Magazine man

Oliver X


Reno Tahoe Tonight is turning 7 this month. We checked in with the magazine’s editor and publisher, Oliver X, to see what he’s up to these days and what’s in store for the magazine in years to come.

So, you guys are turning 7, and I heard that you’re throwing a big bash.

We are. Since our launch in 2009, we threw parties for ourselves. It’s sort of like a thank you to the staff, the team, the contributors, the readers, for supporting us. But from day one I wanted to launch on Bob Marley’s birthday every year because I like to do a party on Feb. 6 every year, and this was a great excuse.

You work across mediums. Can you tell me a little about what you’re doing with local television and radio?

Yeah. I have a KNEWS 107.3 FM weekly radio show on Shamrock. It airs Saturdays at 8 p.m. and Sundays at 11 a.m., and it was an idea to—you know, I’ve always been in radio in some way. I was in college radio at U.C. Berkeley on KALX, and I did a community affairs show there called Amandla. I just really have always liked radio, so as a brand extender, and as an idea to cross market, I wanted to have a radio presence. And then—because we do so many events as coverage and I’m a promoter—I wanted to also share stories, so Fox News asked me to be a contributor, and I’m a weekly contributor on Fox Mornings on 11 on the news every Wednesday. I have a thing called “What to do Wednesday,” which is a hump-day broadcast about what to do in the coming weekend. It’s pretty cool. So, it’s just a small segment, but I love it. And then I book their weekly live local show on Friday.

Right on. So, the magazine’s come a long way in seven years. I wonder, where does it go in the next seven?

We started with 16 pages in 2009, and now we’re at 104. We’re sort of stretching the limits of saddle-stitching, as far as—we might have to go to perfect binding. But what we did—we innovated by adding a third staple when needed. … We started that recently, and it’s been working. I think I want to get up to about 124 pages, and that should be fine for us. And I like the size that we’re at still, as well—eight and half by five and a half [inches] wide. The future really is to drill down and to be better at what we’re doing, you know. Irrelevance is the enemy for us. We want to be relevant, and we want to extend some of the culture. We see ourselves as a mirror of culture, but not necessarily of mainstream culture—of emerging culture, indie culture, underground culture. We were the first to do a story on Chor Boogie, who was the 2008 Beijing muralist, in Beijing—first time a street artist had ever done anything for the Olympics.

So, I know that Oliver X is your legal name, but is there an origin story behind the X?

Yes, there is. Gosh, it seems like a world ago when people expressed their social convictions through how they named themselves. … The X part—the earliest book that I grew up seeing was The Autobiography of Malcolm X. As I emerged as a growing young man after my father’s death, I was looking for role models. And so, knowing my father was very deeply convicted to trade unionism, and was a person who actually admired Malcolm X, and referred to himself as Oliver X, I—once I was able to, in California—I changed my name to X. Now, why that is, is because there’s a concept in Swahili called kujichagulia, which means self determination—the ability to name yourself and to lead your life. … So self determination is the power to name oneself. So, for me, I thought it would be very symbolic to honor not only my father but also Malcolm X, who I consider to be a political figure and a spiritual figure, who went through a transcendence. He went from prison to basic priest and then also disavowed racism. And that’s really important.