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What It Is

New York Night Train is in essence yet another online music fanzine. I originally dreamed up this beast not only as my personal love-letter to my favorite artistic medium, but also as a response to whatever else there is out there. I thought we needed a zine that would focus in-depth on one artist at a time instead of scratching the surface on half-a-dozen. I also felt that musicians should be given an opportunity to talk about life and music in whichever format they see fit. I imagined these self-portraits not only in print, but also in audio form – so readers can also choose to listen to the profiles on their computers or download them onto their mp3 players. I hoped that hearing the uninterrupted voice would create a certain intimacy that typically isn't found in this type of thing. The material here will encompass music from all over but focus on New York’s substantial music community.

These profiles are not necessarily interviews in the conventional sense. They are stories as told by the artists – recounting their personal histories, discussing their music, and taking it wherever else they want it to go. For example, eschewing the usual fifty questions, I asked Kid Congo Powers merely to tell me about his years in The Cramps. Instead of the choppy journalist-driven Q&A responses generated by a standard interview, Kid gave me over a half-hour of solid material that flowed like prose. But don’t be mistaken, the template is malleable. Artists can express themselves in whatever fashion they wish – via memoirs, tour-journals, scrapbooks, art, photographs, and whatever else they have at their disposal. While I plan to work mostly with this artist-focused oral history model, some weeks I’ll vary it up with different broader approaches.

In addition to the formal differences from other zines, New York Night Train will also select subjects in a different fashion. The features will not only involve solo artists and bands, but also side-men, producers, engineers, road crew members, and anyone else who can illuminate the foggy past of underground music. While other sections on this site will remain primarily up-to-date, the profiles will remain outside of the typical industry standard of newsworthy artists with new records, re-releases, or tours. Not only will this free participants from repeating the same schpeil about the new album, but will free us to take a look at music without centering it so much on the current marketplace.

Since New York Night Train probes deeply, I’ve structured the site for everyone from the casual fan to the extreme music nerd. The profiles start with a brief introductions and zoom in deeper as you move along. For example, if you only want to learn who Kid Congo Powers is, all you need ito do is find the Feature Introduction or look at some of his Discography. If you only want to learn about only one of his bands – for instance, The Gun Club – all you need to do is go to the Feature Oral History home page and locate the two Gun Club sections. If you are only interested in the early years of The Gun Club, you will select ’Preaching the Blues’: The Dawn of The Gun Club (1979-1980). For the Las Vegas Story era, select The Las Vegas Story: Kid Stays in the Picture (1984), and, next issue, if you want to learn about the band's final years, select “’Black Train’: The End of the Line (1987 – 1994)” (coming next issue).

After a few months, and particularly if this goes for some time , we will be able to add all of the different accounts of the legendary underground musicians to create a much larger narrative. To my knowledge, there is nothing else around quite like this. I hope the in-depth first-person profiles will not only entertain and inform fans but will also become a resource for writers, journalists, academics, and other researchers who can't find this information elsewhere. If you wish to reproduce any of this material for radio, publication, or other media, please contact me first.

While the main course is the profiles, there’s much more here on the side. I have material on new artists, releases, and shows to balance out the otherwise historical focus, keep the site up-to date, and do my part for the general development of the current underground music community. Attempting to review as many recordings as I can per week, in addition to the standard new releases and re-issues, I will also try to explore the discographies of the artists covered. There is also be a live section with a show list, recommendations, and reviews. Roughly every other week I plan on profiling a new artist .I hope to add a few more sections in coming weeks: a gear section looking at the tools of the trade, home studio profiles, recording techniques, practice space info, how-to’s, a guide to booking shows in New York for out of town bands, and, time-permitting, a message board where the local community can network – putting together bills, finding band members, etc. In the grand tradition of Slash, Touch and Go, Flipside, and other zines that also put out records, a label is in the works with releases slated for January. I initially intended to only make a web site - but in the process found that some of my favorite artists had recently made amazing recordings that needed to be put out. As a critic, writer, and publisher I see little conflict of interest - as putting out records is the ultimate method of hipping people to good music.

The name New York Night Train isn’t a metaphor for navigating the darkness of contemporary music or anything else (that is, unless you want it to be). It also has nothing to do with the fortified wine that shares the same name. It has been christened after the tough 1952 Jimmy Forrest instrumental that was later covered by James Brown, King Curtis, and dozens of jazz and R&B artists – and later even appropriated by Public Enemy. I imagine Nick Tosches’ The Devil and Sonny Liston – which gave accounts of the reviled champ stepping into the ring, the audience boo-ing, and his theme song, “Night Train,” serving as the death knell for his opponent. I also think of “Night Train to Memphis” – particularly Jerry Lee’s take. And, most of all, I’m obsessed with night train imagery – the sound of their passing through the night, the light in front penetrating the fog, the lonely passengers staring out the window, and the rickety rhythm of the ride. The “New York” part of the equation is primarily to legally distinguish this from all the other Night Trains out there. After trying out a number of options, I chose “New York Night Train” because I’m based in New York, the name looks good on paper, and rolls off the tongue rhythmically. Finally, I like it because it was ambiguous. The name doesn't have any "indie" connotations and could easily be the name of any type of business from any era of the 20th and 21st centuries.

New York Night Train is still in its experimental stages – so look for better design, better audio quality, and more content as it rolls along. As editing the audio interviews (which right now consists mostly eliminating “uhhhh,” “uhhhm,” and “you know”) and transcribing is occupying more time than I initially anticipated, I might pare down the profiles or split them up over a few issues. I also may begin accepting submissions from contributors if it gets too be too much for one individual to handle. But for now I will remain a solo act. In any case, expect a new issue every other week.

On a final unpopular note, I plan on using advertising to fuel this site and the extended bandwidth required by these hundreds of megabytes of mp3s in each issue. I’m not asking for donations like a number of other zines - but, if you insist on ordering music online, please do so through the InSound and Gemm links on my site so I can get a small commission for the sale. I also get a dollar each time someone downloads the Mozilla Firefox browser via my site. InSound and Gemm are great companies and Firefox is my browser of choice - so I have no problem linking you to them. As for the ads, AdSense generates them and I think I also get a fraction of a cent when you click them. I do not get to select what goes up there - but right now its a necessity. So click away if you like what you see here. On a final note, I hope to replace these with ads by indie labels, retailers, venues, and others who would benefit from exposure to this specific niche – so if you or anyone you know wants to take out an ad, go to the ads section – it won’t cost you an arm and a leg… maybe just an arm…

Without any further ado, in the words of James Brown, “All aboard the night train…

With more sincerity than you may imagine,
Jonathan Toubin

Publisher, owner, manager, web master, web designer, editor, feature writer, researcher, critic, photographer, audio engineer, audio editor, ad manager, sole-contributor, and soul-contributor



© New York Night Train , 2005