Photo by Mikey Il
What do you get when you mix one part Do It Yourself musician with one part Philly blogging legend and add a dash of X-Men obsessed comic book nerd? You would probably get someone an awful lot like Peter Marinari.
Known in these parts for “The longest-running blog in Philadelphia” Crushing Krisis, Peter is also an accomplished solo musician and comic book aficionado whose album (Brown Bag Demos, vol.1) is now available on Bandcamp.
Peter was nice enough to answer a few questions in the wake of his being named Geek of the Week.
Was music a part of your life from an early age?
I grew up surrounded by music, but not by musicians. My parents met while working in bars and nightclubs in Philadelphia, and they have phenomenal taste in music. As a 3-year old I would ask to put on records by Michael Jackson, The Beatles, and David Bowie – and, I mean actual vinyl!
I had all of this musical vocabulary, and I wanted to play music. I tried the typical kid stuff – recorder, violin – but I wanted to be the entire song. At age 15 I convinced my mother to buy me a guitar. I taught myself a song the first night, and began to write my own within a few months.
I didn’t have a teacher, but I had a friend, Gina Martinelli, who was this weirdly out-of-time 60s folkie in the body of a teenager. I would watch her play a song at school and then go home and learn it and play it back to her answering machine the same night.
Half a life later we’re best friends, and in a band together.
If you had a choice, what would you prefer, working on your solo material or working with Gina Martinelli as part of Arcati Crisis?
One can’t exist without the other! We each write solo, and then we meet and share songs and try to find the ones that will survive our kitschifying process where we add the riffs, harmonies, and energy. And rock poses.
It’s not always an obvious process, and you can’t force a song to work. “Saving Grace,” from my Brown Bag Demos Vol. 1, was written with the band in mind, but it took three years before we found the way to play it. As opposed to our newest tune, “Every Little Worry,” which I had literally never played straight through before its first run with the band.
After we’re done drafting songs, I wind up with leftovers I love – some of which Gina really loved, too – that simply aren’t Arcati Crisis songs. They become my solo material, which sometimes becomes band material again later.
I will say it’s more FUN to work with Gina than by myself. Half of each rehearsal is banter. We even put it on our albums.
You have released Brown Bag Demos vol. 1 via Bandcamp for free. What led you to decide to give the album away instead of charging for it?
To this point the releases from all of my projects – solo, Arcati Crisis, my wife’s band Filmstar (where I play bass) – have been pay-what-you-will. Which is sometimes “nothing.” That stretches back to the first week of my blog. I was posting podcasts of original songs in 2000, before they were called that!
For me it’s simple. People are not finding me from TV or blog coverage. They’re finding the songs on their own – so they have to be readily available. I can afford to produce music at little or no cost in my home studio – but, for that same reason, the songs are imperfect. I don’t have a producer or an engineer. What I record are demos and rehearsals to share on social media. It doesn’t feel right to put a $15 price tag on an album of them.
I’d rather people pay for a show because they heard a free song they liked. Then, maybe down the road when I have a more perfect recording, they will be willing to pay for that. Not $15, though!
You are also quite a prolific and longtime blogger with your site Crushing Krisis. What made you decide to start blogging?
It was 2000, and I was a Journalism major writing for an E/N site for fun. Does anyone remember E/N sites? They were the most immediate outlet for my writing, but I wanted to write about random topics – music, journalism, my love life – and that didn’t really fit in on E/N.
At the time Blogger.com was rising in popularity, and I thought – why don’t I just have my own blog where I can write anything I want? So I did. A lot. I blogged more then than I tweet today. I was the #1 Power Blogger on Blogger!
Now, twelve years in, CK is very different. I love that. I think it’s a mistake to try to define a blog too tightly. There is a manufactured need for all blogs to be highly-targeted marketing tools. Writing about what you love is still a valuable pass time.
I mean, I started writing about comics thinking readers would flee, and the blog actually turned a profit for the first time. Who knew?
A large part of Crushing Krisis is the comic book collecting guides. How big of a comic book nerd are you?
What unit of measure can we use?
I’m not that big of a comic book nerd in general, but I’m possibly the biggest X-Men nerd you’ll ever meet. I own nearly every issue of X-Men comics ever published, either collected in books or as floppies. New Mutants, X-Factor, Excalibur, Wolverine, X-Force, Dazzler. All of it. And I LOVE Dazzler.
There is something about the mythology of X-Men, the lineage of the different major families and relationships, the overall story of mutants. It turns fans into completists. Spider-Man, Batman, Avengers – they don’t really have that element. There is no incentive to read ALL of it. You can start almost anywhere and skip stuff. They get rebooted.
In 2010 I said, “I want to collect all of X-Men” – and, my search traffic tells me there are a lot of people saying that. Marvel makes no effort to help them. None – even though X-Men is by far the most collected of any line or title by Marvel or DC. It is effectively 100% collected through 1993, and again from around 2002 to today. The only true gaps are in the 90s. But we’re talking about hundreds upon hundreds of overlapping collections in different formats.
I’m stubborn. I was determined to figure it out. I had 60 tabs open, I was drawing flow-charts… and I began to build the guide to make sense of it for myself. I didn’t realize it was going to turn into this monster, comprehensive, definitive guide to the X-Men. I thought it was just a long-ish blog post.
I can’t explain why I’m still a comic book nerd. A big reason is that X-Men is pretty much a primer for social acceptance. If you read X-Men and you’re a bully or you discriminate against people because of their race or religion or sexual identity – well, then you’re really missing the point of X-Men. You should give your comic books to me. I will find them a happy home.
What is your most prized comic book?
My dad took me to the Philadelphia comic convention back when it was at the Adam’s Mark hotel on City Line Avenue in 1992 or 1993, and he bought me the original run of the Dark Phoenix Saga, through Jean Grey’s original death in Uncanny X-Men #137 – which is pretty important now, given the scope of Avengers vs. X-Men! I would never give them up.
What is the best part of being a singer/songwriter/comic book collector in the city of Philadelphia?
Philly is a fun place to be a geek – especially with Twitter. Britt Miller introduced me to that in 2009 and I’ve never looked back. It used to be lonely to be holed up writing songs, or even editing my blog. Now I’m always connected, and I’ve found fans, friends, editors, and other artists. It’s the reason I started to read comics again, for better or worse.
Not every city has that scene to begin with, let alone connected on social. It’s something special.
Brown Bag Demos, vol. 1