Friday, March 13, 2009

Interview with Spencer Grady from Record Collector Magazine

Spencer Grady first contacted me through
Index7, a UK based singles review site I used to write for. We emailed back and forth about 7"'s and he told me about a magazine he was writing for called Record Collector (above pic) which I unfortunately hadn't heard of. He just recently started devoting a column to current singles and Spencer was nice enough to send me a couple of issues, which have taken me up until now to get through...they are packed with an insane amount if information about every genre of music really...something for everyone. They do a great job covering all the bases, and with plenty of room for huge in depth pieces about everything really. It always amazes me to find out about how different bands were related, going through a complete discography of an artist. It's a pretty amazing resource.
So I sent Spencer a few questions, just out of curiosity really... how does one become a bigtime music magazine writer and actually get paid for doing something they love?

Can I ask how you got your start as a music journalist? Did you end up here there by accident? Or have you always written about music for self published zines etc?

I was late to it. I used to work as a speechwriter to a leading UK politician, while also writing a few album reviews and small features on the side for magazines/websites such as Wire, NME, Dusted and Plan B. Then, at the ripe old age of 34, I thought why not not try and get a full-time career writing about what I love. So, after a year of building up my portfolio and working at the Barbican theatre for some pocket money, I eventually landed the job of Production Editor at Record Collector. I have been there for about eight months.

I saw you've been writing for a 7" specific section in Record Collector did that come about? Did you push for that section or is it something they decided to focus on?

I inherited it from my predecessor. It is a weird format for me to focus on, as much of the music I love (ambient, classical, electronica, black metal) is best-suited to being heard over a longer duration on album. But I have to say that the 7" Single Cream section might just be what I like best about my work.

What other rock critics have influenced you in your own writing? Your personal Lester Bangs.

Simon Reynolds and David Keenan. Also, Ben Watson despite his dubious politics. Definitely Byron Coley.

Any recommendations for other music writers out there? Essential music reading that inspires you, that everyone should read.

David Toop's "Haunted Weather" and Ben Watson's Derek Bailey biography.

The last music related book you read?

The last one I read was Mark E Smith's"Renegade", although I have just started "Muslimgauze: Chasing the Shadow of Bryn Jones" by Ibrahim Khider.

You must have a few 7"'s in your personal collection. Anything notable? Do you focus on a particular era or do you have space to collect whatever you want.

Mmm, I've got a plethora of strange noise and grindcore 7"s by groups like Seven Minutes Of Nausea, Man Is The Bastard and The Gerogerigegege. More recent stuff that I have received in relation to my job - some nice-looking singles by Fucked Up and cuts from the Touch Sevens series (the Oren Ambarchi still gets spun alot). Oh, and I also have the first Green Day 7", back when they were called Sweet Children - might be worth something, though I doubt it.
I did have that limited edition KLF/Extreme Noise Terror disc - but I sold it when I was hard up.

Where do you weigh in on the blog vs print issue. Is everyone having a voice helping or hurting music criticism?

I personally prefer print (but then I would say that I guess). But I don't have a problem with all these voices being heard. The marketplace of ideas will sort it all out and I am guessing that only the most valuable or worthwhile will survive in the end (I hope).

I struggle personally with writing bad reviews...I think it's important to be some kind of judge in the world of music blog after music blog praising whatever , but I appreciate musicians putting their idiosyncratic view out in the world. How do you straddle this line? Do you even think it's a problem?
Have you regretted writing an unfavorable review...have you ever changed your mind later?

Yeah, I sympathise. My solution is usually to review stuff I like. Why waste space slagging stuff off - music criticism has become a form of cheap advertising really, so I think this line is the right one to take. Sometimes I lay into something, but it's a rare occurrence. I understand that some creativity is better than none (believe me, working in politics reinforced this idea over and over). Usually I reserve my ire for those times when I think that a musician, band or a label is pulling the wool over our eyes e.g. Jandek or Foot Village, what's up with those guys?
Of course, I have changed my mind on a review (positive and negative), but there are bigger things to worry about, don't you think?

Podcast EP 46:
Really informal this time.....sitting around with my friend Dave (from TNV podcast)Ryan, and Molly talking about the subpop singles club, weird colored pressings of singles, Peter King lathe cuts, chocolate singles, decay, the smell, LA... We don't actually have any information but we talk about them anyway.
I play the singles club Unnatural Helpers and Mika Miko. Then the Tyvek Sidewalk 7".

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