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The Milton Measure

Music Journalist Matt Trammell ‘09 Talks Music, Milton, and More

by on Friday, April 14th, 2017

Matt Trammell '09

Matt Trammell is a Milton Academy Alumnus who graduated in 2009. Since his time at Milton, he has written articles for music publications including Rolling Stone and FADER, and now works as a the night-life editor of Goings On About Town for The New Yorker.

How did you know you wanted to write professionally?

I was always into music when I was growing up and what really made me aware of the job was watching Behind the Music and Best Week Ever–those kinda shows. They had the guest talking head authority people on the shows that would talk about whatever the subject was, and that got me thinking, “oh that would be really cool to do that.” Writing was something that I enjoyed, or at least knew I could get good grades in if I tried. By the time I got to college I was like, “I should just commit to putting those things together and see if I can do it,” and that’s when I decided to transfer to NYU. I started freelancing through a professor I had; it was a very random track to it honestly. Tracks like that usually are random.

Who have been some of the most interesting interviews/ personalities?

I want to give you guys actually good stories. I did Snoop Dogg once, and it was at a listening party of his. He was coming out with this album called Bush. We did a sit down interview up in the balcony, and he was obviously smoking a blunt while he was doing the interview. I don’t want to get you guys in trouble, so you don’t have to print that. He gets a phone call in the middle of the interview, and he talks for a while then hangs up. He was like, “Who you think that was,” and I said “I don’t know who was it.” “Tim motherf**king McGraw. You see, that’s what I’m talking about. Snoop Dogg and Tim McGraw.” He was just so hyped that Tim McGraw called him. That was crazy because it was Snoop.

What did you think about the difference between working for a publication like The New Yorker versus Fader?

[The New Yorker] is very open and supportive and want more young people to be interested in the magazine, but at the same time they are just so excellent at what they do period that they’re still working for a standard as well. You’re trying to do stuff at the same level as the amazing people who have written for them for decades.

Do you like doing interviews with established personalities or up-and-comers?

What’s really the best stories are the people who have worked in capacities for a long time but aren’t in the forefront, who aren’t public figures. People like managers or people who work at labels, they don’t really have so much of a vision they have to put forth, but they have a huge amount of experience and a huge amount of reference. It’s only good talking to someone who’s really new if you’re excited by them, but if you have to talk to someone for the sake of “You have a new album coming out so I’m just going to talk to you now,” you kinda know what you’re going to get. It’s not as authentic or transparent.

How do you choose what you write?

It’s pretty much based on what I enjoy; a lot of it is what I think other people would enjoy. It’s not just about music, like I did a story… on Apple Music and this process that they had that songs had to be mastered for the platform, so if you have an album and put it on Apple Music you had to have it mastered by Apple Music standards, and that means the quality and master of it. If you watch something on Netflix, it doesn’t have to be formatted to look like how the way things on Netflix look. But if you have something on Apple Music, it has to be formatted to sound the way things on Apple Music sounds and it was kinda weird. This is fascinating because this is a thing that is happening across the board as music is digitized and spread across all these different platforms. [In my article,] there’s a bit of newsworthiness; there’s a bit of hard research; and there’s something that if you’re not passionate about music you might be interested in that story. Increasingly I found myself thinking in that way because your audience is different when you’re not working at a music magazine.

Do you have a particular message to send across all your pieces?

I think, if anything, I really feel like music– and arts in general–but music is this little reward we have for being on Earth; no matter what is going on in the world, whatever is going on in your day, there’s this thing over here that we get to do as humans that’s untouchable. Every single layer of society, music is incorporated into it. At every level–sports, film, religion, family, marriage–everything has music there in some way. I try my best to give people the room to isolate it and appreciate it for what it is. A lot of the time, people view music as this thing where “I dress this way so I listen to this,” or “I wanna hang out with these kids or I listen to this,” or “I wanna go to this party so I listen to this.” It can be this thing and be taken seriously enough as its own thing.

Do you think there are any trends that are going to take off?

I mean all those little weird rappers are going to keep trying to do more punk-pop sh*t, which was already happening for some time. It’s just going to get more dramatic. Lil Uzi Vert has that song where he says “All my friends are dead,” and they’re going to keep mining that and make Hot Topic rap a thing. And maybe disco. There are some young people I’ve heard who are making disco-ish things and you could hear The Weeknd making a disco track.

Do you think that the radio will become less relevant?

Well you guys don’t listen to the radio, you guys use Spotify, and you take recommendations from Spotify or are aware of what’s popping on Spotify… A lot of the music industry is based on nostalgia, and not just for old songs but also for old systems. If you’re interested in movies you know these pillars you want to reach. So if you’re in music you want to be on the radio everyday. Hundreds of thousands of dollars go into promoting songs at radio and paying radio DJs and keeping antennas on, just for the sake of the idea of it. To be on the radio everyday is such a nuanced thing. If you turned on JAM’N right now, you would hear something–whether it’s good or bad–it’s formatted to be on the radio all day. It’s its own thing.

How do you deal with political statements in music?

I think original political statements are more interesting. Meaning that if you’re saying “f**k the police,” someone said that is 1989, that’s not really that interesting. It may be true, but strictly on a artistic, creative level, it’s not that original. Going off that example, Young Thug said [on his song “Pick Up the Phone” with Travis Scott], “My momma told me don’t hate on the law, because everybody has got a job, because everybody wants to be a star.” That’s a crazy-ass concept for someone… to say his mom said don’t hate on cops because everybody has a job. It’s also valid, that’s a super valid point. Young Thug doesn’t have to make that point on a song that has nothing to do with that. Now that’s on the radio everyday too. From just a level strictly of originality and creativity, and on an artistic merit, that’s extremely interesting. Real humans, their lives aren’t going to be saved in a tangible way by music on either side, so it’s up to music to just articulate things. Articulate things that haven’t been articulated before. That’s how politics plays into it for me; it’s another thing to pick and prod at.


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Posted by on Apr 14 2017. Filed under More News, News, Recent News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. You can leave a response or trackback to this entry

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