Another Summer has become Fall right under our noses, and as this year crawls to a close, it’s easy to become reflective about what has passed, and what we’d still like to accomplish. Boston Hassle is about to celebrate its tenth anniversary, and the crew behind the magazine is game planning how they would like to see the platform grow going forward.
Founded in 2011, the Hassle has proven itself to be a safe space for writers and enthusiasts alike to participate in communities they are passionate about. The volunteer aspect of the writers on this platform is one of the most special elements, and a reason why such a diverse crowd of people finds itself scrolling the site on a weekly basis. Culture is at the heart of what is important to the Hassle, but especially the culture which can find itself excluded from other platforms. Local people showcasing local, and often hidden gems creates connections.
I sat down with Chris Hues, the new editor-in-chief of Boston Hassle a few weeks ago to discuss the future of the site, what work they are enjoying, and how they found their way into their new position. From discussing Boston Hassle’s Patreon ambitions, to highlighting talented writers on the site, our conversation was wide ranging, but always came home to the idea of art being fundamental in this current world, which can feel like it’s falling apart on any given day.
Boston Hassle: Tell us a little about yourself.
Chris Hues: My name is Chris Hues, I am 28. I am from Boston, my pronouns are they/them. When I was younger I loved soccer. It was all I did with my time until I was about 18. But, I always wanted to be a journalist too, writing was my number two. So, I went to school for political science at a few different colleges. Eventually, I graduated from Salem State in 2016. Ever since my senior year in high school, I have been a voracious reader. But I only started to write seriously when I graduated college. I have been writing since then, poetry & nonfiction primarily.
BH: How did you find your way to the Hassle?
CH: Funny enough I was working at Taco Party in Somerville and Dan Shea, our founder, got a part time job there doing dishes. Dan and I worked together for a few months, just about five years ago now. He would give me a ride home and we’d smoke and listen to WZBC and talk about music.
BH: Can you tell us a little about Hassle’s history?
CH: Part of the reason we are doing this interview is that it is Hassle’s ten-year anniversary. Hassle was started in October of 2011 as a show-booking collective. A group of people got together and started organizing underground, DIY shows of Boston area artists yeah, but also national and international underground artists, across all genres. Noise, experimental, electronic, dance, punk avant-garde jazz, music concrete, the list goes on.
We also put on a bi-monthly Flea Market at the Elks Lodge in Cambridge. Bostonhassle.com was started to promote these shows and events and then it expanded to take on a film section, and also eventually an arts & culture section.
BH: I myself can’t wait until the flea market starts up again, because that is really fun.
CH: Yeah, the flea markets are always inspiring and uplifting, each one is great. It has been really difficult to get anything live done in COVID and I think we should be having one for October? But, if we do have one, it is going to be scaled down. We use to have around 80 vendors, but this time we may have between 40-60 vendors.
BH: Do you have a favorite beat at the Hassle, anything you enjoy people reporting on or that you enjoy reading?
CH: My specific beat is covering the arts industry in Boston and Massachusetts, whether that is private or state programs. I also like to cover local progressive politics reporting. As for other things that people write, I really like our sex work column by Leilah, that is really interesting and badass. She goes on these amazing diatribes and takes experiences and knowledge from so many different places and gives us these amazing essays every month.
Obviously our film editor Oscar Goff, I think he is one of the better writers on the site. It is always a pleasure to read his writing. I love it. Also over the last year, we have taken on new music editors. It has been great working with them and getting their content up and developing that content even more. In the past, it was just me as the music editor, and I was stretched really thin. Now we have more editors than can bring a lot of different perspectives and knowledge into that section.
BH: Is there anything that you are most excited about at the Hassle going forward?
CH: Yeah, Boston Hassle made a Patreon last year in September, so it is about a year old. But in the past few weeks, I and a few members of our team have been revamping our Patreon and we are rolling out a new package called the “Hassler Package”. So for $10 per month on our Patreon, you can get access to the Hassle LISTSERV and you can also get our resource guide. Our resource guide contains things like a media landscape doc, a gallery list, and our music section’s Master To-Be Reviewed List that has over 6,000 entries from underground music in Boston, but also all over the country and world for the past 7 years.
The purpose of this new program is that we want to help writers, creatives, musicians, and artists, not only make money in their careers and be aware of all of the opportunities but also connect with other area creatives, musicians, writers in the hopes of building a larger community and network with a robust conversation that we’d like to see happen in Boston and Massachusetts.
BH: That sounds like a rare networking opportunity.
