By LA Weekly
By Henry Rollins
By Weekly Photographers
By Shea Serrano
By Nate "Igor" Smith
By Dan Weiss
By Erica E. Phillips
By Kai Flanders
Then came the encouragement of original Buddyhead contributors like Cavalieri and the opportunity to work with L.A. music industry Web wizards Topspin Media, whose software and music distribution platform were used to retool the Web site and create what Keller cheekily dubbed “Buddyhead 2.0.” It may be a whole new chapter for online media, but today, armed with the content tools to make it work, Buddyhead is positioned to regain the momentum it once had and become more than just a shit talker but also a tastemaker, leading L.A.’s never-ending quest for music that doesn’t suck.
Keller finally did make it to Coachella that weekend, but three days later, when we meet to resume our interview, we’re still feeling the sting from our Jameson-induced Medieval Times hangover. Keller relaxes, stretching his long legs across two chairs at a street-side table outside of Swinger’s. Even midday at the diner off Beverly Boulevard, Keller makes himself comfortable wherever he goes. His long brown hair hangs past oversized red sunglasses and into his face as he sips coffee.
“I was on the Internet at 14,” Keller says of his Idaho childhood. Growing up in a town where a good time meant Garth Brooks and keggers, Keller was a self-described nerd and budding entrepreneur, who made skateboard videos as a kid and sold them on the Internet out of his parents’ house. “I grew up in the kind of town where you die. I didn’t want to marry my high school sweetheart because I didn’t have one. I got called a fag for wearing a Minor Threat T-shirt to school. I wanted to move to California, where there were more kids like me.”
Taking his cue from Guns N’ Roses’ “Welcome to the Jungle” music video, Keller moved from Idaho to Los Angeles in 1997 and started Buddyhead.com, predating the deluge of music blogs as we know them. The term blog wouldn’t enter the vernacular until 1999, after Evan Williams (who would later start Twitter) created Blogger.com, one of the first popular and free blog-publishing tools. A decade ago, there were only a few dozen Web sites overrun with opinion and commentary updated on a regular basis.
There was Pitchfork, the Chicago-based music Web site launched in 1995 by Ryan Schreiber, a site oft-criticized for its verbose, style-over-substance reviews and outdated numerical rating system of albums. Ostensibly Buddyhead’s biggest competition at one time, Keller has described Pitchfork as “forever trapped by their pseudointellectualism.” Later, the Internet would welcome niche music blogs like Aquarium Drunkard and Soul Sides, and Stereogum, a site started in 2002, which Keller, seemingly never at a loss for words, once blasted as “the weird slow child everyone pretends to like when they are on their best behavior.”
One reason Keller started Buddyhead was because he “didn’t really give a shit about anything on the Internet. People ask me to describe Buddyhead like, ‘Is it like Pitchfork?’ Well, yeah, if we were virgins and bed-wetters. I don’t have Steven Malkmus’ weenie in my mouth. I like Pavement but not that much.”
When asked to comment for this story, Pitchfork declined, and managing editor Mark Richardson cited being “caught at a bad time” and “short-staffed.”
“I’ve met all those dudes [at Pitchfork]. Fuck them,” Keller says. “They’re doing well, or at least Ryan. He doesn’t write anything; he just grades all the records. When you review records for Pitchfork, you don’t get to grade them. I was talking to Brett Gurewitz of Bad Religion, who got a good review but only a 3.0 rating. He called the reviewer and said, ‘Hey, thanks for giving my record a good review,’ and the kid said, ‘I got fired for it.’ ”
Unlike its counterparts, Buddyhead could care less about ratings. Its writers focused more on opinion — brutally honest and often irreverent opinion — with which readers agreed or disagreed. Even if you disagreed, it was hard to pry yourself away from the addictive content. It was like TMZ for indie rockers. There was the outrageous gossip column that gave out phone numbers of celebrities and encouraged readers to prank-call them. Actor Paul Walker became a recent target in March, when Buddyhead posted his cell, suggesting that people call him to say they’re going to go Fast and Furious on his mom. Juvenile, sure. Entertaining, yes.
Then there were reviews and features, like the “Best and Worst Records of 2005” compiled by Keller, Aaron North, Apostolopoulos and Queens of the Stone Age’s Josh Homme, which listed 20 things Buddyhead would rather do than hear the song “Beverly Hills” off Weezer’s Make Believe ever again — things like wax Buzz from The Melvins’ back and taint, skin their dick heads with a carrot peeler, and so on.