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A Conversation with Peter Divito

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Lifelong Pittsburgher Peter Divito has a master's degree in criminology, and has spent his post-college years working with kids on probation and with confrontational social issues. Divito founded 20/20 Proof, his music zine in which, besides interviews and reviews, 20 regular fans list their 20 favorite albums and the reasons why. (Plus there's "My Mother Hates Everything," in which Divito's mother comments on indie-rock tracks. For example, on White Stripes' lyrics: "Do they just look it up in the dictionary and don't care if it makes sense or not?") The increasingly popular Pittsburgh-scene favorite sells mostly on the streets and in small independent record shops.

 

 

As a criminologist, I have to assume you work for some thrilling, primetime-TV CSI: Pittsburgh unit.

Actually, now I work as a therapist with Mercy Behavioral Health, in their adolescent partial-hospitalization program. So we work with kids with acute mental-health issues. You can say social work has something to do with criminology, I think, because you work with kids on probation, or involved with CYF -- I interned with Juvenile Probation, and I liked the people I interned with, but I didn't feel like that had anything as a career. I didn't feel like I'd be changing anything.

 

Isn't there any primetime action?

I've done a lot of restraints lately -- I've been physically exhausted the past few weeks. I sprained my thumb, my hand's been messed up -- there was a good week or so where it was every day. I need to get bigger.

 

Can we at least say that 20/20 Proof is a thrilling, primetime-TV OCD: Pittsburgh unit?

I've always been an OCD, obsessive music fan. All the people who loved John Cusack's character in High Fidelity were the people who made lists; people who were always talking to their friends about, "What were your top records of the year? Your top this? Your top that?" I always did that. I grew up listening to hip hop, primarily. I was obsessive about hip hop, and I'd always write lists -- best emcees, best deejays, best albums of the year. Then I'd pick up magazines and they'd be asking celebrities, "Who're your favorite whatever," and I'd think, "Who cares?" I want to talk to regular people -- that's why the people that do the lists in 20/20 aren't people who are famous or popular or big, it's just somebody you'd meet on the street and ask.

 

So you just get wackos off the street to make lists?

I've been doing 95 percent of the magazine myself, so the third issue's spreading the work around. The first one I had a lot of friends and people who just asked me if they could do a list; the second issue Annie Parkowski, who did a lot of the artwork, recruited a lot of people too. I found a lot of people on the Internet, just finding who's into what kind of music.

 

Well, they're not all wackos, but they're Pittsburghers, right?

It's probably 50 percent or more Pittsburgh people writing -- and that'll continue. The third issue's got a real Pittsburgh focus, so I have a lot of Pittsburgh bands doing lists, making up their own lists. Like, I've got Chalk Outline Party tackling rock books, and Black Tie Revue's doing something like "Top 20 Musicians I'd Like to Bang."

 

I'll probably give my Mom a couple more pages with "My Mother Hates Everything," because people love that feature. Everybody loves my Mom now, and wants to meet her -- she came to the release party for the last issue. She has obviously limited knowledge about music, and that's kind of charming, I think.

 

Does your music life cross over into the counseling?

I've got a 50-pound box of hip-hop cassettes back at my house, and that's after having given away a third of my collection to the kids at the group home. They always used to watch Rap City and BET all day, and they knew I knew hip hop. I'd be like, "This is crap," and they'd say, "Fuck you, Pete, all you talk about is De La Soul and Tribe Called Quest, that goofy shit." You could say they pushed me a bit to do [the zine] -- a lot of these kids don't know who KRS-ONE is, so they'd tell me, "Why don't you write something, you're always criticizing everything." I ended up taking one of the kids to see KRS-ONE when he came here -- he dug it. He was a little cautious, but he dug it.

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