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Mark Dery

Mark Dery

Mark Dery is a cultural critic. He writes about new media, visual culture, emerging trends, subcultural style, and fringe thought.

Dery is best known for his writings on the politics of popular culture in books such as The Pyrotechnic Insanitarium: American Culture on the Brink (1999) and Escape Velocity: Cyberculture at the End of the Century (1996).

About the decade (or so) he spent in the golden ghetto of rock-journo hackdom, Dery has this to say:

"As a freelance music journalist in the ‘80s, I wrestled with the cognitive dissonance of writing critical essays for art magazines on highbrow subjects such as the video artist Nam June Paik, on one hand, and on the other grinding out music-journo hackwork like "Hellbangers! Some Call It Black Metal; By Any Name, It’s The Hard, Dark Underbelly Of Rock," a story I wrote for the late, utterly unlamented Hard Rock Video magazine.

Through my interviews with artists and New Music composers in what was then called New York’s ‘downtown’ scene, I discovered British cultural studies and French postmodern theory. Media theorists such as Jean Baudrillard and scholars of fan cultures such as Dick Hebdige offered object lessons in the intellectual rewards of trespassing in the forbidden zone between high and low culture, academic theorizing and pop-culture headbanging. My interest in this sort of philosophical and stylistic gene-splicing had already been piqued by intellectually omnivorous music writers such as Greil Marcus and Lester Bangs, and by the genre-hopping, quotation-crazy East Village composers, hip-hop deejays, and 'appropriation' artists I was writing about. Why couldn’t I do, in rockcrit, what Laurie Anderson and John Zorn were doing in music? Nothing remained, I decided, but to attempt the experiment in gene-splicing cultural criticism I’d been inching toward.

Regrettably, most rock magazines, especially the gear-porn, guy-ocentric trade rags I was writing for, were deeply hostile to such post-disciplinary promiscuity. Which is why I abandoned music journalism for the arts-and-culture beat.

The articles archived here are early, misbegotten attempts at a post-Bangsian, gonzo-theory rockcrit – fossil specimens of evolutionary dead-ends. But most have some obscure charm that makes them worth a glance, at least: insights into the artistic unconscious of artists seldom covered by the mainstream press; stylistic loop-the-loops and theoretical bungee-jumps that actually work, on occasion; or, absent other merits, comic relief – not always intentional, to be sure, but isn’t that the best kind?"

63 articles

List of articles in the library

By date | By artist | Most recently added

Philip Glass: Through A Glass Darkly

Interview by Mark Dery, High Performance, 1983

Composer Philip Glass has leapt to national prominence in music with his synthesized symphonies and his collaborations with artists and filmmakers. His systems-oriented work provided ...

Laurie Anderson Goes For The Throat

Interview by Mark Dery, High Performance, 1984

FORGET the Pippi Longstocking coyness that led Newsweek to dub her "a cybernetic Lily Tomlin." Forget the dimples and the I-had-an-argument-with-10,000-volts-and-lost hairstyle. When Laurie Anderson ...

Steve Reich: "As if I were writing directly before God"

Interview by Mark Dery, High Performance, 1984

His latest and largest, Steve Reich's The Desert Music at BAM is also his most lush to date ...

Laurie Anderson: Home Of The Brave

Review by Mark Dery, International Musician & Recording World, 1985

A GARBAGE disposal with indigestion, glub-glubbing on a smooshed Jiffy Pop foil bubble or a gluish wad of Captain Crunch, is not a pretty sight. ...

Robert Fripp, King Crimson: Robert Fripp: The 21st Century Man Sounds Off

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Record, November 1985

HE BEGAN, by his own admission, tone deaf and with "no sense of rhythm." He is a spit-shined, manicured man whose "best subjects at school ...

Shriekback: Things That Go Blorp In The Night

Interview by Mark Dery, Pulse!, December 1985

SHRIEKBACK LIKE things that go blorp in the night. Their latest disk, Oil and Gold (Island/8.98 list), has the slippery feel of a jellied eel's ...

They Might Be Giants

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Spin, December 1985

THEY MIGHT be Eddie Haskell and Lumpy Rutherford 10 years after, rigged out respectively with pearl-inlaid accordion and Japanese Strat. ...

Glenn Branca: "Sometimes I Wished My Fist Was A Sledgehammer"

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, High Performance, Spring 1985

Can a microtonal man from Harrisburg, Pa., find happiness in the '80s when his music sounds like a well-tempered band saw? ...

