Teenage Kicks: Damon & Naomi

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Teenage Kicks: Damon & Naomi

Interview by Alex Mazonowicz, Illustration by Naz Tansel
PREVIOUS Beauty is free of charge when you know where to look: Göksu Gül SONRAKİ Sam Prekop’s cinematic wonder: The Republic

The soundtrack to our teenage years – a musical coming of age – these songs can tell us so much about a person.  Here’s a journey through the musical memory of Naomi Yang and Damon Krukowski between 13 and 20.

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What were the two records that you loved most from the age of 13-15. How were you introduced to them?
NY: Two records loved most – how to choose? At any age a difficult question – but especially these years of growing up and of changing taste are perhaps even more difficult. At this age though, I had a subscription to the "Columbia House Record Club", where the initial offer was to select something like 10 records for .99 or something like that – a bonanza. I bought mostly 70's singer songwriters – I loved the lyrics and the melodies and I knew the hits from the radio but I didn't have the albums.  So clearly these influences are embedded in my songwriting DNA.

I especially remember listening over and over to Fleetwood Mac's "Rumors," and Carole King's "Tapestry." In this pre-internet time the album covers were all you had for information about an artist (unless you were reading the magazines too) – so I examined the album covers over and over – read and reread the lyrics. And of course, listened and listened again to these LPs.

DK: By this time I was already buying a few records for myself - but they were all huge hits of the day, and I don't remember caring or understanding much about "genre" or style. I memorized both Led Zeppelin IV, and Paul Simon's "There Goes Rhymin' Simon"... If you combine the two, I'm not sure what you get. Sadcore?

But my listening as a whole at that time was filled with a lot of other influences, too - I was going through my mother's huge jazz record collection (she's a jazz singer). And I borrowed a lot of records from my school library, which had mostly classical music.

I guess in that way, it wasn't so different from today's online deluge of music? It's just that each of these musical experiences came as a discrete album, which if I liked I would play over and over and over and over...

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What were the two records that you loved most from the age of 16-18? How were you introduced to them?
NY: By my later years in high school I had discovered punk rock and new wave and all the Columbia House soft rock records were a total embarrassment, to be hidden away in the back of the closet. I was obsessed with Elvis Costello's "Armed Forces" and spent my entire time in geometry class writing "Elvis is King" in elaborate graffiti on my school desk. The Clash's first record was also in heavy rotation. My best friends were being sent home from school because of the safety pins in their ears and their mini-skirts being too short. I think the attitude of punk has always been with us in our approach to music. Even though we play quietly and seem rather well behaved I think the mischief and the anti-establishment attitude is always with us in our approach to music.

DK: I suppose in these years I became more concerned with listening to music that I could share with friends - at the time, that was New Wave: Elvis Costello's "Armed Forces", and the Clash "London Calling" were my favorites. Again, both completely memorized. A record cost $3.99 at the time - it was an investment - and a double album...You had to really mean it.

However, I continued to listen to a lot of music that I didn't share with friends - by this time, I had found my favorites in my mother's jazz records, and they had become as familiar to me as my own. These were instrumental classics from the 50s, like Miles Davis "Walkin'" - and a lot of vocal records from throughout the history of Jazz, from Fats Waller to Fred Astaire to Billie Holiday. My mother's love and knowledge of jazz standards is something I absorbed from a very early age, and never really rejected, despite my enthusiasm for punk rock as a teen.

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What were the two records that you loved most from the age of 19-20?
NY: During my college years friends worked in college radio and I became a regular customer of the small record stores with the clerks who worked there and their vast knowledge of music so I was exposed to so much great music. I loved Joy Division's "Unknown Pleasures" – and Peter Hook's bass playing so moved me – it sounded like singing – that I decided to learn bass. We also discovered local hero Jonathan Richman and the Modern Lovers – who's pre-punk punk approach made us feel like even we could start a band. And of course, at this moment the Velvet Underground's 3rd had a permanent place on our turntable. That's 3 records -- I know. But I warned you that two was too difficult -- because perhaps it is the balance -- the combination of all these influences that mixed together helped to form an image of the music which we dreamed of making ourselves.

DK: I left my parents' home at this age, to go away to college - that meant leaving my mother's jazz record collection too. Eventually I would replace it with my own, but slowly - I'm still working on it, actually. In those first years my small purchasing power for records was entirely devoted to the exciting imports arriving from the UK: the Joy Division catalogue, and the first New Order records. Soon I would be working my way through the history of underground US rock - the Velvet Underground, the psychedelic bands of the 60s like Thirteenth Floor Elevators, and those odd anomalous albums I still hold dear like Big Star's Third and Love's Forever Changes - but first, it was Joy Division with their mysterious album covers, cavernous sounds, and haunted lyrics. Still gives me a chill!

PREVIOUS Beauty is free of charge when you know where to look: Göksu Gül NEXT Sam Prekop’s cinematic wonder: The Republic
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