Chicago has it all, that much is certain. From musicians, events, art, photographers, creatives trying their hands at any outlet to put themselves, their squad, and the city at large on…it’s all there! Today we’re bringing PJ Gordon who knows his way around the city of Chicago when he’s not photographing, managing, or writing words.
Thanks for the interview Joose! To get into it, who exactly is Joose Gordon? – Lol PJ “Joose” Gordon. I do a variety of work in the Chicago art industry. I started out managing my friends, Futura Bloom, which I still do. To get a better understanding of the scene I started writing and taking pictures for blogs, which lead to doing PR work and event promotions. Today, aside from management, I primarily work for Fake Shore Drive and the Good Details art gallery while working on my own side event and writing projects. Photography has kinda fallen into a hobby, which sucks because I really like it.
When did you get involved in all of the various works you’re now doing? – I started shooting when I was about 13. My cousin and mentor worked out of the same studio complex as Hebru Brantley, Fake Shore Drive, the Fat Tiger Workshop guys, and a bunch of other Chicago creative scene folks. Being a nerdy 8th grader around all of these cool older people made me want to do something that would let me work in a t-shirt, jeans, and gym shoes every day lol. I got my “real” start when I began managing Futura Bloom in the final months of my senior year of high school, in 2014, though. That was the first time I really began putting together stuff for myself and not just letting someone introduce me to people.
Was this always your goal to be involved in the Chicago creative scene or did you have other plans? – I was fortunate enough to get involved with the scene at a time when I didn’t really know what I wanted to do. I was a few months away from starting college and I just wasn’t sure about anything, like a lot of people at that age. I wanted to be an engineer for a bit, but I’m really bad at math. Looking back, I guess I had some vague idea of going into music, but I wasn’t thinking practically enough to really consider it a viable career option.
Once I started hanging around my cousin’s friends on a more “adult” basis I guess I started to see that these were largely people just like me. We couldn’t really function super well on a conventional career path. From there the goal was more so to help my friends become famous rappers, haha. Along the way, I just figured out all the different things I could do, and the fact that I had fun doing them.
When you were first getting started with music and photography, what were some bumps in the road? I’d say learning to network. Finding out who to email and how to approach them. Just learning how to move. There will always be people insisting that the industry doesn’t want to fuck with them because they don’t have clout, and there’s some truth to that. But the number one lesson I learned initially was that people won’t believe in you at first. That’s okay because until you’ve given them a solid reason to, they kind of shouldn’t. So learning to introduce and advocate for myself was something it took awhile to develop. In general, I think patience is something everyone struggles with in the beginning. You want to just get up and go but sometimes the timing isn’t right. I still tend to pull the trigger on things before the optimal time. At the same time, waiting too long can kill your momentum. Timing really is everything.
How’s the PR work and event promotions for places and events around Chicago been? There’s always something going on in the city. – Most of my PR work is for individual artists, but it’s cool to help some lesser known people get a chance to get some shine if only to make sure they know some of the stuff it’s taken me so long to learn. Event promotion can feel scary because you feel like you’re competing with so many others for people’s’ attention, but there really is enough for everyone to eat you know? There are so many niches that need to be filled, so many crowds to hit. I’m sort of a homebody, but putting together something cool for people to have a good time at has been one of the most rewarding aspects of all this.
What are you doing when you’re not promoting or managing? – Usually reading or writing. I’ve been reading comic books since I was 9 or so, and that’s influenced my creativity a lot. I of course like the superhero stuff from DC and Marvel, but the indie stuff like Saga, Kill or Be Killed, East of West, and Paper Girls has been really grabbing my attention lately. Really I just love stories. Most of my stuff is music journalistic, but I’ve been toying around with some prose-type pieces. Ultimately I see everything I’m doing as material for a piece of work I want to put out one day. People like Donald Glover, Issa Rae, Melissa Broder, even Lena Dunham inspire me like that. I have no musical talent whatsoever, but it was always that ability to share yourself and your experiences that drew me to music, particularly rap. Obviously rap involves some writing, but I think in a more general sense it’s all just storytelling.
How’s the writing progressed over your time working for Fake Shore Drive? Any other publications under your belt? – I think that I’ve in general gotten more casual with my writing, but I guess that comes with getting comfortable with everything. The first blog I wrote for was The Place For Things, then I was with Prime Fortune for a bit. But I’ve actually started pitching some pieces around to other publications, not all of them music-centered, so be on the lookout for those. I’ve also begun to do some stuff with Triibe, a new publication focused on the culture of Black Chicago through our own lens. “Not enough time in the world” is a really cliche thing at this point, but it’s true as hell. As much as I’d love to devote time to working with all the cool, smart people I want to, there’s just not enough. I’m still in the process of learning that one.
What makes Chicago special as far as all the creative events and people you’ve come to know all over the city? – It all feels like a super small, tight-knit group of people. You go to a Noname show and pretty much the entire scene is there. It makes work feel less like work and more like just hanging with your friends, you know? But I think the main thing separating Chicago is the hunger. Working here, there really is no “industry” in the traditional sense. There aren’t any major labels or anything. It’s basically just us, clawing our way in and putting in work. When I was in high school, and Chance, Vic, and the Savemoney guys were coming up, it felt like every week another Chicago artist was being spotlighted in Complex or whatever. It just got to the point where even without an industry everyone was looking at us.
How’s 2017 treated you so far and what have you been doing? – It’s been pretty good man. A few months ago my friend Femdot told me he writes out his goals, so I gave it a try, and seeing myself move closer to them has been really good. I’ve had a hand in a lot of cool projects, including Honey!, the EP my artists dropped. Plus getting a real sense of where I want to take everything you know? I don’t know. Life is cool right now. The best part of 2017 has been getting more comfortable with myself though. Realizing my shortcomings and confronting them. I try not to ever get too satisfied with myself. That constant reevaluation keeps me trying to compete with my last move.
That’s good to hear! What has managing taught you in the time you’ve been doing it? – It’s taught me how to communicate better man. There’s no room for trying to do stuff alone you know? You’ve got to make sure everyone involved knows what you’re planning moment to moment.
What’s the rest of the year looking like for you? – For the most part working with my artists as we get ready to do more shows and drop more music. I’m also hopefully gonna be partnering with some dope brands to put on events in the city for people to have a good time at. And writing when I can, of course. Oh, and I really hope I can read more comics the rest of this year.
What’s your take on the Creative Scene of Chicago and where it can potentially head in the near future? – It’s insanely eclectic. I’m incredibly proud to be working alongside the people that make it up. It can really go anywhere from here. Ideally I’d like to see focus get put on other fields aside from music though. Guys like Hebru and Max Sansing are of course making waves, but I’d love seeing some of the various kids that are out here painting be put into the spotlight. I want more actors, directors, and screenwriters from Chicago to get attention. More non-poetry writers.
What do you feel the city could do better to get the vision of more creatives in all types of fields to the point where they can flourish? – I would just say support what you like. It really just is a matter of people paying attention to what other people are saying they should pay attention to. So if you like a graphic artist, share their work, be vocal about it. Same thing for any other field.
To wrap up, what would you say to younger guys and gals that are finding their path out there for encouragement? – Work smarter not harder. Don’t feel afraid to take your time and plan out your moves until you’re sure of yourself. You’ve got time. It’s gonna be hard to see progress sometimes, but you need to trust the process, so to speak. And if what you’re doing isn’t working, reevaluate to make it better. Most importantly though, be good to people. You’d be surprised at how far you can get just by being a person known for not fucking folks over.