Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me :: The AD Interview / Steven Hyden

Rock rivalries inhabit a weird part of rock and roll's unruly history. At times as much the creation of commercially driven record labels and promotion people as it is the artists themselves, they make for an interesting study of the culture, but maybe even more so of ourselves. That's part of the thesis behind Steven Hyden's new book Your Favorite Band Is Killing Me: What Pop Music Rivalries Reveal About The Meaning of Life. Hyden has spent a decade and a half writing for sites like The A.V. Club, the defunct Grantland, and now his newest gig at Uproxx. And since Aquarium Drunkard is cited in the book (see page 75), we talked with Hyden via phone about pop culture rivalries, how a lot of things can change during writing a book, the demise of Grantland, and the ever changing definition of classic rock.

Aquarium Drunkard: I have followed your writing pretty closely for a while now, and I really enjoy it, which makes it all the tougher for me to start off by telling you how wrong you are about Oasis and Blur. [laughs] I laugh because when I was reading your previews for the book, you talked about that essay in particular and how people would be upset about your opinions about it. For people in our rough generation bracket and of a certain music geekiness, Oasis vs. Blur really was a pretty big thing. I always came down on the side of Blur. I actually refused to listen to Oasis for a long time the way you did with Blur. Was that particular pairing a catalyst for your idea for the book?

Steven Hyden: I'm not sure exactly why this came to mind. The boring part of the story is that I had an agent approach me, and he asked me if I had any ideas for a book. I didn't at the time, but I started brainstorming and this idea popped up early on. What attracted me to it was that on the one hand it seemed like a simple idea you could describe to someone in a sentence or two, which is always a good thing to have for a book you want to sell. No one had ever done a book on these rivalries before, so that was good. The inherent drama of conflict is always interesting to people, but I also liked how open ended it was. I knew from the beginning that I didn't want to write just a straightforward music book. I wanted it to be a little bit broader and touch on other things.

With rivalries, it seemed to open itself up to a wider discussion. If you're going to talk about the Beatles and Stones, maybe that can be a starting point to talk about other things. As far as Oasis and Blur, it just made sense to me in terms of sequencing the essays. It was one of the big rivalries of my youth and the most extreme example for me of actually caring about a rivalry, almost to the point of unreasonableness or being irrational about it. I felt like my story could apply to anyone. I felt everyone has their Oasis - everyone has their thing that they loved so much when they were 17. It felt like a good way to open the book. If you read the book, the essays have an arc where it starts from me being a younger person who's really into rivalries and drawing lines in the sand and arguments and all that, and you get to the end of the book, and I'm an older person and I'm not as interested in that anymore. I've learned to see the silliness of that, and I'm more interested now in trying to find the connections between people instead of the separations.

Most of the chapters aren't really taking a side - I wasn't interested in doing that. It's more about exploring the dynamics between the artists and what existed in the public's imagination about these artists. In the Oasis vs. Blur thing, I'm obviously an Oasis fan and I'm arguing on their behalf, but I feel like the point of that chapter was to show that I was a crazy person. It's also talking about fandom in a way - the rationalization made as a fan about why to love something and to not love something. So even if you read the chapter and think I'm wrong about Oasis, then there's something in there you can relate to as a fan - something you've felt at some point in your life about an artist you really love.

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