There’s no magic potion that will lead you to be able to write a standout pop song. Sometimes it’s a lot of, let’s call it, “on-the-job training,” as was the case with Zachary “Del” Weinberg, the man behind Choice Words. “Del” has had over a decade of experience playing in local Chicago punk bands, which offered him the practice, exposure, and education in how to write catchy, three-chord guitar riffs that lent themselves perfectly to pop-punk songs.
As Choice Words, “Del” recently released his debut release ...um, via Org Music, seven hard-hitting tracks recorded at his home in Pittsburgh. The album is both an acknowledgement of the radio-friendly power pop of the 1970s, like Elvis Costello, and also an ode to the more hard-hitting 1990s alternative rock, like Superchunk and Superdrag.
With “Del” still out promoting his first Choice Words release, we recently spoke to him for a new Fahrenheit V13 interview, in which we discussed his book collection, his favourite writer, and his favourite musical biographies.
How important are books to you? How enthusiastic are you about reading?
Del: “Enthusiastic is an understatement! For the longest time, my one and only social media account was Goodreads so that I could inventory and track all the books I’ve read. I jokingly told my friends that I was getting rid of my phone number and that I was only going to be reachable via the Goodreads messaging app.
“When Choice Words started up, I tried to finagle a Goodreads account to serve as the band’s primary social media presence. Goodreads didn’t quite have all the capabilities to get our music far and wide, so we settled on Instagram. Perhaps there’s a business idea for Goodreads somewhere in there…”
How many books do you own?
“Between me and my wife, we probably have upwards of 500 books. We used to live in a little Chicago apartment, and you can imagine the amount of space that all these books took up. Aside from the space, moving these books from apartment to apartment over the ten years we lived in Chicago was a nightmare (even as we got rid of plenty along the way). Now that we are settled in a house in Pittsburgh, maintaining our library is much easier.”
Have you read any musical biographies? If so, which is your favourite?
“Dream Boogie: The Triumph of Sam Cooke by Peter Guralnick is my favourite musical biography. I’m a huge fan of Sam Cooke and of 1960s soul music in general. The beginning of the book tells of his gospel upbringing, and then transitions to an in-depth discussion of Sam Cooke’s recording process and the nuances of different recording sessions. I’m not sure if I’d recommend the book to a non-musician, but I certainly enjoyed it.”
Are there any particular editions or collections of books you’d be excited to collect and own?
“I love the look of leather-bound books, but hate when books are used only as decoration. I have a rule to only own a finely-bound edition of a book that I have actually read. No reference texts, no collections of papers, etc., regardless of how pretty the binding is. I’m most excited about the few books I have from the Franklin Library of Mystery Masterpieces that were released in the 1980s. They are all imitation leather so not of much value, but I love them.”
How often do you find or make time to read?
“My wife and I read every night. I had one of my music buddies over at the house, who peered into our bedroom and saw our two sit-up pillows ready for our evening reading sessions. His vision of the punk rock drummer curled up with a book couldn’t help but bring a smile to his face. It gave him a whole new perspective of me.”
Who is your favourite writer?
“My favourite writer is Carlos Ruiz Zafón. I gave my wife a finely-bound edition of his book The Shadow of the Wind on our wedding day, which was one of the first books we realized that we both loved. It would be awesome if they made a TV or film adaptation of Zafón’s Cemetery of Forgotten Books series, but before he passed away, he made it pretty clear that he did not want his books brought to the screen. This is a topic of hot debate in my household.”
What was the best reading or book-related present you ever received?
“This was more of a present I got for myself, but when we moved into our house, one of our first projects was to refurbish one of the rooms as a study. Aside from installing the built-in bookcases, everything else was done DIY. We couldn’t be happier how the room turned out, and you’ll often find me just hanging out in the room marveling at my handiwork.”
What’s the scariest book you’ve ever read?
“The Woman in Black by Susan Hill was the scariest book I’ve ever read. Period.”
Most people seem to have a cookbook that was either passed down or gifted that has stood the test of time, and remains a fixture in their collection. Do you have such a book?
“I do not have a cookbook that has been passed down, but I have been trying to put together my own family recipe book. We tend to keep a paleo diet in the house, and I’ve been working to collect all of our favourite recipes. This is more for ease of my grocery shopping than for recipe posterity, but I hope to complete the book someday. Based on its unchanging status over the last few months, I’m not quite sure I’ll ever get to it…”