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Upfront: Anthony Fantano & Cal Chuchesta

Name a more iconic duo. We'll wait.

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For half a decade Anthony Fantano has been operating as something of a new-world Christgau or Bangs providing commentary and critique of music (and more recently, memes) via his YouTube channel ‘The Needle Drop’. His co-sign is highly coveted by an audience that definitely struggles to recall life pre-internet, made evident by his notoriety on the /mu/ board on 4chan. Ahead of his forthcoming Australian tour, I caught up with the “best teeth in the game” and his eccentric roommate Cal Chuchesta to chat about chainmail, memes and holidaying in hell.

ACCLAIM: Hey Anthony, Cal, how’s it going?

FANTANO: It’s going pretty good. I’m putting in my Australian citizenship now since I’m here and my home country just elected a meme as president.

A: Nice, we’d love to keep you. So, Anthony, you’ve been doing ‘The Needle Drop’ for a long time. Do you feel as though you’ve developed a rigid set of principles or guidelines that you consistently apply to each review? If so, do you feel as though you often stick to your initial opinion or do you try to subvert it for the sake of variety?

F: I think I’ve developed a pretty workmanlike approach to every review I do, and that’s for the sake of communicating what I need to effectively. I go into each album looking to find out how I feel about the music and what about the music makes me feel that way. Then it’s the challenge of figuring out how to convey that. I haven’t really needed to subvert my own opinion, really. I find things stay interesting as long as I’m listening to a wealth of new artists and a variety of musical styles.

A: It’s apparent that you get sent a lot of promo and early copies from both smaller, independent artists and major labels. Between what seems to be a pretty hectic listening, reviewing, and uploading schedule do you still make time to trawl the internet for new acts and releases or does a lot of what you review now come directly to you?

F: For sure. I try as hard as I can every week to try out some random Bandcamps or some lesser-known artists my viewers recommend to me. I figure the people who watch my show are passionate about what they listen to, so they’re going out of their way to recommend it to me, there has to be something to it.

A: When interviewing Iglooghost for the ‘TND’ podcast you discussed early internet humour (content hosted on sites like Newgrounds, eBaum’s World, and Funnyjunk) which you described as the precursor to meme culture. In your most recent ‘thatistheplan’ videos it feels like you’re reaching back a little and touching on the loose sense of depravity those videos and games imparted. Do you feel as though it’s consciously referential or is it all just meme trash?

F: Consciously referential? Sort of yes and no. While that early internet depravity is something I want to capture, I also don’t have to think too hard about it because that’s just the tone the internet had when I was growing up with it. That savagery and perceived randomness was what made the internet feel like the wild West back then. It’s probably not coming back ever again, but trying to rekindle that flame in a stupid YouTube video every once in awhile is fun.

A: Meme culture has reached this point where it’s become so self-referential that it seems as though it’s beginning to stagnate. Where do we go from here? Cal, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one too.

F: I’m not sure. I think the election has had a huge impact on the stagnation of memes for the past several months. It’s such a dominating force in the public consciousness. Once it’s over and off everyone’s mind, maybe new memes will blossom? Like once the world economy crumbles, I predict this will become the hottest new meme: “Can I have another slice of stale bread, sir?”. Cal says he prefers his bread stale.

A: Are there any releases that have come out this year that you’re into that you haven’t featured in a video? Give us the good stuff.

F: Everything I think is great ends up in a video. That’s the beauty of my personal motto: No Gods, No Editors. If it doesn’t end up in a video, I just haven’t had the time to make it happen yet. In that case, I really enjoy the new Kero Kero Bonito album.

A: Bonus round, describe in-depth your first chainmail experience. Viruses, GIFs, the whole gamut.

F: Oh, damn. That’s a left hook. I dunno. It probably happened to me when I was 13 and participated in it because I was told my crush would call me. She didn’t. I cried myself to sleep that night.

A: Cal, your stint in Hell must have been awful. Any great holiday spots you could recommend?

F: Cal recommends a great Mexican place named ‘BURRITO DIABLO’ but he says the hot sauce is surprisingly mild. Like, it’s barely even hot at all. I have a sneaking suspicion that’s kind of the point; even the hot sauce refuses to give any sort of gratification.

Anthony Fantano is in Australia to deliver a keynote speech at the annual Face The Music conference, taking place at the State Library on November 17th and 18th. Tickets are available here.

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