All posts by XCENTS

XCENTS is a digital interview magazine, dedicated to makers and creatives in the digital realm - writers, musicians, YouTubers and more - combining pop, net and geek culture.

MACKENZIE JOHNSON

Slash, Pharrell, Jamiroquai’s Jay Kay, Mackenzie Johnson – there are worse habits you could have in common with other musicians than wearing a hat. The thumbnails of Mackenzie Johnson’s YouTube videos certainly have that instantly recognisable factor others would love to have: the hat, the guitar, the lights in front of a pastel-coloured wall. MJ fans know what they get for #mjmonday. But the regular videos and the 275,000+ YouTube subscribers of the singer-songwriter almost didn’t happen …

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IMAGINARY FUTURE

If you read issue no.1 of XCENTS, you know Kina Grannis and you know we consider her the gold standard among modern independent singer-songwriters. Having her as one of our inaugural covers was a special honour. And we’re happy to bring back Kina – in a way – in issue no.2, making things a bit of a family affair by giving you this interview with Imaginary Future, aka singer-songwriter Jesse Epstein, aka Mr Kina Grannis. And with the new Imaginary Future album, Sunlight, being a love letter from Jesse to Kina, there hardly couldn’t have been a better time for this conversation.

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VERONICA BELMONT

As mentioned in the interview with Cara Santa Maria, for some people it is more difficult to describe what they do than for others. Kawehi and Jesse Epstein? Musicians. Derek Brad? Photographer. Easy. One of the people who doesn’t have it that easy is Veronica Belmont. The reason: She has already done so many different things on so many different platforms. To this interviewer she is ‘Veronica from Sword & Laser – one half of a podcasting duo’. But of course that description is missing out on her activities as a producer or writer, or her work for TV or on YouTube. She is an independent content creator. On Twitter she simply is @Veronica (to 1.7 million followers). It’s Veronica Belmont…

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KAWEHI

The internet is a beautiful place, full of information and opportunities. Hawaiian-born singer-songwriter Kawehi is a great example. The combination of YouTube and Kickstarter has enabled her to have a career the traditional music industry wasn’t able to give her. Of course it still takes talent, creativity, hard work and dedication, but none of those are a problem for Kawehi, who has successfully used Kickstarter to fund her EPs and albums since 2012. Unfortunately, the internet can also be a very ugly place. So we sat down and talked about it all…

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CARA SANTA MARIA

The term ‘nerd’ is most often associated with things like a very passionate love for roleplaying games, comic books, all things Star Trek or Star Wars, and other hobbies that are considered ‘fringe interests’. And it is often synonymous with a lack of social skills and a certain awkwardness. Especially due to the last part, the term is, more often than not, still seen as a derogative. The rise of geek and nerd culture in recent years is slowly changing that perception. But even with DC and Marvel movies or TV shows like The Walking Dead and Game Of Thrones outperforming their competition, there are still a lot of people who don’t really know what being a nerd really means. Take Cara Santa Maria and her podcast Talk Nerdy. You’d be hard-pressed to find discussions of the latest or upcoming superhero movie on there. Here, the science end of the broad nerd spectrum takes centre stage. Cara Santa Maria – a nerd, a science geek, a podcaster, and so much more…

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DEREK BRAD

It’s about as social media a story as stories can get. Without a tweet about the Kina Grannis cover of XCENTS’ issue no.1, Derek Brad might have never known about this magazine. And without Derek tweeting about XCENTS and without XCENTS subsequently checking out his Twitter account and spotting a Kina Grannis video there, we might have never known about the Musician Portrait Project – two-minute videos in black and white, without sound, of musicians and bands. Which would have been a shame, because the video project of photographer Derek Brad is a YouTube Age type of project after XCENTS’ own heart. Whimsical, different, interesting and a great way to find new artists you have never heard about. So of course XCENTS had to sit down with the man behind the quirky and charming project and talk shop.

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TIFFANY SMITH

There are still people (read: idiots) who think girls can’t be geeks. Of course anyone with half a working brain knows how wrong that notion is. But in case you need proof, we give you Tiffany Smith. She has worked for Marvel, is the host of DC Comics’ YouTube show All Access (with Jason Inman), has her own Star Wars-themed podcast, used to host the comic book review series Stacked on the Schmoes Know YouTube channel, and she probably owns more comic books and more geek-themed clothes than you ever will. In other words, Tiffany Smith isn’t just a geek, she has turned being a geek into her profession. And she is an independent content creator. More than enough reasons for a talk with XCENTS. And of course one does not simply get a Tiffany Smith started on nerdy topics without things getting out of hand pretty soon…

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THE GREASY SLICKS

Americana doesn’t have to come from the US to feel authentic. Some of the best contemporary Americana and (hard) blues rock is currently coming out of Great Britain. Bands like The Temperance Movement and Kill It Kid are showing the world that they can do blues rock at least as well as their cousins west of the Atlantic. A still relatively new band that would fit perfectly into a festival line-up with TTM, KIK, America’s own The Black Keys or the also UK-based Australian duo The Graveltones, are The Greasy Slicks.
Unsigned and bursting at the seams with musical talent, they would be a solid addition to any label with an interest in good, honest rock music. But they are also willing to make it on their own. A conversation with two of the three Slicks about figuring out their way as a band…

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KATE McGILL

Originally, the following interview was planned for issue no.2 of XCENTS (which you can download for free here). It didn’t quite work out in time for the release of the issue, but since Kate McGill just released the EP Dual with her band Meadowlark, it would be a waste to make you wait for this until issue no.3. So here it is, as XCENTS’ first web exclusive: It’s Kate McGill of Meadowlark.
And if you’re now wondering ‘Kate McWho?‘, you’re in good company. For a while, Kate was ‘the girl who sang not just another fucking Hallelujah‘ to me, after I had seen her cover video of the Leonard Cohen song but had forgotten her name. Then ‘the girl who…‘ popped up in a video of a certain Mr. ortoPilot (and subsequently several more), which put a name to the face and voice again. Now I know her as Kate McGill, Kate from Meadowlark, a girl who used to be a successful cover artist on YouTube in her own right, and who walked away from exactly that…

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SPEECH

Every single interview in XCENTS is special in its own way. That means, none is more special than the others. But some are more personal. Like when you, once again, interview the person you have interviewed more than any other. Here, it is hip hop legend Speech of Arrested Development. But even before our first meeting – 2004, in the upstairs/backstage room of a small jazz club – this man had already had an impact on my life. It all started with one song on a hip hop compilation – the sociocritical track Mr. Wendal. Already not your run-of-the-mill rap song. Then followed an MTV Unplugged gig that was nothing short of a musical awakening for the 13-year-old version of me. 20 years later, we sit down once more, for our most personal interview yet. And by pure chance, he is getting ready to release something that could turn out to be very interesting for the XCENTS crowd.

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