Philip Glass: Classical Gas: Philip Glass's Super Session

Report and Interview by Mark Dery, Record, January 1986

IF CLASSICAL music makes you think of some character in a periwig sawing away on a Stradivarius, then you've never heard Philip Glass' music. On ...

Tom Waits: Rain Dogs (Island)

Review by Mark Dery, Record, January 1986

THIS IS HOW the other half lives, the dark underbelly for whom being born in the U.S.A. means Huey Long, Lenny Bruce on a bender, ...

Dream Academy: Push-Button High

Interview by Mark Dery, New Look, June 1986

NICK LAIRD-CLOWES (pronounced "clues") is the bright-eyed, revved-up type. He's eager to explain it all for you, and he's especially eager to explain that his band, ...

Robyn Hitchcock's Colossal Mutations

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, International Musician & Recording World, July 1986

WHAT DO you get when you cross nursery crimes, rump-bumping beats, hooky melodies that are bittersweet as a bite of watermelon pickle, and batty lyrics ...

Rhys Chatham, Fred Frith, Arto Lindsay, Elliott Sharp: The Downtown Sound — New York Guitar 1986: Part I, The Solo Artists/Composers

Special Feature by Mark Dery, Guitar Player, August 1986

LINK WRAY — whose 1958 hit 'Rumble' sounded an early tremor of what was to become rock and roll guitar — once divulged his jerry-rigged ...

X: The Misunderstood X

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Rock Scene, September 1986

"It's like if you're an artist and they say, 'I'm sorry but you can't have your paintings displayed in public anymore.' The radio's really awful, ...

David Lee Roth, Van Halen: David Lee Roth Takes Off His Warpaint

Interview by Mark Dery, Winner, November 1986

LOS ANGELES has a mess of atavistic attractions most tourists never get hip to: Chili Cheese Fritos, Dodger Dogs, Fatburger ("The Last Great Hamburger Stand"), ...

The Psychedelic Furs: The Butler Did It

Interview by Mark Dery, Winner, November 1986

THERE'S A scene in David Cronenburg's The Fly where a baboon gets zapped, beamed from Point A to Point B, and reassembled as simian upsidedown ...

Shriekback: The Piercing Sounds Of Shriekback

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, RockBill, March 1987

STARTING WITH the mini-LP Trench in '81, and continuing through Care ('82), Jam Science ('83), Oil and Gold ('85), and now, Big Night Music, Shriekback ...

Hüsker Dü In Their Own Way

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Creem, June 1987

"In Switzerland they kept slammin' the microphone into my face and throwing beer cans at us all night. So the next person that did it, ...

Shriekback's Barry Andrews: Painting Landscapes, Abusing Pianos

Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, June 1987

'BLACK LIGHT Trap' on Shriekback's latest album, Big Night Music [Island, 90552-1], is about a device used "for snaring unwary insects," keyboardist Barry Andrews explains. ...

Coil: The Darker Side Of Sampling

Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, July 1987

LONG BEFORE the verb was coined, Coil keyboardist Peter Christopherson started sampling. ...

Joe Jackson: Success With The Help of Will Power

Interview by Mark Dery, Only Music, July 1987

He's done everything from beatinghimself crazy to jumping jive,but with his new albumthe composer has returned to the classics. ...

Sonic Youth And The Great Cosmic Blender

Interview by Mark Dery, RIP, August 1987

SKATEBOARDS, ELVIS Presley, Wrestlemania and trashy sexploitation flicks-eventually everything goes into the battered black cauldron called modern pop culture. And like the spumy, molten soup ...

The Cure's Lol Tolhurst: A Dose Of Keyboard Fever

Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, August 1987

EVER SINCE schoolmates Robert Smith, Laurence "Lol" Tolhurst, and Michael Dempsey formed Easy Cure in 1976 – the name was eventually shortened to the Cure ...

Peter Gabriel, Random Hold, David Rhodes: David Rhodes: Atmospheric Guitar for Peter Gabriel

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Guitar Player, September 1987

DURING HIS RECENT So Tour, poker-faced Peter Gabriel offered fans a glimpse of his slapstick side. During 'Big Time', while Gabriel brayed in mock-macho tones ...

Billy Squier: Fanfare For the Common Man: Billy Squier Blows His Horn

Interview by Mark Dery, Winner, Winter 1987


Meat Puppets: Call of the Wild: Meat Puppets

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Option, January 1988

IT AIN'T THE MEAT, as they say, it's the motion, and believe me, nothing beats a handful of animated hamburger racing around on your plate ...

