Author and music journalist Jessica Hopper is a bonafide badass. For the greater part of her life, she has dedicated her work to the exploration and sharing of music, and what it means to culture and society.
Her work on the second season of Lost Notes investigated work by women and/or with women. The result was a complex season with really intriguing perspectives we don’t hear very often. I contacted Hopper to ask her about the process, what’s next and the question of the season.
KCRW: Firstly, congratulations on a really phenomenal second season of Lost Notes, you evolved the concept without altering the formula. It strikes me as a fairly delicate dance, the ‘putting your spin on a thing like a movie sequel.’ At the start, did you have any concerns about how to go about developing this season?
JH: The first season of Lost Notes was such a perfect platform to build on. There are so few music podcasts that tackle history, and do it through reporting and storytelling—and so the show’s format felt really rich, especially at a time when, culturally, there is a lot of unpacking and interrogation of music history going on. From my first initial talks with the shows exec producer and creator Nick White and producer Myke Dodge Weiskopf, I was really struck by their confidence and fearlessness and ambition about where we could take this season. They were eager to bring in writers and journalists I knew or worked with —without radio experience— who had stories and ideas that made sense for the show, and I was eager to see where we could take it all. What could we do in the pod format, with music stories, that are tough to do in print or other formats? How can we dig in deeper? I think that was our big question.
KCRW: How'd you select your contributors? Had they pitched you on their work or had you seen their work and asked them to develop these things further?
JH: Some folks I knew from working with them before as an editor or producer and some were previous Lost Notes contributors. There were stories we liked and we puzzle pieced them together to see what themes appeared. We wanted original takes and new perspectives, things that complicated nostalgia.
KCRW: Although the overarching theme of season 2 is legacies, a real constant was the idea of identity (who people were or wanted to be, how we perceive them versus who they really are or were, what that even means in certain cases.) Did that just organically happen as a kind of harmony to the main theme?
JH: It happened organically, really. I think a lot of people who care about music are having those sorts of conversations and that showed in the pitches.
KCRW: The last episode has a "the personal is political" kind of feel to it in a very honest (and personal) way, questioning what will our collective legacy be. And you get a lot of great voices to contribute, but you also find that people are not necessarily comfortable with going there. Was the idea of addressing this issue of guns something you knew coming into this process you wanted to explore? And were you surprised at how reticent people were to talk about the topic?
JH: The final episode, about guns and gun culture in music, came out of me thinking about these larger issues of legacy and the past. Like we’re looking critically at these times, these artists whose work and reception of their work was shaped by their times—so I really wondered how will right now—this moment, of action and change around guns and gun culture, be viewed in the future. Despite it being a hot topic, I was still surprised by how many people were unwilling to get into it. But also I was heartened by the people who had tough answers, people whose perspectives expanded my own thinking and approach to the piece. I really welcomed that, and am grateful for it.
KCRW: If you could snap your fingers and magically generate a 9th episode with any contributor about any subject, who and what would that episode be?
JH: We really wanted the author and critic Carvell Wallace in this season and hope he gets something next go around. He’s got a way of storytelling that invites a lot of people in. I have been a big fan of his forever.
KCRW: You have had an unbelievable journey in music writing, consulting and documentation...What's next for Jessica Hopper?
JH: I am working on my next book, No God But Herself: How Women Changed Music in 1975 — as well as some pod ideas in development.
KCRW: Lastly, the MILLION DOLLAR QUESTION...What album saved your life?
JH: Any/all Fugazi albums. They were the cornerstone to my understanding of all that punk can be.