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The Interview: Jessica Hopper, aka DJ Coco Le Roc

By Sarah Dahnke in Arts & Entertainment on Jun 7, 2006 8:29PM

Those familiar with Jessica Hopper may think of her in terms of her reviews in the Chicago Reader or her column in Punk Planet where her sleeper hit essay “Emo: Where the Girls Aren’t” appeared. hopper.jpg Net junkies may hit up her blog over morning coffee, searching for commentary on music, feminism or pictures of kittens. But when Chicagoist was looking for DJs that would make you do that bump bump at our birthday party with a $3 drink in your hand, we looked no further than Hopper’s alias, DJ Coco le Roc.

Chicagoist has read a handful of interviews with Ms. Hopper that are fascinated with the fact that the woman doesn’t work in an soul-sucking office and gets to write about subject matters of her choosing FOR MONEY. Although Chicagoist is as interested in creating such a magical career path as the next dude, we were especially focused on matters of the blogosphere because of Jessica’s ability to get the music world riled up now and again.

If a lady can get people at Slate, The New York Times AND on the dance floor at the Pontiac shaken up, there must be somethin’ worth knowin’ about her, eh?

Chiagoist: When did you move to Chicago, and for what reason did you move here?
I moved here nine years ago. I had been living in L.A. for three years and at the time, when I would tell people I had my own business. And they would say, "Well, what do you really want to do? Who do you really want to work for eventually?" Having your own business was, conceptually, way outside the box. I worked with a bunch of bands from here - Joan of Arc, Promise Ring, Braid, Trenchmouth, 90 Day Men - and so around Christmas 1997, Sean Tillman and I drove down from Minneapolis because he was moving here. I liked it so much I decided to move, too. I missed trees and cheap rent and basement shows and community more than I knew.

Chicagoist: Why did you begin your blog?
My friend Sasha urged me to, and I thought “why not?” It seemed like a bad enough idea. I started it maybe two and a half years ago.

Chicagoist: Sometimes you write on your blog as if you realize it will be read by a lot of people, and other times you write things that seem very private, especially about your relationships. How do you decide to write about personal matters some days and more public or music-related news on the next? Do you ever regret writing posts that may be more based on passion and the gratification of just getting something off of your chest, much like a diary?
I never write to "get something off my chest". When I have something to get off my chest, I go see my therapist. "Diaristic" I feel is kind of a revolting word, and have never considered my writing such. How I write on [TinyLuckyGenius] is the exact same as what I have been publishing in my ‘zine since my teenhood. I have been self-publishing as long as I have been writing, so it's rather reflexive action than anything I consider. It is just what I do. I regret very little in general and what I usually regret about my writing is how much I use the word "fuck" for emphasis.

Chicagoist: When you say you write the same on your blog as you do in print, are you referring to the tone or to the subject matter or something else?
I am referring to all of it. The tone from issue one of Hit It or Quit It through my recent blog post is entirely linear. If it bothered me that people know things about me, I suppose I wouldn't do it. I pick and choose what I put up; I think people assuming I am just like, bleeding my every thought and feeling on the lil' bloggo.

Chicagoist: On a related note, did you realize the amount of readership your blog had prior to the whole Stephin Merritt controversy? How did you feel about having you wrote in your blog referenced in Slate?
Yes, because I have a statcounter. The man that wrote the Slate article is a professor at Medill and had been reading my blog for a while. He's a nice dude, all differences aside. I have rarely ever read Slate, so it was not a "whoa" moment. What surprised me most was how stupid their some of their readership was. It was much weirder to be written up in the New York Times for stuff that I wrote in Punk Planet.

Chicagoist: Now that your Punk Planet column has gone defunct, are you looking to have a regular column in another publication?
I doubt it. There are so few publications I feel ok about writing for. There was a time when [Punk Planet] was one of two outlets, and now I regularly publish in six places and am on contract for three of those. So what used to make up a column is now spread out across a couple places; my blog is enough of a soapbox if I need it.

Chicagoist: You recently returned from a tour of Israel. Can you briefly discuss why you went overseas?
I went on a press junket that was for American culture-writers, we were brought over by an organization called Israel 21c, which is a non-profit headed by journalists, and they work to publicize what’s going on in Israel, outside of the conflict. I actually am doing a radio piece (hopefully - it's my first, so it's contingent on how the tape all comes together) on the idea of the junket. I mean, my idea of Israel before I went was that it was all just ancient holy sites and checkpoints, essentially. I thought it was just shy of a warzone. As an American, wrapping my head around promoting pop-culture in the face of war seemed bizarre at best and crass at worst. I got there and it took about three days for me to even kind of comprehend how much Israeli life is lived in spite of the conflict. It's actually really hard to explain. I think, as an American, it was hard for me to conceptualize because if, say, busses and sandwich shops in Skokie were getting blown up by suicide bombers every few weeks, the entire nation would be totally paralyzed in a stasis of orange alert, you know? What we did there was go to shows, clubs, restaurants, meet journalists and artists, kid-soldiers who run the radio station, pop stars, indie directors, activists, reality show winners, MTV host grad students from a progressive environmental school in the desert that purposefully brings Arabs, Jews and Jordanians to study together, diplomats, designers, authors and rappers.
People were gracious beyond belief, it was unimaginably beautiful; going to places I've read about in, oh, say, the Bible, for one, was mindbreaking. Some of the more radical lefty friends of mine, it's taken a lot of explaining and discussion to get them to understand that an acknowledgement and valuing Israeli art and culture is not mutually exclusive with acknowledgement of what the Israeli government and army perpetrates against the Palestinians is totally fucked up. And so even saying that I'd love to go back, I'd love to spend some real time there, can be a charged statement.