CH: Yeah, there is a lot of atomization, there is not a lot of knowledge sharing and conversation, so we really hope to change that. I also think it holds true to our mission as a whole, which is giving a platform to people who may not necessarily have one. So we are just helping people bolster their own platform in an area where there is a lack of resources, and there is also a lack of good magazines, good independent voices that can be an expression of imagination but also can express a variety of emotions. Personally, I hope they would express some dignified anger because we should be asking for a lot more from our city, our state, the chambers of commerces, the neighborhood associations, the universities, and so on.
BH: Why do you think independent, alternative media like the Hassle is so important today?
CH: I really look at the Boston area as a news desert. Some people might be shocked when I say that. But when it comes down to it, I can count all the large news institutions, on one hand, it is NPR, GBH, The Globe, and The Herald. And maybe Metrocorp if you want to count them as news. But that means that all of the news in the region is controlled by a handful of people, WBUR, and GBH, those are public radio stations, so they are funded by the Federal Government. That is why we are so important. The people who set the tone, who write the headlines, control the conversation and the conversation is restricted. Which in turn restricts imagination, restricts the conversation of what is possible. Not to say that there is no news here, but I don’t think there is a good analog to us.
I have a lot of respect for DIG Boston, they are great partners. I think they are doing great work. They would be our closest analog, even though they are different. I don’t think there is a voice in the city like ours. I think our voice is necessary and essential, not only for reasons of imagination and broadening the conversation, but as we have been doing in the past, which we will not get away from, is highlighting artists that wouldn’t be highlighted elsewhere. I can’t tell you how many times I have covered albums that haven’t been covered by any media in this area. In reality, these musicians are huge voices in their communities and scenes that just get overlooked by the bigger publications, but they also get overlooked by the small and mid-level publications, even the cultural ones like the Pudding or Vanyaland, they only go so far.
What we aim to do is show people, and be a representative voice of, an entire alternative artistic and creative world and way of thinking in Boston. If you walk in downtown Boston, it is hard to think that it is still here, or you think ‘how much longer can it last?’ But we are here to say that it is here and as long as we have anything to do with that, we will fight for it and people should see that.
BH: Why do you think art is so important at this moment in time?
CH: I really think art saves lives. It has definitely saved mine. I don’t know what I would be doing without my creative practice. I don’t know what I’d be doing without the Hassle. So I think that is why art is so important because it helps people not go crazy. But also because it brings people together, it makes a community, and it also shapes people’s thought patterns to be more creative and empathetic. Obviously, there are exceptions, but art is a practice in empathy when it comes down to it, empathy for entertaining another person sure. But there is still an empathy, there is still a yearning, and longing and the trial and error to inhabit someone else and feel how they feel. I think the more people do that, the more empathetic our society will be, the more likely we will work together but also look out for one another, and also make sure that everyone has the same opportunities. And that starts with art and art spaces. I think when we as a society give people the tools to express themselves, they are going to pick up those tools. It is just the fact that the city, these large corporations, or whatever combination of the two, are not giving space for people to express themselves.
For example, I am working on a story about the studio crisis in Somerville. Not a lot of people know this, but Artisan’s Asylum is moving to Allston, Central St. Studios closed down, and now the Armory tenants may be at risk. So Somerville, that four-mile area, is losing over 100 studio spaces in one month due to the housing and real estate crisis.
Art is important for the individual benefits but also because that is where empathy starts, and if people don’t have a place to make art, what is that going to say in the future, especially as the artists that are here now continue to leave and flee. In Boston, it is an urgent crisis that we start to look and provide for more art spaces because we could be not only looking at a more boring culture, but also a much less empathetic culture.
BH: Is there anything else you would like to add we didn’t cover?
CH: I will say that after we roll out our Patreon package we are going to start a fundraiser for $10k in October to mark our 10-year anniversary and that money will go towards paying our editorial staff in 2022 and it will go into our freelancing budget for 2022 as well. I ask everyone to please donate or share it if they think journalism and arts reporting and what the Hassle does is important because we need their donations to survive, at least another ten years. That is my short-term goal. So, please donate, please share.
Otherwise, we are diligently applying for grants and we are looking for grant writers, we are also always looking for volunteers and writers, and for interns to help us out.
You can follow Chris on Instagram and twitter: @Chrishues_
Also Please sign up for the Hassle Newsletter Chris puts out every week with their own bare hands: Sign-Up for Hassle’s Newsletter.
Their other project is No Direction Press. Sign up for that newsletter (currently undergoing a re-branding) here.
Local journalism is more essential than ever. Please support Boston Hassle today by signing up for our Patreon or by making a one-time donation via PayPal.