Richard Lloyd: The 6 String Alchemy of Richard Lloyd

Interview by Mark Dery, Guitar Player, January 1988

RICHARD LLOYD would like to wring his guitar's neck. And he tries, throttling it bluefaced on the Television records Marquee Moon and Adventure, and damned ...

Eugene Chadbourne: The Lovably Low-Tech Eugene Chadbourne

Interview by Mark Dery, Guitar Player, February 1988

"There's no type of music I don't like; it's important to be able to make fun of all types." ...

Laurie Anderson, Hugo Largo, Talking Heads, Test Dept., They Might Be Giants: Performance Art: Pop 'n' Fresh

Overview by Mark Dery, L.A. Weekly, 21 April 1988

THE CHAIN linking performance art and pop music is 75 years long this March. It's a tangled, meandering chain, stretching all the way from Italian ...

Nelson George: The Death Of Rhythm & Blues (Pantheon, 256 pages, $18.95 hardcover)

Book Review by Mark Dery, L.A. Weekly, 28 July 1988


Ryuichi Sakamoto: The Noise From Nippon

Report and Interview by Mark Dery, Elle, September 1988

"I DON'T KNOW what I am," says Ryuichi Sakamoto. "I was born in Japan but I don't think I'm Japanese. To be a stranger — ...

Diamanda Galás' Dark Voices

Interview by Mark Dery, Elle, October 1988

WHEN DIAMANDA Galás opens her mouth, dark things come flapping out in a pandemonium of caws, screeches, and beating wings. "I feel as if I'm ...

Leonard Cohen's Impeccable Chop

Interview by Mark Dery, Frets, November 1988

FROM HIS 1967 debut, The Songs Of Leonard Cohen, to his tenth and latest release, I'm Your Man, Canadian singer-guitarist Leonard Cohen has traveled to ...

Afrika Bambaataa, Grandmaster Flash & the Furious Five, Run-DMC, Stetsasonic: Rap: Rock Is Dead

Special Feature by Mark Dery, Keyboard, November 1988


Mica Paris

Profile by Mark Dery, Elle, January 1989

UNTIL NOW, British soul has meant blue-eyed soul, but 19-year-old MICA PARIS might change that. Her first album, Mica Paris, displays a seasoned, soulful voice that ...

Shriekback Blasts the Top Off The College Charts

Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, January 1989

Nice Monsters Go Bang ...

Ofra Haza

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Elle, February 1989

"I THINK people were a little tired of rock and roll and disco," says singer Ofra Haza. "And suddenly, along came something very different, very ...

The Beatnigs, De La Soul, John Zorn, Negativland, Scott Johnson: John Zorn, Scott Johnson, De La Soul, Negativland, The Beatnigs: The Decomposers

Overview by Mark Dery, Elle, September 1989

MAYBE IT all began in 1917 with the harmless-looking urinal "R. Mutt" entered in the Society of Independent Artists New York show. ...

Leonard Cohen

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, September 1989

"MOST MUSIC criticism," griped Leonard Cohen in a recent Musician interview, " far behind, say, the criticism of painting. Nobody is identifying our popular singers ...

Rickie Lee Jones: Flying Cowgirl

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Elle, September 1989

RICKIE LEE Jones's first album in five years, Flying Cowboys, offers a ride on one of those coin-operated broncos most of us rode when we ...

Laurie Anderson: On The Jagged Edge

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Elle, October 1989

"I'LL BET you think I'm making this up," says Laurie Anderson, her voice taut, edgy. A dramatic pause, then a grave shake of the head. ...

Sonny Sharrock (1990)

Interview by Mark Dery, Rock's Backpages audio, 1990

The king of out there guitar on everything from playing on Miles' Jack Johnson album, through to Last Exit, with absolutely everything in between.

File format: mp3; file size: 143.5mb, interview length: 2h 36' 44" sound quality: ***

Captain Beefheart, Gods and Monsters: Gary Lucas' Gods and Monsters

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Guitar Player, September 1990

"THE MUSICAL landscape is completely moribund," says Gary Lucas. "It's one of the worst periods in memory, worse than the mid '70s. My music is ...

Public Enemy: Confrontation

Report and Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, September 1990

"Elvis was a hero to most But he never meant shit to me you seeStraight up racist that sucker wasSimple and plain ...

Glenn Branca, Elliott Sharp: Glenn Branca and Elliott Sharp: "We are the Reality of this Cyberpunk Fantasy"

Interview by Mark Dery, Mondo 2000, 1991

GLENN BRANCA and Elliott Sharp philosophize with a hammer. And an anvil. And a stirrup. The two New York composers take Friedrich Nietzsche, who subtitled ...

