Liner Notes

Nine Years And Change

by Jason Warburg

I officially joined the staff of the Daily Vault in October 1997, a little over nine years ago and a little over nine months after Christopher Thelen turned on the lights on January 13, 1997.  The site was in its infancy then, but the potential was obvious – a diverse and dedicated group of music fanatics sharing ideas and opinions from across the globe about the one subject they all shared a passionate interest in: music.

After Chris welcomed me on board, my first, somewhat inauspicious review was of John Hiatt’s uncharacteristically mediocre disc Little Head.  And while in the intervening years no one has ever commented on my first DV review being of an album built around a penis joke, the irony of this historical footnote has become clearer every time an outraged reader and/or writer has called me (more or less) a dickhead.  Ah, the glories of editorship. 

So -- long hours, no pay and the occasional name-calling aside, why am I still here?

If I was in a sour mood, I might say pure cussed stubbornness.  I’ve enjoyed writing for the Vault since day one, so when Chris reached the end of his personal trail as editor and was on the verge of shutting the site down in January 2003, I -- along with 2003-2005 Publisher Emeritus Duke Egbert -- just couldn’t stand by and let that happen.  In my day jobs I’ve helmed a number of publications, so why not take on something that’s brought me so much pleasure?

The latter is the truer reason why I’m still here.  I love music.  I love writing.  I love writing about music.  And -- this would be the “change” part -- as a team, as a site, we keep getting better and better at it.  Why *wouldn’t* I do this?

By and large, the writers who are here writing for the site today -- including JB, who was one of Chris’s very first “hires” in 1997, and Benjamin Ray, who joined us just a little over two years ago, but almost immediately became an integral part of the site -- share that same attitude.  We all have other things going on in our lives.  Staff Writer then Publisher then Staff Writer Duke Egbert, another longtime DV stalwart, is also a father, magazine editor and pagan activist.  Sean McCarthy and Paul Hanson are both technical writers, though Sean and Ben Ray -- newly minted managing editor of the Lansing City Pulse, thank you very much -- share a background in journalism.  The precociously gifted Melanie Love -- our very own femme Cameron Crowe -- is as likely to comment on the tribulations of high school French in her submissions’ cover notes as she is to knock out spot-on reviews of the latest and greatest.  Roland -- oh, who the hell knows with Roland?  But when he writes, he writes with passion.  As for collegians Jeff Clutterbuck and Vish Iyer, between exams, papers and job searches these two have become the virtual heart and soul of the site -- endlessly enthusiastic, utterly dependable, a total pleasure to work with.  The bumper crop of new writers we added in 2006 -- Shane, Cory, Benny, Ben E., Brian and Michael -- each bring their own unique backgrounds to the table and challenge us every day with new artists and new perspectives.  And Bruce Rusk is my long-lost doppelganger -- same vintage, similar tastes, and a similar refusal to grow up any more than absolutely necessary. 

It’s a great group.  Here’s the part that blows away my friends and family when I mention it, though.  In nine years of writing for the Vault, and four years as its editor, I have never met a single one of these people.

Yes, I’ve talked with Chris and Duke and Ben Ray on the phone a few times each, though in each case I can count the number of calls on one hand.  But that’s it.  The rest has all been online.  Our technical guru and architect of all the nifty new features we’ve added over the past six months, Rick Watkins of The Haitch?  Met him online, and unless I ever get to New Jersey or he ever gets to Northern California, that’s how it will stay.  I’ve actually met more artists in person through my work at the Vault -- a shout-out here to Mark Doyon (Arms Of Kismet), Jill Knight and Ronnie Montrose -- than I have staff members!

That’s the power of the Internet, and the power of music.  To bring people together around a common, shared experience, even -- maybe especially -- ones who might not otherwise connect.  It’s the power and the principle behind the Daily Vault Forum, as well as a whole host of other new site features we’re on the cusp of unveiling.

Which brings me around to a little piece I started working on late one night on the road several months back, Jerry Maguire-style -- a Daily Vault Manifesto, if you will.  It ended up being more a philosophical experiment than anything publishable, but here’s the key line: The Daily Vault’s purpose is to connect listeners and artists through the medium of music reviews. 

That is our ultimate purpose, and if we have connected one of you out there with one new artist you didn’t know about, whose music has brought you one moment of joy or insight or amusement or intrigue or connection -- our efforts have all been worth it.  I know Chris feels that way too, and I’ll thank him once again right here and now for the opportunity he’s given me to carry this legacy forward.

Nine years and change for me, ten years for the Daily Vault.  It’s been a great ride so far.  Now get back in the car -- I’ve got a disc I want to crank up, and the road is waiting.

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