The Russian hip hop blog ahhmusic.ru recently interviewed me about UGSMAG; here’s the English version of the article…
Our second interview in a series of conversations with people who write about music. The hero of this interview – David Jaguttis, founder of the prestigious Canadian-American music magazine UGSMAG.com, which specializes in independent hip-hop. David told us about how his blog was born, how it has evolved over the years, and what the magazine had given him.
Tell me more about yourself, where were you born, educated?
I was born, raised, and schooled in Edmonton Alberta Canada.
Do you remember the first tape or disk you bought? How have your musical preferences changed through the years?
My first walkman was a present alongside Def Leppard’s Hysteria and Mötley Crüe’s Girls, Girls, Girls, but the first tape I went out and bought on my own was the Rap Traxx 2 compilation. From that point on I mainly listened to rap until my late teens where I also became obsessed with Prince. Now I listen to a little of everything.
Tell us more about your website. How did it come about?
UGSMAG, or undergr(s)ound as it was know at first, started out back in 1999 as a download spot for various hard to find indie hip hop tracks. Through numerous artists reaching out to me to be featured, in 2000 the site switched into a magazine format to include reviews and interviews. A few months later, I added an online store and that became the main focus of the site for the next few years.
What is the main idea of your blog?
The idea has always just been to help provide exposure to the music and artists I love, with extra emphasis on my fellow Canadians.
What is the most memorable of these 13 years?
It was my move from Edmonton to Saskatoon in 2004 where together soso and I converted the UGSMAG online store into it’s own business as Phonographique. Opening an actual brick and mortar record store had been a longtime dream and it came true in the hip hop capital of Canada, surrounded by all the best friends I’ve ever known.
What are your plans for the future? Do you plan to continue writing and interviewing? What is the difficulty?
Over the years I’ve basically phased out all of my writing. I’ve never really had any journalistic aspirations, but ended up doing it by default. One of the downfalls of running a not-for-profit site is that I have to count on there being a supply of other writers besides myself willing to volunteer their time. These days I prefer to think of myself more along the lines of a curator rather than a writer.
What is your dream?
On the realistic side I dream of doing more traveling and seeing the world, then coming home to work with wood and motorcycles instead of computers.
What is your vision of hip-hop? In short, what is hip-hop for you?
To me hip hop is simply a genre of music. I’ve never really been into the whole elements of hip hop / hip hop culture idea or trying to emphasize a difference between “hip hop” and “rap.” Like all music, some of it is good and a lot of it is bad.
Can the music change the world?
Music can influence people and people can change the world.
What has a positive effect on you?
Simple little freedoms have a good effect on me, like being able to have an afternoon cocktail whenever I want.
Is it difficult to write about music? What is the complexity of working as a musical blogger?
For me the difficulty is mainly in discovering new artists that I actually like. Sifting through email submissions is not fun, 99% end up in the trash. Pre-judging people based on their rap names and or album/song titles definitely helps speed up the process though.
What has this occupation given to you over the years?
Running UGSMAG has actually helped out my design career a lot. I taught myself web design through developing the site over the years. It was a great initial portfolio piece and has landed me a lot of other magazine clients over time.
What is going on with hip-hop? How do you feel about some new trends in it?
I think hip hop is in a nice place. I love diversity and these days it’s spanning a wider variety of sounds than it ever has. The blurring of genre lines is a good thing, removing those restrictions allows people to focus on music itself without caring what it gets labelled as.
What is your attitude to free music downloads?
I think we’ve reached a point of no return where everyone feels entitled to free music. It’s sad that artists have to count on t-shirt sales over album sales, but personally I’d be happy never seeing a CD again; I do love vinyl though.
Was there a situation in your life that has very much influenced you? Changed your views, for example?
Nothing specific, but each time I move it makes me reevaluate things, want to simplify, do something new, and stop doing everything I don’t need to do. I love/hate to just scrape by.
Do you love to read?
I do, although I feel I somehow never have much time for it, not enough time to have an up to date favourite authors list anyways. This past year I’ve started doing the books-on-tape thing, which I though I’d hate, but now I can’t imagine a road trip without them.
Do you read any music blogs?
I have a list of a million sites that filter into my RSS reader, but there aren’t really any music blogs I read on the regular.
At what age would you like to visit or live, if you had a time machine?
I wouldn’t want to live then, but I’d visit the late Jurassic period to check out some Sauropods.
Would you like to change something in your life, in your past, or at all… if you had the chance?
I really wish my immigrant parents had taught me their native tongues, It would have been nice to be able to speak German and Arabic.
Tell us more about your design work. About 319 Heads.
Basically it’s a one man design studio covering it all: web development, graphic design, and illustration. Meeting rappers and doing their album covers, it all really happened serendipitously through UGSMAG’s creation.
If you could say to the whole of humanity, what would you say?
Mind your own business people.
Read the Russian version here: ahhmusic.ru/ugsmag-interview