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The Monday Media Diet with Sam Valenti
On fatherhood, early mornings, and Louisiana
Sam Valenti (SV4) is an old friend of WITI. He’s the founder of Ghostly International and a new dad. Sam has some of the best taste and we’ve been pestering him for an edition. Enjoy and have a great week. -Colin (CJN)
Photo: Dina Chang & Tim Saccenti, Setta Studio NYC
Tell us about yourself.
I’m a new father, and it is 5:17 AM. I grew up in the suburbs of Detroit, then lived in Ann Arbor for most of my 20’s, and apart from moments in LA, have lived in New York City since. I started Ghostly in 1999, which is a record label and also a platform/brand for visual artists, acting as a global collaboration network of designers, writers, photographers, and the like. Simply put, my colleagues and I help artists get their projects into the world. I collect physical music stuff (records, tapes, CDs, ephemera) and spend a lot of time at record and book stores, virtual and physical.
Describe your media diet.
I don’t have a digital routine and am pretty inconsistent in where I source things. I use social media and newsletters as my main news source and always have a lot of open browser tabs. Newsletters that come to mind are Ana Andjelic’s The Sociology of Business, Paul Munford’s Lean Luxe, and Perfectly Imperfect. I also see good retail as editorial, as it often acts without a recency bias which is important to me. Music retail emails like Boomkat and Bleep, and the newsletters and Instagrams of bookshops like Harper’s Books, Jeff Hirsch Books, and Karma Books are often how I discover artists and source gifts. I also lump “aesthetic Instagram” in this category and love the feeds of Alison Gingeras and Matthew Higgs and the basketball culture brand Franchise. We started Ghostly Moodboard as our addition to that party.
What’s the last great book you read?
Rachel Kushner’s The Hard Crowd (Essays 2000-2020) had some excellent stories. I’m a sucker for stories of the world that is slowly disappearing, in this case, a wild, reckless way of life. True Believer: The Rise and Fall Of Stan Lee wasn't great but it sets the record straight on a lot of historical comics stuff or professes to. I'm a “pick up a book and turn to a page” person and can tell within 2 paragraphs if I’ll have a chance at finishing it. I'll read 3 or 4 things at the same time and maybe only finish one.
What are you reading now?
Finishing up No One Is Talking About This. I love the poetic and surreal tone. Like DeLillo’s White Noise achieved in the 1980s, there seems to be a new language in the 10’s/20’s emerging across literature, film, and music; a clipped, hyperreal voice. The last 30 minutes of the film adaptation of Annihilation is one of those moments. Bizarre but strangely beautiful moments that could only be born of this moment.
What’s your reading strategy when you pick up a print copy of your favorite publication?
My print strategy is to do a light read through a newspaper or magazine and rip out what I want to read. It’s a bit juvenile but helps me focus, though there’s often a ton of tear sheets next to my bed. I subscribe to the Sunday Times, FT weekend, and New York Magazine. When I subscribed, I used to let too many New Yorkers pile up so I just buy one if I encounter them in the wild. If I pass a proper magazine shop I'll flip through the usual fatbacks like 032c and Kaleidoscope, and if there are more than 3 things I want to read, I'll cop an issue. This feels like the height of luxury.
Who should everyone be reading that they’re not?
When Ghostly was first coming out, there was still space in print for music journalism beyond major interviews which really helped new artists and labels, but I think there’s an interesting wave with newsletters/substacks picking up on that impulse again. A lot of good writers are using the medium to go deeper into their interests. Todd L. Burns Music Journalism Insider is a great bird’s eye on the whole space. A few sites/stacks of note are Matthew Schnipper’s Deep Voices, Joshua Minsoo Kim’s Tone Glow, the often incendiary First Floor, and of course, Jeff Weiss’s Passion of the Weiss. On the same tip I'm loving the deeper dive music podcasts like Open Mike Eagle’s profound Hip-Hop interview project What Had Happened Was and Yasi Salek’s Bandsplain which unpacks classic bands through conversation with journalist superfans.
What is the best non-famous app you love on your phone?
The return of radio and always on music is great. NTS Radio is plenty famous but will mention, as it's sort of the standard-bearer of the space. Ghostly has a monthly show on The Lot Radio which is run out of a little shed in Greenpoint. I'm also playing with Blast Radio as artist friends of mine are using. It's sort of a “disappearing ink” system where artists can go live with a session or DJ mix and anyone can listen (and even tip) for 24 hours. It reminds me of the early days of SoundCloud when it was very personal.
Plane or train?
I don’t remember many flights, but I remember a lot of train trips. One major one was about 20 years ago when I took an Amtrak from Michigan to visit a friend in Kansas City (soundtracked by a yellow Sony Sports Discman playing Brian Eno and Sade) and the other was in Tokyo with WITI co-founder Colin Nagy, a bullet train to Karuizawa. But if I’m honest now I want the shortest trip, so flights are preferred.
What is one place everyone should visit?
Museums were the first thing that came to mind as they can seep you into a city’s sense of place. Memorable ones for me are Copenhagen's Louisiana, and of course the NYC staples like the Whitney, the Walt Disney Family Museum in San Francisco, and The Cranbrook Art Museum near Detroit. (SV4)
Thanks for reading,
Noah (NRB) & Colin (CJN) & Sam (SV4)
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