How did you become involved in the music business?
I applied to an ad in The Guardian for an Editorial Assistant with RC and got the job! Mostly due to having written a lot of articles and books previously,though on 20th century history rather than music.
What was your first magazine and your first review/feature?
RC was my first music magazine, and first feature was on AOR. But my first magazine feature was in Country Quest on the Rhydymwyn chemical weapons plant!
Who are your musical heroes, and why?
Barclay James Harvest, for being one of the biggest rock bands Britain has ever produced, in European markets, yet never given their due in their homeland. And Yngwie Malmsteen for changing metal despite all the constant flack!
How did you land the role of news editor at ‘Record Collector’?
After Editorial Assistant, I became Reviews Editor, then News Editor.
How has the recently launched ‘RC’ email newsletter done?
Very well – 20,000 subscribers in a couple of months and growing…
Has this opened up a new audience to ‘Record Collector’ or is a case of most of the mailing list already buy the printed version of ‘Record Collector’?
Our mailing list was the basis for it, but this was only half the number.
You have penned sleevenotes for various albums through the years. How important is the re-issue market to record labels now and are these very collectable or is it a case that often the original vinyl releases are worthmore?
Reissues are the cornerstone of the major indie labels dealing in ‘vintage’ music, and also key to the majors, especially with regard to box sets, deluxe editions etc. Most reissues are not very collectable, but the latter are, though original vinyl releases are usually the most sought-after and valuable.
Is record collecting still in good health given the closure of many independent shops and HMV as the last man standing on the High Street?
We’re actually finding that there’s been a resurgence in record fairs in the last couple of years, in tandem with the upsurge in sales of new vinyl. With the economy shot at, people are seeing top-end collectables as an investment, while younger collectors who want something tangible that you can’t get with a download are buying up new vinyl.
Despite the demise of the CD, it’s also still nearly 80% of the market, and although the media loves to talk of the death of the CD, it’s nowhere near A&E. It’s still the format most used by most people, and HMV would be shooting itself in the foot to foster the idea that the CD is dead and downloads are the only way forward. They’re the way forward for people who don’t want a physical product, but a lot of music-buyers do and will continue to do so.
Is Ebay and other online sites the main point of call for collectors?
I don’t think most collectors would say it’s the main place they look, but you certainly can’t ignore it. But most collectors enjoy the experience of going out to record shops and trying to find their sought-after items in the real world. You also know exactly what you have in your hand in terms of the condition of a piece of vinyl or a CD, and there’s no potential hassle over things going stray in the post etc.
Of the many people you have interviewed over the years, who have been the
most fun/honour to interview?
I’ve never felt ‘honoured’ to interview anyone as I don’t put any one on a pedestal – that’s just me. Not easily impressed! But it was fun to interview Ted Nugent, with all his ludicrous pronouncements, Ozzy had some hilarious anecdotes, and Mike Box of Uriah Heep laughed nearly the whole time!
Anyone else you would still like to interview?
I’ve not interviewed some of the ‘greats’ – McCartney, Jagger, Robert Plant, Brian May, Dave Gilmour, etc. There’s still plenty more I’d like to collar!
What have been the best bands you have seen live and why?
Pink Floyd Knebworth 1990 – amazing spectacle. Yes in the round on the Union tour 1991 – prog x8! Back in the 80s, Big Country were stunning, Van Halen. More recently, some of the prog-metal bands such as Therion and Planet X.
Is rock music in a healthier state now than ten years ago?
It’s got a bigger profile thanks to Classic Rock and High Voltage etc., so yes.
When I started on RC in 1998 I began a one-man campaign to rehabilitate two of my favourite genres – AOR and prog – both of which were despised on the general music media then. Since then there’s been a sea change, and I’m glad people have come round to our way of thinking!
How important has it been to have a specialist magazines – ‘‘Classic Rock’,
‘Fireworks’ – in the High Street stores raising the profile of the music?
Vital – there are so many great bands that people never hear because they don’t know about them. These are the places to find out what’s what.
Who has been the biggest influence on your career?
My dad. He always encouraged me to do what I want with my life – which was write. Among other things!
Any hints/tips for people keen to start out in rock journalism?
Get as much published as you can in ANY type of magazine, journal, newspaper, book, etc. – pick a subject you’re passionate about, approach the editor of a publication, and offer to write a piece for free. Adhere to the house style exactly, deliver on time, and build up a portfolio/CV of published work…
Heard any good music lately?
No. It’s all shite! Evergrey’s Decade And A Half, yesterday. You could do worse than pick it up in January.
What has been your most embarrassing moment?
When, for a laugh, I added to my colleague Jack Kane’s album review of Captain Beefheart “beef curtains” and “beef flaps”, and no one spotted it at subbing stage and it went into print. Jack nearly had a heart attack – from laughing.
Any good rock `n’ roll tales to tell?
I wish. It may all be sex, drugs and rock’n’roll, but I’ve never seen any of it, except the rock’n’roll!
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12:00-13:00 CRAZY LIXX Forever Wild (Frontiers)
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