An Interview with John Siden of Surface Noise

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John Siden of the YouTube channel Surface Noise is one of the proverbial “new kids” on the block within the YouTube Vinyl Community, but don’t be fooled or take his channel for granted. In a short time, John has plunged directly into the deep end, and is just beginning to grow his channel and build an audience with his authentic and informative videos on all things vinyl and music. During John’s initial run as a YouTuber, he has put out dozens of excellent videos which prove that he is here to stay. With loads of records, an open mind, and endless musical knowledge, you can expect John’s channel to continue to grow for as long as he wants to keep at it. John releases a new video each week, but in-between, you can head over to his channel here and dig into the backlog. Don’t forget to hit subscribe before you leave. With all that being said, let’s do this.

Andrew:
John, thank you for taking the time to speak with us. This last year has been rough, right? How are you holding up during this seemingly ever-raging dumpster fire?

John:
I have been doing alright. I work in what is considered an essential service so worked the whole time, but stayed home as much as possible, which is a good excuse to spin more records.

Andrew:
Tell us about your backstory. What was your musical gateway so to speak?

John:
My parents loved music so I was always around it. My father played guitar and before I came along, he used to play in country music bars for awhile. So I grew up listening to the classic Country. My first music of my own (aside from my first record owned Grover Sings The Blues) was The Monkees, which I discovered through the TV show that ran when I was a kid. Next up, I discovered KISS, which I think appealed to many kids then due to the theatrical nature. They really stood out with the makeup and shows. I was 13 when John Lennon was killed and that event led me to looking into his music and the Beatles and that is where my obsession really began. After that, it was learning about 60s music and I was definitely on my way. Also, I played the accordion for about four years and later taught myself guitar.

Andrew:
You’ve been running the Surface Noise YouTube channel for some time now, right? Tell us the origin story of the channel?

John:
I had been talking about doing it for years. I always wanted to do something revolving around music as that was what I spent most of my time on. So, in 2019, I finally started up the channel.

Andrew:
What was it about music that initially drew you in? What do you love about it most?

John:
I really feel that when I was young, music just seemed fun and that drew me in immediately. As I grew older, the art of the music and the emotion it can evoke is what really affected me. It is easy to be drawn into rabbit holes when you get interested in an artist, and I am the type to get obsessive and really dig deep.

Andrew:
What sets your channel apart from the rest?

John:
I think what sets my channel apart is me. My personality, my taste, my experiences and my thoughts on the music . I think this is true for everyone. Whatever you do, the ingredient that makes it unique is always you.

Andrew:
Quality control is a hot button issue within the vinyl community. What are your thoughts on the state of QC?

John:
Well, I feel it could definitely improve. Some releases really aren’t put out with the care that they deserve. It can be very disappointing if you are excited for something new and the quality of the format just isn’t there.

Image result for youtube vinyl records

Andrew:
Record Store Day is another polarizing topic. Some love it. Some hate it. What are your honest thoughts on RSD?

John:
I think that RSD is a good idea but may have gone sideways in its execution. Too often, most fans can’t get their hands on the releases they are after since they only have certain titles in certain areas. So, it is a very limited concept. Plus, I think the spirit of the event may have been lost. I recall going to an early Record Store Day here in Vancouver, and at that point there was no special releases, just a celebration of record stores. The store I went to had a live band performance (The Pack AD) and served beer (Their lease was up and they were being evicted anyway). While that may have been a unique situation, I still feel the tone of celebration of record stores has been lost over the years, which taints the event a little.

Andrew:
Let’s talk about the state of the music industry a bit. What are a few things you would like to see change for the betterment of both the fans and artists alike?

John:
The fact that it seems that bands can only make a living by touring is horrible for them. They get paid so little for their streams on music streaming sites that it is a real struggle. At the very least, they should be paid fairly as the companies that stream their music seem to be making profit off them. From the fan’s perspective, I think the price gouging for new vinyl is insane. It is something that will keep people from purchasing physical product, which I feel hurts the fans and the artists.

Andrew:
Are you only into records? Tapes? CDs? Digital? Where do you like to shop for music?

John:
Like many people, I started buying CDs in the 90s when vinyl was on the downswing. I did however keep my vinyl. I also have kept all my CDs purchased, and many are not realistic to purchase on vinyl due to the cost. I probably have over a thousand CDs still. I have a few cassettes, but most of them I think I tossed which I regret now.

Image result for siamese dream

Andrew:
What are a few albums that mean the most you and why?

John:
Siamese Dream– Smashing Pumpkins. I think because it is such a powerhouse record. I think after Gish they really turned it up a notch, and this has always been a favourite I return to. Production on it is crazy good and the songs are among their best ever.

Moving Pictures– Rush. I think it’s the quintessential Rush album. Just 7 perfect tracks. It’s always hard to pick one with Rush, but this is definitely a standout.

Automatic for the People– R.E.M. Another album I would say has no bad songs. It almost feels like the soundtrack to a film to me the way it is laid out. Many favourites on here.

Turn Out The Bright Lights– Julien Baker. This one has such raw emotion, but is also so well written and the instrumentation is great. A huge step forward from her debut and an album I frequently spin.

Nebraska– Bruce Springsteen. The album that made me realize I actually like Bruce Springsteen. Made me look into his other albums and changed my outlook .

Bee Thousand– Guided by Voices. This album took me down the rabbit hole of 90s Indie Rock and made me appreciate how Rock music could sound different than what I was accustomed to and be amazing.

Andrew:
Who are some of your favorite artists? Ones that mean the most to you
.

John:
The artists I have spent the most time with would be:
-Rush
-Guided by voices
-The National
-Sharon Van Etten
-Brian Eno

All of these artists mean a lot and I continually am on the lookout for material by them.

Andrew:
Last question. You’ve maintained a strong DIY approach, which is awesome. That said, what advice would you have for other YouTubers just starting out? How do we stay afloat in a world that seems to be so abhorrent to creatives?

John:
I think we just need to do the work. Action gets rewarded. The universe loves movement. I feel, you need to find what works for you. Solutions will appear if you keep at it. But it takes effort and a willingness to think outside the box.

Want to learn more about John his Surface Noise channel? Check out the link below:

Dig this interview? Check out the full archives of Vinyl Writer Interviews, by Andrew Daly, here: www.vinylwritermusic.com/interviews

About Post Author

Andrew Daly

Andrew has always felt himself to be a "jack of all trades, master of none" type of person. With an immense passion for music, a disposition for writing, and an eagerness to teach and share both, Andrew decided to found Vinyl Writer in 2019 as a freelance column under the column Stories from the Stacks. Over time, the column grew into a website which now features contributors who further the cause of sharing both a love of music and the art of journalism with the world through articles and interviews. While Andrew enjoys running the website, his real passion lies in teaching and facilitating others to do what they do best, and giving them the opportunity to explore their passions in the process.
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