VBR #23: 'Personal Mario Arcade Machine', with guest James Cassar

James and I recorded an episode of Variable Bitrate together in Chicago. Unfortunately, it was shit. Time constraints and the weariness of walking and talking for 3 hours around Navy Pier didn't allow us to do the thing justice. I still wanted him on the show, so we did it a week after we got home.

As long as I've known him, James has been inextricably tied to the band Modern Baseball in ways that I didn't fully understand. This episode should provide some context to that association and James' own perception of that entaglement.

Verified Twitter user James Cassar is a music industry writer, label owner, and podcaster. We discuss his start with Modern Vinyl, the formation of Near Mint, association with Modern Baseball, and his impending memoir.

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

VBR #16: 'I Would Just Like Band Pages', with guest Tyler Sharp

I almost took a job at AltPress out of high school, there have been times I regretted going a different route, but knowing what I know now, I'm glad I didn't make the move to Cleveland.

I love Alternative Press. I don't always agree with their cover stars, but I also don't know as much as I think I do about a lot of people in this industry. More than the content of the magazine itself, I love the people I've had the opportunity to befriend and work with there. Mike Shea was a strong influence on me coming into this world and Jason Pettigrew is someone I admire and argue the value of 00s soft rock with frequently. Tyler Sharp was one of the lastest to join their team that I've had the pleasure of meeting and working with on PR projects. Only this week did I find out just how much we have in common.

Tyler Sharp left his dream job at Alternative Press and I've been dying to know why. We talk about what it is that makes midwest kids blog so much, how he was able to write 8,000 news stories, canceled NBC program Heroes, and what Tyler plans to do now.

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

VBR #09: 'A Place For Us To Write Freely', with guest Brian Leak

After months of following up with the poor guy, I got Brian "Lion" Leak on the show with me. Initially, when this thing was going to promote Under The Gun and its writers, Brian would have been my co-host. It's wild how quickly things changed. Now Brian has jumped over to Substream to take over editing duties across the board. I've read through his first issue and it's quite good. I'm very impressed and eager to see how the rag changes moving forward.

This episode, like just about every one so far, had some issues with the recording process. First, Brian got ridiculously sick, but stuck to his commitment to record. What a saint! Second, it was lawn care day at his apartment complex, so there's a super brief intermission in there. Then there's the product of his feverish delusions that tacked a few additional hours (over several days) in the editing process: he forgot to put on headphones.

It's not a huge deal. It's only noticeable when either of us "crosstalk", but whatever. Like I've said before, I've got to learn to roll with it everyone's set up and access to equipment is different. I still think this one came out better than most skype-centered programs. Pre-recording reminders is something I'm working on in my efforts to ever improve the quality of the show. Hope you dig it.

When this thing started as an Under The Gun branded show, Brian Leak (aka The Lion) was initially supposed to be my cohost. Alas, a change in career led him to Substream Magazine where he is now Editor In Chief. A week removed from dropping his first issue there, we discuss how starting at a local rag evolved into a career.

Find the show on Twitter and on iTunes. If you'd like to sponsor the show, drop me a line here.

James Shotwell steps down as Editor and Chief of Under The Gun Review

When I was a junior in high school, I wanted to be James Shotwell. Today, I think the only person who would find that more hilarious that James himself would be our late friend Justin, a person I would have never known if not for James and if not for the website he built and invited me to be a part of for so many years. So much of me has come as a result of those two things.

Being a sheltered 17 year old from northeastern Ohio, I wasn't accustomed to the show-going experience or anything even close to resembling that. So I faked it. Somehow, trying to do what James was doing with his laptop and venue access with merely my blackberry and an it-leaked account caught his attention. Before long, I went from copying the guy to partnering with him to run Under The Gun Review.

What has happened since has been well documented but, in short, I left UTG after we sold it to SPIN Group (née Buzznet, Buzzmedia, and SPIN Media) while James stayed on—cultivating a brand and an elite team of alternative music and film critics. Now James is stepping down as Editor In Chief, pulling back and refocusing on the other things he's dedicated his life to.

In his letter to the patrons and staff of Under The Gun yesterday, James wrote, "For many years I have been afraid of who I was without UTG." While I think many creatives invested in a brand identity or outlet can relate, I think it's important to distinguish the difference between what James is without UTG and what UTG is without James.

James without Under The Gun is still a driven individual with a distinct eye for talent and panache for writing about it. Those skills have brought him work outside of his blog at Haulix and Antique Records, his label. He is also a caring friend, confidant, mentor, and advisor to countless individuals who have crossed his path in the 7 years since registering underthegunreview.net. Without UTG as his main focus, James fear of irrelevancy is superfluous.

Brian Lion has taken James' spot as EIC, an appointment deserved by nobody else. Since my time at UTG, Brian has effectively run editorial without guidance. The question of Under The Gun's existence without James' focus is answered by Brian's clear knack for editorial and the team's flair for distinctive criticism.

Deciding when to move on from a project is a difficult one. I think the best time is when both entities, the project and the creative, can stand on their own. For James, that time is now. As my long time friend and valued colleague, I wish him the best of luck in this departure from routine. Refraining from a half dozen news posts every day will be a bigger struggle than he may have yet realized.

Read James' full letter on Under The Gun Review.


I am a patron of Under The Gun Review and I implore you to consider patronage as well. Great blogs like this can only exist with help and, since SPIN didn't work out for anyone, Patreon is a great option. Even the smallest monthly contribution can go a long way.

Be sure to follow Under The Gun on Twitter and Facebook as well. They lost 35,000 Facebook followers when the social network decided that linking to an article on their site with a YouTube embed was considered "piracy" and deleted their brand page without the option to protest.

In which Jordan Sargent of Gawker outs an American citizen for clicks

History has shown that Gawker’s “no-fucks-given” attitude is unlike any other. They’ve published countless articles over their years that make most recoil in disgust.1 None so much as Jordan Sargent’s piece in which he aids a blackmailing escort in outing a CFO for ad revenue.

I read an average of 5-10 Gawker or Gawker Media brand articles a day. Kotaku, Gizmodo, Lifehacker, i09, and even Jezebel run through my feeds. I enjoy and learn from many of their writers, but stories like this I simply cannot stand behind.

Jordan Sargent, who has contributed to other publications such as Pop Matters, Rolling Stone, and Pitchfork, probably ruined his career today with a homophobic, blackmail abetting hate piece that has the Internet (rightly) up in arms.

Posting screenshots of private text conversations isn’t journalism and it isn’t anyone’s business. This is life-ruining stuff. Ironically, I think Sargent might get hurt the most by hitting publish.

Don’t give Gawker the click on this one. If you want to read it, read it on the Internet Archive linked here instead.

Here are some notable Twitter reactions and comments:

Mike RyanSenior Entertainment Writer at Uproxx

Mike Ryan on Gawker

Luke O'Neiljournalist

Luke O'Neil

Glenn Greenwaldjournalist at The Intercept

Glenn Greenwald

Adam WeinsteinSenior Writer at Gawker

Adam Weinstein

Max ReadEIC of Gawker

Max Read
  1. I’m intentionally leaving out links to any of these. They aren’t getting my clicks.