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About a Guy:

Byron Kalet

Byron Kalet is an art director who has led parallel lives, working for V Magazine and numerous New York creative agencies, all the while being entrenched in the scuzzier end of the music scene, most recently as guitarist in the Brooklyn hardcore band Violent Bullshit. With his new project Popular Noise, a beautifully executed magazine he funded through Kickstarter, Kalet's worlds collide in a captivating blend of punk irony, Balenciaga boots, music nerd-ism and highbrow photography. We met Kalet at his apartment in Greenpoint, Brooklyn to drink coffee, spin vinyl, and talk about the debut issue.

I followed your Kickstarter campaign for Popular Noise. Was it a nail-biting experience?

Nail-biting is a nice way to put it. It was, like, panic. As I was raising the money I would be lying in bed awake at four in the morning worrying, thinking of who I hadn't harassed yet.

Would you recommend Kickstarter to young entrepreneurs?

Generally yeah, but I think it depends what you're doing. There were so many things I was not ready for, like the emotional stress. Every single time someone donates, it's really exciting and you feel this rush of satisfaction, and then a day would go by and nobody would donate and I would be losing my mind and feel horrible. The emotional roller coaster part of it, I didn't consider. I just wanted it to be fun!

How did you get into music and magazines?

I grew up in Seattle and played a lot of music there growing up, into my early twenties when I moved to New York. Music was the main focus of my life. I went to design school and dropped out. I was like, "I can do this later!" When you're 21 it's fine, but when you're in your 30s it's not cute to be in a band [laughs].

What was the catalyst for starting Popular Noise?

One night I was out on a date with this girl, and I was complaining about my ad job and she asked, "What would you rather be doing?" So I told her about this magazine idea I had for a long time and she was like, "Why don't you just do it?" And I came up with a list of excuses of why I hadn't started doing it yet and she called bullshit on me, and she was right! There wasn't any reason I shouldn't be doing this!

Did you know the people that you wanted to collaborate with?

Yeah, definitely! That was one of the other things that made me feel like I could achieve it, I had already worked six or seven years with photographers, writers, and illustrators who I thought were great. I made a list of all the people I wanted to work with.

My favorite feature in the issue is the Richard Avedon story. How did you uncover those archives?

That's a funny story; the guy who runs the Avedon Foundation now, James Martin, just happens to be the older brother of my girlfriend from seventh grade. He was Avedon's last assistant before he passed. Towards the end he worked on setting up the foundation. Years later, when I thought about doing the magazine, he was the first person I approached with the idea. I got to go through the old archives there and spent a day going through photos of all the artists he ever shot. Most people approach the Avedon Foundation because they want to repost some famous image. I really wanted to tell a super-humanizing story about him as a person and why nobody knows those album covers are his. I only started noticing a few years ago: There was an ELO cover I and thought looked like an Avedon photograph, and it was! Once you start noticing it... just looking at the cover, you start to realize he shot everybody.

Why do you think he kept it so private?

At that point in the '70s and '80s, album art covers paid very well; it wasn't a part of his artistic portfolio—it was just a money job. He would shove away the negatives or throw out the prints. It's crazy! To us looking back on it, the album covers and his other art are almost indistinguishable because he put the same level of craft into it. But to him, internally, if someone else was telling him to do it, then it wasn't his art so he didn't care.

I love how both your backgrounds in fashion and music come together in this magazine.

Exactly, and that's why I felt like I had to do it because I had this really unique set of circumstances and connections. My experiences and my network and the confluence of all of these different things I've been exposed to... I didn't want it to go to waste.

What are your thoughts on the art of print magazines? You don't have an online presence, is that purposeful?

Sort of, yeah. It's not that purposeful but I'm unapologetic for not having it online. It's a completely different thing that requires a whole different set of considerations. You don't create content the same way. What I'm trying to do with the magazines is what print does best: Big, beautiful imagery, and a very tactile experience. Eventually I will do something online [that will be] totally different.

Why did you decide to put a disco ball on the cover?

I had a few people in mind, but then it was just a lot of pressure to put a face to the first issue. I couldn't find anyone who was absolutely totally perfect, so I just decided to do something a little more abstract. It's totally the wrong thing to do in a lot of ways...when I've seen it on the newsstands; it totally sticks out like a sore thumb, which is great! I want people to know it's something new and different and special.

Are you gearing up for Issue Two?

This was sort of like the New York issue and the next one is going to be about L.A. L.A. is super rich with old stories about crazy people doing crazy things that will help create the context.

It's cold outside. Here, avid record collector Kalet shares his top 10 vinyl records (from the Urban Outfitters store and his own personal collection) to listen to while staying inside and cleaning his apartment.

"If there is one thing I learned from my mother about cleaning, it's that its much more enjoyable when you're listening to music really, really loud."

Arcade Fire – Reflektor
I generally don't listen to new music but if you get James Murphy to produce it and David Bowie to sing on it, I will most likely check your record out."
TLC – CrazySexyCool
I grew up listening to hardcore and post-punk but when I was in high school Waterfalls and Creep were secret song crushes. Today we're all past it—but at the time I was super afraid someone would find out.
Teen – In Limbo
I saw this band once by chance, playing a small outdoor show on an absolutely perfect summer day in Brooklyn. Totally fell in love with them. The song Better is super inspirational, if you're feeling down or have an intimidating project coming up, I highly recommend you check it out.
2 Pac – All Eyez On Me
This is another record from high school, but I HATED 2 Pac then. The only song I begrudgingly liked was California Love because you can't not like a jam produced by Roger Troutman. More on that shortly.
Dr. Dre – The Chronic
Do I need to even say anything about this record?
David Bowie – Station to Station
I'm a huge Bowie fan and this one slipped by me for a while. But at this point it's one of the only Bowie records that I can listen to front to back. Yes, including Low.
Todd Terje – It's the Arps
It's really all about the song Inspector Norse—it's maybe one of the best dance tracks ever created. When I first got his record I listened to that song two to three times daily.
Automatic Man – S/T
This is one of those records that I found at the record store and checked out strictly based on the strength of the cover—the record is embossed with a gigantic alien head, the inside sleeve takes it to the next level with pyramids evoking one of my favorite pseudo-scientific genres, Ancient Aliens. On top of that, it's an incredible record: check out the single My Pearl.
Zapp – Wuzapnin'
So, just in case you don't already know, Zapp is this funk band from the '70s whose sound was largely influential in the aforementioned 2Pac song along with many other G-Funk era hip-hop records. I picked up a 12" single with Bounce to the Ounce on it while I was in Minneapolis printing the first issue of Popular Noise and it's been in heavy rotation ever since.
Michael Jackson – Thriller
I was recently lambasted by a friend for not owning this record, so I recently picked it up. Most of these songs have been played to death (because it is a masterpiece) but Human Nature still gives me chills.