Josh Rosenthal: On Feeling and Expressing the Hard-To-Locate Aspects of Ourselves

An interview with Josh Rosenthal, from The Write Stuff series over at SF Weekly:

Grammy-nominated producer and Tompkins Square label founder Josh Rosenthal presents his first book,The Record Store of the Mind. Part memoir, part “music criticism,” the author ruminates over unsung musical heroes, reflects on thirty years of toil and fandom in the music business, and shamelessly lists some of the LPs in his record collection. Crackling with insightful untold stories, The Record Store of the Mind will surely delight and inspire passionate music lovers … especially those who have spent way too many hours in record stores. Celebrating ten years in 2015, Rosenthal’s San Francisco-based independent record label Tompkins Square has received seven Grammy nominations and wide acclaim for its diverse catalog of new and archival recordings. Rosenthal will present The Record Store of the Mind at Green Apple Books on Clement on November 18th.

Who did you admire when you were 10 years old? What did you want to be?

I was big into Roald Dahl. I wrote to him and he wrote back. I loved all the people on Match Game and Hollywood Squares, especially Paul Lynde. I was also a big fan of (NY Met) Rusty Staub, and I met Ed Kranepool once.

Would you ever perform a striptease? Describe some of your moves. Feel free to set the mood.

I wish someone would ask me to do an actual striptease in real life, rather than just stripping. I’m listed!

What’s wrong with society today?

We read the headlines but people don’t feel empowered to create change. They don’t know where to start or how they could help.

What is your fondest memory?

Every time I’ve seen my daughters.

How many times do you fall in love each day?

I like this question. I’m single, so I fall in love often. It’s a great freedom, to be free to fall in love again and again. I fall in love with women on the street while driving though, which is very worrisome.

What would you like to see happen in your lifetime?

Everything solar-powered. Phone, car, house, Everything.

What is art? Is it necessary? Why?

I think great art helps us express and feel aspects of our souls and intellects that we have trouble locating or expressing ourselves.

What are you working on right now?

I just got back from New Orleans where I discovered this incredible guitarist from the 20’s, got in touch with his great niece and I’m trying to put some stuff together with her. There’s a whole fascinating back-story involving tapes made on a deathbed.

What kind of work would you like to do? Or: what kind of writing do you most admire?

I like personal writing that combines facts and experience. Memoir, but also context for real time and place. I am impatient with fiction right now.

If there were one thing about the Bay Area that you would change, what would it be?

Moved here from NYC in 2011. My perspective is different from lots of folks who have been here for years. First, I’d like folks who have been here for a long time to stop disparaging the young people who come to SF who have good, high paying jobs. This is something every city should aspire to, you don’t know these people, and many of them are not “douchebags”. They like books, art, music and culture just like you. On the other hand, displacement plus the homeless situation in our city is completely unacceptable. SF is a poorly-run city overall. We need a balance in our city that cares for less fortunate individuals, helps them with addiction, helps them get on their feet and gives them hope. Walk around the Tenderloin at night. It is wrenching. The city is awash with money and we can fix these problems.

A night on the town: what does that mean to you?

Chappeau, Sociale, Gamine, Royal Oak (I like bars but I don’t drink), Independent, The Chapel, pool hall, Macondray for a stroll, Stella’s for Eclair.

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