Coldcut, De La Soul, Digital Underground: Digital Underground, Coldcut and De La Soul Jam The Beat

Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, March 1991

DIGITAL UNDERGROUND, De La Soul, and Coldcut make musique concrete for boomboxes. These three bands, all on the Tommy Boy label, have achieved, perhaps unwittingly, ...

Sun Ra

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, March 1991


Sun Ra (1991)

Interview by Mark Dery, Rock's Backpages audio, March 1991

The great bandleader and cosmologist talks about everything from being a visitor from Saturn to his spiritual home in Egypt, via much about making music, improvisation and the importance of discipline.

File format: mp3; file size: 86.2mb, interview length: 1h 34' 12" sound quality: ***

Christian Marclay, MC 900-foot Jesus, Urban Dance Squad: Now Turning the Tables... the D.J. as Star

Overview by Mark Dery, The New York Times, 14 April 1991

Disk jockeys want nothing less than the acceptance of the lowly turntable as a legitimate musical instrument. ...

Sonny Sharrock: A Musician With Lightning In His Hands

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, The New York Times, 5 May 1991

Sonny Sharrock knew his route would be rocky. ...

Kraftwerk Redux

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, The New York Times, 16 June 1991

WHEN VOLUNTEERS are needed for the first brain chips – surgically inserted microcircuits that, the theory goes, will boost brainpower – Kraftwerk will be first ...

Phranc: Frankly Phranc

Interview by Mark Dery, Guitar Player, October 1991

PIERCED LABIA. Khaki-clad lesbian soldiers, posing topless in the Saudi Arabian sun. Advertisements for adult toys that resemble Star Trek props — the sort of ...

Kraftwerk: Ralf Hütter

Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, October 1991

Keyboard: THIS IS your first tour in almost a decade. Why now? ...

Les Paul (1991)

Interview by Mark Dery, Rock's Backpages audio, Winter 1991

The great guitarist and inventor talks about the basis of his style; the making of 'How High The Moon'; co-inventing The Chipmunks; his influence on other musicians; the development of sound-on-sound and multitrack recording, and pays a heartfelt tribute to Mary Ford.

File format: mp3; file size: 51.4mb, interview length: 51' 06" sound quality: ***

Glenn Branca's Guitar Symphonies

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Guitar Player, February 1992

"THERE'S not one hardcore band in this country — I don't care how good it is — that can touch Mozart for hardcore," growls Glenn ...

Glenn Phillips' Voices In The Night

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Guitar Player, May 1992

THE POET CHARLES Bukowski believes that greatness is born of ordinary madness. Glenn Phillips would probably agree. In the liner notes for Echoes (1975-1985), a ...

Diamanda Galas: Hymns Of Empathy

Profile and Interview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, August 1992

IF MARIA Calas had sizzled at the stake, she might have sung 'The Litanies of Satan', by Diamanda Galas, as her final, fiery aria. ...

L.F.O., The Orb, Orbital, The Shamen, T99, Third Eye: Techno

Overview by Mark Dery, Keyboard, April 1993

TECHNO. THE name sounds at once monolithic and impersonal, the acronym of a multinational conglomerate, and toylike, as in brightly colored plastic Lego blocks. ...

The Death of Live Music

Essay by Mark Dery, Musician, August 1997

Will concert and club dates survive in the Internet age? ...

David Bowie: Stardust Memories: Bowie reconsidered

Comment by Mark Dery, Las Vegas Weekly, 16 December 2009

WHEN DID I stop wanting to be Bowie? Too recently for a Man of a Certain Age is the short but sufficiently mortifying answer. ...

Lady Gaga: Aladdin Sane Called, He Wants His Lightning Bolt Back: On Lady Gaga

Essay by Mark Dery, True/Slant, 20 April 2010

"HOW NOT DUMB is Gaga?" asked the New Yorker music critic Sasha Frere-Jones, in the first flush of Gagamania. Almost exactly a year later, his ...

Coil, Throbbing Gristle: This Mortal Coil: A Final Report on Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson

Retrospective by Mark Dery, Thought Catalog, 29 November 2010

Peter "Sleazy" Christopherson, who in the '80s pioneered the industrial aesthetic with the band Throbbing Gristle, died in his sleep at his home in Bangkok ...

Bobby Darin: Why the Nightingale Sings: On Bobby Darin's 'Beautiful Things'

Essay by Mark Dery, Thought Catalog, 22 October 2013

The world is full of beautiful things Butterfly wings, fairy tale kings And each new day undoubtedly brings Still more beautiful things ...

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