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Wednesday, 30 January 2013

Lucy Jones

“Tweet journalists but don't be too pushy.”

This quote is buried in the middle of my interview with Lucy Jones, Deputy Editor of, but brings a smile to my face. Mainly because I’m intrigued whether this is advice Lucy thinks I need, or that I have already followed.

To explain, October 2012 saw Radiohead play a hotly anticipated three-date only UK tour, and I was lucky enough to be at the first gig in Manchester. Being aware that the majority of the pro music writers out there would be attending the two London dates several days later, I saw an opportunity to get an early review written and out there.

I had it ready the following morning and sent my review to several writers on Twitter, one of whom was Lucy, who deemed it worthy to retweet for her followers.

I got a bunch of views and even connected with plenty of Radiohead fans in the process. Job done, thanks Lucy! But I didn't stop there, and was cheeky enough to ask her for an interview, which she graciously agreed to. But, the best laid schemes and all that, coupled with a new job at the NME, and it subsequently took me two months to nail her down. Tweeting and emailing enough to remind her, while hopefully staying on the right side of her advice on persistence.

Fortunately, persistence is something Lucy knows a bit about too.

“After school I moved to Honduras for 6 months to work on a newspaper for free,” she tells me of the geographically-unusual start of her route into journalism.

“It was an awesome experience and I got a taste for the exciting side of journalism, I spent my time interviewing gangsters and reviewing 5 star hotels in the Bay Islands. It was insane. Then, after doing a degree in English Lit at UCL, I worked somewhere a little less exotic, the Maidenhead Advertiser.”

And while this move may have lacked the glamour of Central American gangsters, it was a vital step in establishing herself as a serious journalist.

“I loved writing about village life, but I also reviewed albums and films when I was there and realised I was much more interested in that side of things than straight news. After six months the paper sent me to do an NCTJ course. It was helpful to learn media law and shorthand, and it's a good qualification for any journalist to have on their CV.

“After that I started doing evening shifts at the Telegraph on the Comment desk, and a staff job followed a few months later.”

So, varied experience - check, qualifications - check. But what else does Lucy have that sets her apart in the desperately overcrowded music journalism job market?

“Eek. Um. That's a hard question. I'm passionate about music and committed to creating content that's going to entertain and inform. I’ve also studied music and learnt quite a few instruments, so I have quite a lot of knowledge on music theory, genres and instruments, which maybe makes it easier to deconstruct stuff. My skin's pretty tough as well so it doesn't knock me if pitches are rejected or someone writes that I'm a ruby-lipped monkey whore on the internet.”

Lucy preempts a later question by directly addressing the trolls, and the less said about them the better. So, other than being called a ruby-lipped monkey whore, what have been the highlights of Lucy’s career to date? And is the music journalism game all it’s cracked up to be?

“Getting a job at NME was pretty cool. I've also loved covering SXSW in Austin for the last couple of years. Interviewing Bryan Harvey? Just kidding. Tori Amos, E from Eels, Bjork, Bobby Womack and Graham Coxon have all been cool interviewees.

“Interviewing musicians and artists I was in awe of and spending my time listening to music and going to gigs rocks. Also I love the idea of introducing a song or artist to someone that'll flip their wig.”

Despite Lucy’s nonchalant “pretty cool” remark about her move to the NME in 2012, and my previous interviewee and former NME writer Laura Snapes’ branding of it as a “normal place”, the fanboy in me has to ask what the move there was like.

“I try not to think ahead as much as possible, so I'm not sure I had expectations really. I didn't expect to walk in and see Liam and Noel and people shooting up in the stationary cupboard. It's been amazing working with a team who just absolutely love music and are excited about it. It's a really nice vibe, there are a lot of LOLs. It's also nice to write for a massive readership who really care about new music.”

Lucy's favourite song of 2012

So, having made the “pretty cool” move to the NME, what else does someone who tries not to think ahead still want to achieve?

“I'd like to write a book. Maybe fictional, maybe about a band I like. I want to travel and study more too, and possibly move to the States for a bit. And to meet my dream interviewee, Prince.”

For those who haven’t been with this blog from the start, the reason I started interviewing writers whilst still at university was not only to tell their great untold stories, but to get their advice too. Lucy’s advice? Be polite. Be bold. Be yourself.

“Write to everyone you want to work for and send them an article tailored to their style. Stop waffling. Cut your prose down by at least half. Wake up every morning at 6am to write. Read all the books about music you can find. Make notes and keep them. Read other books too. Go to gigs even if you don't know who's playing. Crate-dig. Put your best work on a blog. Tweet journalists but don't be too pushy. Get an NCTJ or masters if you can. Work for a local paper. Look for local papers that offer scholarships for training. And don't be offended if someone says your writing needs a lot of work.”

Tweet but don’t be too pushy. Lucy subsequently assures me that was not an answer tailored for me, but I will now remember it nonetheless. Thanks to Lucy for her time, and for sharing her story. She can be found in the links throughout this blog, and on

Tuesday, 15 January 2013

HMV: Love the one you’re with

I wasn’t sure why at first but, like many, I found the news that HMV is going into administration rather disconcerting. Like democracy or public transport, it’s doesn’t always work and sometimes it’s frustrating, but we need it.

