interview with Drew Martin

drew in front of a painting he created

Of the Murderers Row at the Daily Nexus in the late ’80s, early ’90s, our secret weapon was the Art Desk.

Led by your boy Todd Francis, no fewer than a dozen artists could be seen in the award winning college newspaper’s pages during any given week. Any one of them would have been stars on their own on any other paper, but at the Nexus they were just another great reason to smile.

color blind boyDrew Martin was tall, quiet, sensitive, insightful, with a spirituality of an Indian shaman mixed with the cool disposition of a 747 pilot.

While his peers donned thrift store chic and mismatched socks, Drew was impeccably dapper: fitted ironed shirts and all around GQ style.

He was clearly a cop. But his cartoons were out of this world.

The one I remember most was a series about a tall skinny young man who had many questions for the universe.

Obviously autobiographical, but not at all narcissistic, in one episode the hero strips down nude and climbs the Career Resource Building on campus at night and stares into the stars and eventually falls asleep, fragile, innocent, and open to answers.

I believe some watercolors were involved, lots of lines, and some backwards lettering. Not at all the type of juvenile frat boy nonsense you’d see in college papers around the country, this was deep, inspiring heavy shit.

And like I said before, it was just one of the long line of illustrative genius within the pages that many took for granted from the Nexus because it came at you every damn day. Each day beefier than the next. Each page more fascinating. Each week a cacophony of creativity.

Because Drew was sent from another planet to keep an eye on our friends, he accepted Matt Welch and Ben Sullivan’s invitation to join English language newspaper in Prague they’d started after we were all done at UCSB, Prognosis. Beers were fifty cents and rent was $50 and instead of being another forgotten intern at a dumb dusty daily, these revolutionaries got to continue to blaze new journalistic paths on their own terms with the spirit of the world’s greatest college rag as their compass.

While many of the staff dressed and looked like this:

layne and whalen

Drew looked like this:

drew martin in prague
photos by Karen Broome

I only remember working personally with Drew one time at the Daily Nexus. (A nod to the saying about Woodstock: if you remember it, you weren’t there)

I was putting together Friday Magazine which had always been a comedy publication but because I didn’t think I could pull off 8 pages of yucks, I turned it into a druggie thing called Fryday Magazine in hopes of quickly being relieved of my duties. What i really wanted was to run the Arts section.

So the plan was to fill every page with different ways to do drugs on campus and in neighboring Isla Vista. And who better to exploit than our huge stable of artists. Instead of page numbers I had the talented Moish draw a variety of mushrooms. So on page two there would be two mushrooms, page three would have three… On the cover was a drawing of a student reading the issue they were holding in their hand while his mind was exploding with all sorts of psychedelia and clip art. Inside there was a map with tips on where to do what and where not to do the other.

Of course I wanted Drew to contribute and I’m not sure if he did or not but I do remember one moment of clarity. After I explained the theme, Drew said a friend of his was going to try LSD for the first time and he asked if I had any advice. That question inspired me to ask a different artist to create some art that we would put in squares on the paper and deem “do it yourself blotter: just add acid” so the readers could literally get high off their school’s newspaper.

I looked Drew right in the eye and very slowly said, “before you takes any hallucinogens, clean yr  room.”

Yesterday, a million years after we ruled the world beneath Storke Tower, Drew asked for and received an interview with me and I was very honored to participate. You can read it here on his long running blog The Museum of Peripheral Art.

hey look who got interviewed by Dame magazine

right after i got hired by the Times lots of people wanted to interview me. first i let LAist interview me – zach and andy doubleteamed me – then i foolishly let another blog interview me but apparently it was lying douche day over there that day, then i let Black Webmaster interview me and then i called it quits on interviews on this story

except for one:

out of the blue, this crazy magazine called Dame (“for women who know better”) emailed me. the writer’s name was peter gilstrap. he got my email addy from bettie rinehart who i was sorta replacing. because i really liked and respected bettie i said yes to the interview.

turned out peter was a super cool guy with an amazingly deep radio-friendly voice who just happened to have excellent musical taste and even once jammed with Paul Westerberg during a wedding reception in minnesnowta(!) or wisconsin or some shit.

i remember the interview very clearly because i was on cloud 9 because i had just gotten the gig and it was finally starting to sink in. plus i was stoked to talk to someone who seemed to understand what the hell was going on.

strangely i *just* found out that the interview was online a few minutes ago, but only because i was reading LAist’s Extra Extra (to see if they had linked the Daily News’ story about the voice of Bart Simpson being the honorary mayor of Northridge) and saw my stupid name.

if the interview sounds sorta choppy and weird and hard to follow, its cuz i was super hyper that day and i cant even believe he got any of it down cuz i was talking so fast. i guess in a perfect world he woulda let me see his copy so i could clean it up to resemble something that looked like English, but life is far from perfect.

although peter’s intro is killer:

In what could be one small step for man, but a giant leap for bloggerkind, LAist editor Tony Pierce has been hired by the Los Angeles Times to oversee the paper’s 25 blogs. After a 17-month tenure at that saw the free-wheeling, all-things-Los Angeles blog (part of a nationwide, seven city-specific chain) reach to new heights, Pierce is jumping into the ruptured belly of the newly Sam Zell-owned beast. His traditional journalism background consists of working on the school paper at UC Santa Barbara; he’s an admitted outsider to the ways of dailies.

Is it Dylan going electric? Is it a savvy move that will bring a fresh, localized awareness to the paper’s online presence via a man who knows from whence he speaks? Or will our non-mainstream hero’s edge get crushed by the machine? It all remains to be seen. Here’s what Pierce has to say about the move.

and i liked this part:

The LAist’s main demographic is 25 to 34. How does that figure with who the Times expects you to bring in?
I think one reason they’re bringing me in—as opposed to someone who’s older than me—is they wanna go younger. I think right now, their average readership is 51, and if you go to the second [i meant third] floor of the newsroom that’s the average age there too, so it makes sense that they’re speaking to their peers. But if you go upstairs to the 5th floor, the new media floor, the average is in their 20’s. So I don’t think it’ll difficult to hit that audience.

How will you do that?
Instead of showing one picture of the KROQ acoustic Christmas, how about showing 20 or 30? That’s what would lure me in to if I was in college or high school. Not just one token photo, but an actual photo essay and some excitement behind it and a writer who understands the difference between Bad Religion and Linkin Park, and isn’t afraid of dissing both of them.

Unfortunately, I grew up reading the Times and reading Robert Hilburn, who was older than my father. It drove me crazy because I knew exactly what he was going to say about the Springtseen show before Bruce even hit the stage. I knew he was going to kiss his butt, and do the same with Public Enemy and U2, and it was really boring for me. I wished they’d put younger reporters on those stories, because I don’t want to know what the review is going to be like before I read it. I want them to challenge me as a reader, and the artists should be challenged.

But at LAist, you didn’t pander to youngsters.
I think one reason our demographic at LAist got older when I showed up was we were not afraid to embrace or diss younger people. Unfortunately young people don’t like that, and they left. Good. Have fun on Myspace.

read the whole mess here. maybe going forward i will demand all interviews in email form where i wont appear so scatterbrained and nuts. but in retrospect i was pretty insane that day. and so so happy. which isnt too far from how ive been lately. i sing a lot in my office. i still cant believe im there.

my only question: i wonder why they cut LAT publisher David Hiller out of the bottom photo on page one of the dealie. original above.

top photo by fat at the aol news hq in nyc