What most excites you about joining the teaching team at BIMM?
The chance to meet young people who have made an active decision to study music journalism; to hear their ideas and share my own with them. It definitely won’t be a one-way street, with me just standing there giving them a history lesson. Ideally, everyone learns something, including me.
Briefly discuss your experience?
In teaching? I have often lectured at universities and colleges (including BIMM) about my work. In music journalism? Over thirty years including: nine years as a main writer and section editor at Melody Maker; twelve years at the Independent On Sunday as Rock & Pop Critic; writing a best-selling book about Manic Street Preachers; working freelance for dozens of other publications including The Guardian, Q, Metro, Uncut, Mojo, The Observer, The Quietus and Metal Hammer; plus a lot of work for BBC radio and television; and in the realm of DJing and club promotion.
Where did you train to become a journalist?
I didn’t! I learned the trade as I went along. At the age of 16, when I was still at school, I wrote to the Barry & District News complaining that it was full of obituaries and ladies’ skittles results with nothing for young people. They replied offering me my own music column, Simon Says, which I wrote for two years. I carried on at university, becoming music editor of the London Student newspaper, then slid seamlessly into professional work at Melody Maker. But my actual degree was in French & Philosophy. Which arguably helped give me a facility with language (the former) and the ability to structure a logical argument (the latter), but by far the most important thing was being in a big city where rock’n’roll was happening and the music media were based.
Is this your dream job?
In the current climate, most journalists will tell you that ANY paid work is a dream job. No, I never saw myself becoming a teacher in a million years, but now that it’s happened, I’m relishing the challenge.
What can the first year of BIMM Music Journalism students expect?
From me, hopefully an entertaining, interesting and useful grounding in the long and chequered history of music journalism. From the other tutors, coaching in all aspects of the trade, from how to write to how to manage your finances. I’m actually quite envious: if a course like this had existed when I was 18, I’d definitely have applied.
What’s the best gig you have seen?
The top five are all Prince gigs. He’s the greatest musical genius of our time, and a phenomenal live performer. The best would have to be the aftershow party for the premiere of the film Belle at the Hippodrome in London last year, where I stood about ten feet away from him as he played almost every hit in his discography.
What are you listening to at the moment?
Modern stuff? Janelle Monae, Benjamin Clementine, Sleaford Mods. Old stuff? I tend to binge on individual artists, but it’s usually some variation of Motown, Glam Rock, and alternative/new wave stuff from 1979-1983.
What’s the best gig or project you have worked on?
I recently went on the road with Manic Street Preachers as their warm-up DJ on The Holy Bible tour. Working so closely with my favourite modern band, as they played one of the greatest albums ever made, was an incredible privilege.
Most memorable interview?
The most intelligent interviewees are the ones who stand out: Richey Edwards, Chuck D, Courtney Love. The ones with quick minds who never say the predictable thing. But also, the freaky experience of meeting artists whose poster was on my wall when I was 13: Boy George, The Human League, Madness, Dexys, Adam Ant, Marc Almond, Siouxsie Sioux, Duran Duran, Steve Strange, Gary Numan, Depeche Mode, that whole generation.
Can you remember any funny experience as a music journalist?
Surreal rather than funny, but playing basketball against the Beastie Boys (and getting my ass whupped); paintballing with Ride in the undergrowth of the Hollywood Hills while a demented Vietnam vet hunted us down; Lady Gaga giving me and two other writers an exclusive preview of her next album as she sang it right into our faces backstage; ending up sat on Marilyn Manson’s lap, stuff like that. Moments when you think “Yeah, maybe I could have chosen a better-rewarded career, but it wouldn’t have led me to THIS.”