David Peisner



  • Prinz-D at Cue Recording Studio, Falls Church, Virginia

    Deaf Jams: The Surprising, Conflicted, Thriving World of Hearing-Impaired Rappers

    Darius McCall was in eighth grade the first time he rapped in front of an audience. It did not go well.He performed "Fuck Wit Dre Day" for a talent contest at the public library in the Birmingham, Alabama, neighborhood where he grew up; but there were several factors conspiring against him. He didn't have the backing track, so he got a copy of the video and simply rapped over it. But the video version included a skit about Eazy-E smack in the middle. Stumped for what to do during the skit, McCall simply stood on stage and waited it out."I didn't present myself well," says McCall, sitting at a Subway sandwich shop in Falls Church, Virginia, a few blocks from where he is currently recording. "It was so embarrassing."McCall is also deaf.

  • Soul Asylum in concert at Waterloo Village in Stanhope, NJ in 1993.

    Wrong Way on a One-Way Track: The Oral History of Soul Asylum's 'Runaway Train'

    In 1992, it might have looked like Soul Asylum were a band nearing the end of their career, not one about to embark on a new chapter. They 'd been knocking around for more than a decade by the time they went into the studio to record Grave Dancers Union, their first album for their third record label. The Minneapolis four-piece had released five albums of melodic punk-edged rock — three for legendary hometown indie Twin/Tone and two for major-label A&M. They'd also honed a killer live show that had inspired a small cult of followers, but hadn't produced anything that even vaguely resembled a hit.

  • Illustration by Michael Hirshon

    Roll, Tape: Cassettes Find New Life Behind Prison Bars

    Cassettes may be a relic of the pre-digital era, but there are a few places in this country where those unloved plastic tapes are holding on strong. Although many corrections departments are tiptoeing cautiously into the digital future by introducing MP3 players to their inmate populations (see our feature on the subject), at prisons in New York and Illinois (as well as some facilities in other states), the only way an offender can listen to music is on a cassette ordered from an approved vendor.Pack Central, operated by owner Bob Paris, is one such company. Paris ran the mail-order department for a record store in Van Nuys, California, in the '70s, and noticed he was sending a lot of packages into prisons.

  • Illustration by Michael Hirshon

    Captive Audience: The Music Business in America's Prisons

    If you've got to go to prison, you could do a lot worse than the Idaho Correctional Institution in Orofino. The 574-inmate facility is tucked into a picturesque valley on the state's rugged northern panhandle, along the trail once blazed by Lewis and Clark. The thin window slits in many of the general-population cells on the prison's newest section — called "A Block" — offer views of the surrounding green-brown foothills and pine forests, as well as the crisp rushing waters of the Clearwater River, a world-renowned fly-fishing spot. Despite its northerly latitude and the snow-capped mountains not too far in the distance, the weather here remains reasonably mild year-round.

  • PJ Harvey on the cover of 'Rid of Me'

    Let It Bleed: The Oral History of PJ Harvey's 'Rid of Me'

    PJ Harvey has a walloping, 50-foot-tall legacy — musicially and emotionally raw when stadium angst was a boys club; opening the door for everyone from Alanis to Karen O. But in 1993, PJ Harvey was the name of a band: bassist Steve Vaughan, drummer Rob Ellis, and frontwoman Polly Jean Harvey, who would soon after come to be known as "PJ Harvey" regardless of whom she played with.

  • King Missile in 1992 / Photo by Bob Berg/Getty Images

    The, Um, Oral History of King Missile's 'Detachable Penis'

    It's easy to forget just how weird the landscape of popular music was in the early-to-mid-'90s. The success of bands like R.E.M., the Red Hot Chili Peppers, and especially Nirvana had convinced major labels that "alternative" was the next big thing, and those labels decided they had to start signing bands that could fit the bill. But major-label conceptions of "alternative" turned out to mean anything from Better Than Ezra to Butt Trumpet.

  • Camper Van Beethoven

    Camper Van Beethoven, 'La Costa Perdida' (429)

    Camper Van Beethoven have always been a glorious mess. From their early- '80s beginnings in the Northern California hippie haven of Santa Cruz, the band cultivated a sort of anti-aesthetic: Anything goes. On early albums like Telephone Free Landslide Victory and II & III, wiseass ska-pop, politically charged psychedelic ragas, and Eastern European gypsy-folk instrumentals sit cheek-by-jowl with earnest country ballads and riff-heavy '70s hard rock.

  • Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom (R), attending the North Shore court in Auckland on January 25 / AFP/Getty Images

    Down By Law: The Year Downloading Took a Dive

    In the early dawn hours of January 20, 2012, in a small village on the outskirts of Auckland, New Zealand, heavily armed police (with help from an FBI logistics team) descended on the lavish mansion owned by Megaupload founder Kim Dotcom. With his hulking 6-foot-7-inch, 300-plus-pound frame, his collection of firearms, his young model wife, his fleet of luxury automobiles — complete with vanity license plates reading "HACKER," "GUILTY," "MAFIA," and "GOD," among other things — plus his penchant for ostentatiously displaying all of the above, Dotcom always had seemed more like a comic-book villain than an Internet entrepreneur, and the fuzz arrived that morning as if they expected Lex Luthor. There were two helicopters, teams of police dogs, and 76 officers, many toting semi-automatic weapons.

  • Daddy Fat Sax

    Big Boi, 'Vicious Lies and Dangerous Rumors' (Purple Ribbon/Def Jam)

    To listen to Big Boi talk about music, you'd think he was auditioning for a midday DJ slot on Sirius XM's adult-alternative hodgepodge the Loft. He's been crowing about his deep and abiding love for Kate Bush for well over a decade now. When I met up with him in 2010 to chat about his last solo album, Sir Lucious Leftfoot: Son of Chico Dusty, he mentioned that one of his favorite songs of all time was Neil Young's "Only Love Can Break Your Heart." Last year came rumors he was working with Modest Mouse.

  • Songwriting With: Soldiers / Photo by Sean Mathis

    Fight Songs: How Songwriting Is Saving War Vets' Lives

    Sgt. Josh Hartman is in the backseat of his Humvee as it hurtles down Route Predators in Baghdad. Route Predators is the military's name for what is officially known as Highway 5, a three-mile stretch of road in the eastern part of the city lined with dilapidated cinder-block buildings and littered with ungainly piles of scrap metal, used tires, and other hiding spots for improvised explosive devices, or IEDs. A trip down Route Predators is an unbelievably tense, white-knuckle ride: It's technically a "black road," which means it's too dangerous for military vehicles to traverse, but it's rainy season and the only other path available is a big field that's currently so muddy it's impassable. Hartman sees the flash first, a split-second before he hears and feels the skull-rattling boom. There's no time to react.

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