When you were first turning on to music or movies, was there a friend or a writer who just blew your mind wide open? For a lot of people, critic Jessica Hopper has been that kind of writer. A former senior editor at Pitchfork and executive editor at MTV News, she’s written about some of the most compelling music of the past two decades. Step into her world for an hour as we discuss gentrification and music in an electrifying city and more.


Music critic Jessica Hopper.

Music critic Jessica Hopper.

Courtesy David Sampson

Life of an underground music writer with Jessica Hopper - 0:20

Jessica Hopper started writing about music when she was a teenager in the Minneapolis punk scene. Her zine, “Hit It or Quit It,” became a fixture of the underground scene, with Hopper cranking out stories on riot grrrl bands, and anyone else she found compelling.

Eventually, she moved to Chicago, a city that became one of the ruling passions of her life. She rose through the ranks at the Chicago Reader and the Tribune. In 2015, she published a fantastically-titled collection of her own essays, “The First Collection of Criticism By a Living Female Rock Critic.” This year, she’s following up with “Night Moves,” about her early- to mid- 20s, trying to make it as a writer in Chicago.

“When I wrote some of these things, I wanted to be charming and funny and dazzling, but now I don’t really have fear,” she said. “I’m writing for myself and for people digging to find the sort of story I’m writing.”

Find Jessica Hopper in conversation with Portland’s own Laura Veirs at Beacon Sound Sept. 29


An excerpt from Anders Nilsen's work, "Big Questions

An excerpt from Anders Nilsen’s work, “Big Questions

Courtesy Anders Nilsen

“Big Questions” with Anders Nilsen - 35:38

Portland-based illustrator Anders Nilsen has known Jessica Hopper since they were in high school in Minneapolis and right awa he knew she would have a career in music.

“I like that she sort of comes at it from a punk perspective,” he said. ” She wants to know how the music industry works but she has a sort of grounding in the DYI world of the 90s.”

Nilsen himself is best known for his long-running series, “Big Questions.”

His drawing has a distinctive look, not bound by the rules of reality and often incorporates elements of graphic art. 

“Sometimes I’m just trying to get ideas down really quickly,” he said. “Different kinds of drawing has a really different effect on the viewer and their experience on the story, so I try to keep that in mind.”

He’ll publish the second volume of his latest series, “Tongues,” later this fall.