Jessica Hopper talks about growing up in Minneapolis

Jessica Hopper is a freelance music writer whose work appears regularly with the Chicago Tribune, Chicago Reader, This American Life, and on the Chicago Public Radio podcast Hit It or Quit It.

Though she is currently a Chicago resident, Hopper grew up in the Twin Cities and the local music scene played a huge role in her development--and not just her time spent in the early '90s band Andromeda Strain with City Pages scribe Pete Scholtes.

In 2009, she published A Girl's Guide to Rocking, an all-encompassing book that doesn't just promote female activism; it also explains the ins-and-outs of the business, such as how to buy an instrument and how to soundproof a studio. The book has been nominated for the Amelia Bloomer Award as well as the American Library Association's Excellence in Nonfiction for Young Adults. Beyond that, her essay "Emo: Where the Girls Aren't" has sparked conversations since 2003 and her work has appeared in Best of Music Writing in 2004, 2005, 2007, and 2010.

Gimme Noise talked with Hopper about being a music writer and how Minneapolis has played a role in her success.

Gimme Noise: When did you last live in the Minneapolis area?

Jessica Hopper: I lived in Minneapolis from December 1982 until June 17th 1994, and then maybe a total of 6 months sometime after then.

From your early teens you showed an interest in politics, music, and writing. When did you start to put the topics together?

I was into politics before I was into music. I used to volunteer and go to rallies starting when I was in 5th grade. I got kind of burnt out, being worried and appalled all the time. The last action I went to involved lying down on the on-ramp to 94 at an Impeach Ollie North rally. Punk rock was 9th grade, and writing--publishing my fanzine--started shortly after.

Jessica Hopper talks about growing up in Minneapolis

Was there anything unique to the Twin Cities that helped shape your interests and world view?

Minneapolis shaped my worldview and interests entirely, of course. When you are a kid, that's how it is. I didn't realize until I was, like, 23 and seeing other cities that Minneapolis was a center of punk activity, because of the labels and bands, but also because of Profane Existence. Working in the mailroom at AmRep, all-ages shows at Speedboat, being able to bike everywhere, reading Terri Sutton in City Pages every week, getting to go see Godard films at the Walker, getting to see Babes in Toyland, working at Northern Lights with people who turned me on to all manner of music, ditching school to go ice skating, that there were half a dozen regular music publications coming out to read and contribute to, Bob Stinson's taste in blouses--all of those things defined and informed my tastes.

Who were/are your favorite local bands?

Then? I loved Babes, naturally, Jonestown, COWS, the start of Lifter Puller, Saucer, Impetus Inter. Seeing Calvin Krime and Arm in VFW halls. Those were the main ones. I was of the generation that was forced to sit through the Libido Boyz in order to see any national band I liked.

Much of your writing has been in response to rock's Boys' Club culture. Does music journalism suffer from the same problem?

I don't think so, but I don't get around much within journalism.

In addition to her music writing, Hopper maintains a blog here.

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