Werner Von Wallenrod aka John W. McKelvey aka Mr. Hip-Hop Encyclopedia has helped many fill holes in their record collection since 1997 with his “Humble Little Hip-Hop Site”. Now continuing that tradition with his “Humble Little Hip-Hop Blog”, he is set to educate the masses with his video post and overall knowledge of hip-hop. Come now as pick the brain of Werner Von Wallenrod.
ESP: Thank you for taking your time to answer my questions.
WVW: Thanks for your interest!
ESP: Who is Werner Von Wallenrod and where did the name come from?
WVW: It’s an obscure reference from a very bad video game. Despite how much it sucked, my friend and I decided we were determined to beat it, and we then spent way too much time playing it.
I think I chose it for the same reason Flavor Flav picked his rap name – he wanted a name where he wasn’t going to find out six months later that another guy in another city had the same name (i.e. all the MCs and DJs named Dre). And so far, it hasn’t happened. 😉
ESP: When did you start Werner Von Wallenrod’s Humble, Little Hip Hop Site?
WVW: In early 1997. I actually had an earlier taste of running a website (of a sort haha)… I don’t know if anybody remembers X-Band anymore? Pre-internet, it was a cartridge that plugged into your Sega Genesis with phone wire coming out of it. Essentially, it let X-Box players play a few 2-player games (primarily Mortal Kombat 2 and Madden) against each other over the phone lines. I used to write a page that had upcoming release dates and reviews of each week’s hip-hop releases, and I actually started to get readers and people e-mailing questions and stuff, if you can believe it.
Then, my family got on the internet with America Online (back when you used to pay by the minute – scary!), and I decided to teach myself a little HTML and make a members page building on that X-Band page.
ESP: Who was the first discography on your site?
WVW: Ultramagnetic MC’s and Natural Elements. Back in the early days, a friend had found a discography of Ultramagnetic on the internet. We printed it out and I carried it around everywhere. It was really incomplete, though – both in the sense that it didn’t include any of their guest spots or solo/ side projects, and that it was missing a lot of their key, classic 12″‘s and stuff. So I decided to make my own, much more completist version, that even went on to include Tim Dog, Godfather Don and Raw Breed. And I did NE because I had all of their records, and their was no discography of them anywhere. I started adding more pretty, then, pretty much right away.
ESP: On your site it says, “…Or, maybe I just like them. I’ll tell ya one thing, though: they ain’t payin’ me for it. Except L’Trimm. They made me rich…”, what does that mean?
WVW: That was a silly joke. Wouldn’t it be nice to live in a world where L’Trimm paid somebody millions of dollars to make an AOL members’ page about their music?
In honor of this interview, I made today’s blog entry about a L’Trimm record.
ESP: Where did your love for hip-hop come from?
WVW: Ever since I was a young kid. I remember my first tape I ever owned and loved was a Weird Al tape. I was kind of searching for a musical genre, I guess… because all fellow first graders would’ve been listening to, like, early Bon Jovi, which I could never get into. I had a few rock and roll tapes as a kid (I remember Poison and Def Leopard), because that’s where I grew up; but as soon as I found hip-hop, that was it.
Back then, I used to have a hard time because in music stores, hip-hop and other genres (R&B, dance, rap etc) were all mixed into one big “Soul” or “Black Music” section. Can you believe, as late as the early 80’s, modern music stores in New Jersey still had a “black music” section? So anyway, (bear in mind, little kids aren’t all that smart yet), I used to often be looking at tapes trying to figure out, “is this rap?” Those were the days.
ESP: What is your current stance on the state of hip-hop in general?
WVW: The only new stuff I get into these days is pretty obscure, indie stuff… except for the recent revival of old school reissues which is pretty awesome, ey? I could accept that I’m just a crotchety old man (32!) who insists that the old ways were better, except I do enjoy new stuff by some innovative new artists (Buck 65 is a favorite), so that must just mean the new stuff sucks. In an industry driven by ringtones, though, I don’t think that’s so hard to accept.
ESP: Werner Von Wallenrod’s Humble, Little Hip-Hop Blog has you showing off extensive knowledge of everything hip-hop. How does this help promote your ideas?
WVW: At one point in my life, it got me a flashy job writing and editing at The Source. These days, though, my life and business (I run a bookstore in a neighborhood where people would say, “Yuck, why are you playing rap music? Please turn that off”) are pretty separated from the hip-hop scene. It would be nice if those two ends could meet again someday, but who knows?
Plus, I’ve never been that plugged into the scene, per se… just the music. As a kid, I remember seeing kids who listened to heavy metal and thinking, “just because you listen to the music, why do you have to have long hair and wear t-shirts with skulls on them?” Actually, I kinda liked the skull shirts; those were cool. I remember as a little kid wearing a Ted Nugent cap, and teenagers would be like, “whoa; 5 year-old into Nugent! Way cool!” But I didn’t know who he was; I just liked the logo with the skulls.
So anyway, as I got older listening to hip-hop, it just wasn’t my nature to suddenly roll up one sweatpants leg and carve little niches into my eyebrow just to follow a trend. I don’t go to shows or hip-hop clubs… I just support the music. In fact, when I ran The Source website, I used to sneak the motto, “The website of the magazine of hip-hop music, culture and politics… without all that culture and politics crap” into the mix wherever I could. Because I used to buy the magazine to get the latest scoop about MC Shan, not to read some budding music journalist’s under-informed opinions on the latest presidential election.
ESP: What does the future hold for Werner Von Wallenrod?
WVW: I’m still working on indie, creative projects… and I always will as long as I can. If that ever will pay any bills, who knows, but I hope so. My other interest is film, which I’m into and take as seriously as hip-hop. Like I said in the last question… those interests now are pretty separate; but maybe they’ll all come together. Or not. I enjoy them both, I don’t need them combined.
ESP: In closing is there anything that you would like people to know about?
WVW: For those who used to check my site but haven’t heard yet, I started a blog about a year ago at: Werner von Wallenrod’s Humble, Little Hip-Hop Blog. It’s updated regularly, and I try my ass off to be fun and informative. I hope its good, but that’s for you guys to decide – it’s definitely not one of those blogs that has the same content as about fifty others, though. 8)
And I’d also like you and your readers to know I appreciate your interest and I hope you like my work!