just got super self-conscious because the whole thing was sneaking around—I wasn’t drawing in the lobby, I was doing the stairwell, I was doing the loading dock, the kitchen, the walk-in fridge, that kind of thing.

And then you were drawing scenes from that. 

They’re kind of like sculptural drawings of arranged objects in space, so it’s less about rendering it perfectly then it is about getting all the contours of the thing. At first, it was really stressful because I was sitting in the hallway and a security guard came up and he was like, Hey you’re not supposed to be back here. And I was like, Oh, well, I am and it was fine and it felt cool but it also made me feel really self-conscious, so I switched to just taking photos and drawing from photos, which opened my whole shit up. 

So you worked mostly upstairs in your room?

Yeah, and that made it way easier because then I could really lurk into places where I shouldn’t be. And then after I had been doing that for a while, we had a photo shoot for the residency, and I made a vase for that to stage. The vase was made from plastic recycling that I had collected while I was here and covered in papier mâché. I really liked how it looked and I was running out of steam with drawings, so I was like, you know what? I want to switch to doing some vases for the show, too. And then I made ten and I’m super stoked on them. I’m really happy with the drawings, but now I think that the vases are really the centerpiece of the show. 

What has it been like living in a boutique hotel suite? 

It’s been weird and amazing. Alternate reality life. It’s been interesting navigating it, because I live in Manhattan and it’s a 45-minute commute home. I would stay here through the week and then go home for a night or two and my partner would come here. The hotel is in a different part of Brooklyn than I’ve ever spent much time in. It really makes you realize how much your neighborhood is your life. 

You said in a text you’ve been listening to a lot of drum and bass while you work lately? 

Yeah, I follow this guy on Instagram who plays drum breaks live. Do you follow that guy Starpower?

Yeah, I’ve seen that. 

I really like him, and I started listening to the songs he posts. And then I would just do Spotify radio to figure out more. I’m super into it. I don’t even really know what all the genres are called. Breakcore, is that one of them? 

Yeah, that’s the more extreme, fractured version.

Yeah, I like that stuff. They all have anime girl profile pics. 

There’s a real generational divide in the breakcore scene.

Teach me about it. 

90s and 2000s breakcore was super Gen X, like punk, anti-everything. Some of the new stuff has more of a cosplay kind of vibe to it. 

Yeah, like cyberpunk or something.

On a fully different tip, you told me you’ve also been listening to a lot of Bob Seger. That’s an interesting combo.

Yeah, I have really gotten into Bob Seger in the last year. I just love a rocker dude, I’ve always been so amused by dudes that are a rocker. Like, “Hey, guess what babe? I’m a rocker.” 

It’s a lifestyle choice. If you choose to do it, there’s no use in doing it halfway. 


A friend once commented that if Slash wasn’t Slash, he would walk into a bar and people would be like, “Who’s that fucking asshole wearing a top hat?” But he’s Slash, so it’s acceptable. But how do you become Slash? Well, you have to put on the top hat before you’re famous.

When I lived in San Francisco, it was peak garage rock. I moved there in 2005 and I left in 2011, and it was the same kind of thing, where you’d see all these guys who just had such a look, like teased hair and a velvet pirate jacket and wallet chain and fingerless gloves. And it would be like, This guy is either cool, the most annoying guy who’s ever lived, or in a band and I’m an idiot for not knowing.

Maybe all three.

So, yeah, I’ve always been amused by that. Bob Seger was never was one of my guys, then I got into him last summer and I started listening to him at the gym and it you know, it just feels like you’re on a hog, the wind is blowing through your hair—it has that propulsive thing and they’re such story songs and he enunciates so clearly.

Is that a makeshift kitchen in the bathroom of your hotel room?

Yeah. I bought a piece of wood to use as a tabletop, then I came in and I put it in the sink and it perfectly matched up. Because there’s two sinks. And I brought my induction hot plate and a cutting board and knives.

What are you making? 

Kind of simple stuff. I’ve been really into peppers and cottage cheese. 

I’m not big into cottage cheese. I wish I liked it.

I used to be so grossed out by it. And then found the Friendship brand 4% fat cottage cheese. And it’s basically cream cheese. It’s like healthy cream cheese. Now it’s changed my whole shit up. 

We’ll put an Amazon affiliate link in for that. 

Yeah, please. I would love to get sponsored by Friendship brand cottage cheese.


Masonna “Endless Destruction”

If I wanted to make an argument for noise music’s value to someone who does not like noise music, I might dial up a YouTube video of Japanese freakout legend Masonna playing live. In any these videos, Maso Yamazaki is probably wearing bell bottoms and a button down; he’s probably playing for under five minutes in total, and in that five minutes, he is probably moving less like Merzbow and more like Iggy Pop, reducing decades of of rock and roll gestures down to one jagged spasm. Would a Masonna live video convince a noise hater to change their tune? Probably not, but still. “Endless Destruction” came out last month and is fittingly 34 seconds long.


Lavender Kite Audio Research Hours w/ Melquíades on NTS

I don’t know much about cumbia, but I know that this hour-long mix, which covers a variety of iterations of the style and even includes a Kraftwerk cover, sounds very good. I love the feeling of stumbling and clicking. The internet as a whole—the social internet, whatever you want to call it—has not felt so fun for a long time now, but it’s nice to remember that there are still nooks and crannies out there, unbundled from the larger feed, dedicated to the kind of things that can actually improve a person’s quality of life… Things like music.


Kilbourne “Panopticon”

Kilbourne - Panopticon
Kilbourne - Panopticon

  • 1Panopticon
  • 2Rolly Polly

It’s great to see a John’s Music Blog favorite throwing down on Nina. When it comes to pounding, uncompromising hardcore techno, Kilbourne is one of North America’s finest. Her label and party Hammerhead represent a focused gabber vision, one dedicated to a hypnotically sustained level of distortion and intensity. “Panopticon” is the soundtrack to an Adidas track pant swooshing in the darkness, illuminated by a single rod of green laser.  

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