I’m not a diehard customer – probably buying from there only a handful of times a year – and have played my part in contributing to its demise by replacing my once frequent purchases with a Spotify account and Amazon. But, as I’ve written this piece, and got caught up in it, the thought of a high street without a single place to buy music or film has become increasingly depressing.

The closure of the four-floor Birmingham store last year is already proof enough for me that the loss of HMV would be keenly felt. While it wasn’t my local store, it was the biggest one nearby, and the best. I spent hundreds of hours in there, buying, searching or just killing time browsing. And I have missed it since.

As great as independent music shops are, for most of the country they are too few and far between to play a big part in the filling the potential void left by HMV. And for film lovers, there are no such shops at all.

Sharing in the nostalgia that many have expressed (via #HMVmemories), HMV played a key part in the early development of my music obsession, and in my teen years as a whole. I have undoubtedly more vivid memories of HMV purchases than of any from other shops. While that may make me rather sad, it is true nonetheless.

Unfortunately, this announcement could be the final step in a trend that has seen Virgin Megastores, Fopp, Zavvi and more wiped from our high streets over the last decade, and, if that isn’t worrying enough, we may soon find ourselves in a time where music and film can only be immediately bought in supermarkets.

I doubt today’s teens will similarly reminisce about hours spent in Sainsbury’s or Tesco’s music sections, or even remember the process of clicking a few buttons to buy their first ever album. As Reverend Lovejoy's wife would say, WON'T SOMEBODY PLEASE THINK OF THE CHILDREN?!

The truth is, as much as sleek web design and recommendations from other users are great, they are no substitution for browsing in a store filled with physical and wondrous products. not to mention actual human beings you can even share a conversation with about what you're buying. That is worth paying a little extra for.

I hope that a buyer is found and that as many stores as possible stay open and that staff can keep their jobs. But I also hope we all appreciate HMV more. While sales may be down, no one ever questions the popularity of music or film as a whole, and they deserves their place on our high streets.

If this national institution can be saved, I for one will remember the thought of it no longer being there, and will try to act accordingly. It’s not perfect, but nothing is.

Friday, 4 January 2013

Tainted Love?

After spending yesterday afternoon binging on The Smiths and The Smashing Pumpkins, a thought suddenly occurred to me that these two have something in common.

I love the music of both – each would probably make my personal top 10 – but they also both suffer from having frontmen that are, frankly, tools. This tenuous but hopefully noteworthy link between these bands wasn't an entirely new thought, but in the wake of an unrelated comment I saw recently, it made me think again.

Namely, it made me wonder if you can love a band’s music when you no longer love the band, or even if you never liked the band themselves in the first place? And what would it take to make me completely disown a band? 

To go back to the unrelated comment, an unnamed friend posting on social media recently posed the question, or problem, that they wanted to listen to Lostprophets, but in the wake of recent revelations, weren’t sure if they should, or even could.

I felt it was an interesting question, broadening it slightly, they were basically asking if the subsequent actions of a musician can taint their music?

Obviously, that is an extreme example, and this is a light-hearted blog and I’m drawing no comparison between Morrissey and Billy Corgan and the Lostprophets frontman I don’t even want to name let alone discuss. I am not attempting to make out that their actions, which I will now discuss, are anything like what he is accused of (disclaimer out of the way, calm down).

But there are a number of reasons for me to have formed these opinions. They have both fucked me over in person by ruining gigs I was at, Morrissey walking off four songs into a gig I’d travelled all the way to the Roundhouse in Camden for, and Corgan ending a Pumpkins (in name only) gig in Nottingham after just over an hour, despite completing a three-hour gig in London just two days later. The following setlist for the gig even mentions him storming off.

Unless the mythical Smiths reunion ever comes to fruition (it won’t), or the original Pumpkins line-up tours again (they won’t either) I would never consider seeing either of them again. These experiences have irrevocably changed my feelings towards these bands because they always come to mind when I listen to them, which is admittedly unfair on the rest of The Smiths and the original Pumpkins but true nonetheless. 

Add to that, they both have become increasingly erratic and annoying public figures, frequently making embarrassing or simply ridiculous statements in the media. I’m sure I’m not the only Smiths fan bored of having to defend themselves to non-fans every time Morrissey makes a ridiculous remark about the royals or worse. Last year Billy Corgan said he wanted to “piss on” Radiohead. Seriously, what a dick.

I had ignored Oceania, the latest SP’s album, completely (until yesterday, it’s okay by the way) because of my thoughts on him as a person and comments such as that. The same would apply for any new work from Morrissey. But, I still regularly enjoy their best work, just as I still admire their talent too.

So, I guess my point is Steven and Billy, you haven't completely ruined it yet, but please, stop it already. I still want to listen to The Queen is Dead, Meat is Murder, Siamese Dream and Mellon Collie for years to come. You've ruined yourselves, don’t ruin your work for me too.