At work with: Liv Siddall, Rough Trade Magazine

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Liv Siddall is a writer and editor familiar to anyone following independent magazines. She first established herself as features editor at It’s Nice That, is assistant editor of Riposte, regular host of our ModMag conference, and has recently joined record store Rough Trade to develop their first print magazine. We join her at work as the first issue of that new project is due to appear.

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Where are you today?
I’m working in Rough Trade East. My desk is up in the mezzanine of the shop, but I spend most of my time annoying the nice people who work in the cafe, or reading the writing on the walls of the bogs.

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What can you see from the window?
There are no windows up here on the mezzanine. I keep asking everyone, “what’s it like up here in summer?” And they say, with a grimace: “It’s first come, first serve for a fan. Or you can bring in your own fan.”

Are you a morning or evening person?
I am fantastic in both morning and evening, it’s the mid-afternoon bit where I am a total waste of everyone’s time.

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What’s your favourite magazine this morning?
Viz. Although I lent my recent copy to someone at Rough Trade and it’s disappeared.

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The Rough Trade office must be full of music; what’s playing right now? What do you wish was playing?
At the moment the new Cullen Omori album is playing very loudly, which is great. What do I wish was playing? There’s a new country music comp from Numero Group called Wayfaring Strangers: Cosmic American Music which I love. I also really like it when I come into Rough Trade early in the morning and it’s so quiet, and someone has put something very tranquil on. The most recent album from Nap Eyes – and the vocalist’s sweet Lou Reed-like voice – will always remind me of being hungover and happy in the peaceful mornings at Rough Trade.

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Developing a new music magazine must be a dream job for you. What can you tell us about the mag?
Loads of cool stuff happens in Rough Trade, and I was brought in to help collect up all that goodness into a magazine. Everyone who works for Rough Trade is insanely knowledgable about music – I’d like to translate that into it and also lasso some of the great people that walk through the doors and interview them too. I’ve been feeling (and saying) for a while now that we need more magazines in this world that don’t take themselves too seriously, and don’t pedal a shit tonne of bullshit, and I think this does that.

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When Bruce (the design director, above) came in for an initial chat I showed him the big, open doors of Rough Trade, the messy bit behind the stairs, and the customer toilets. I want customers who live in the arse end of nowhere to receive this magazine in the post and feel like they’re getting a decent, honest slice of the shop.

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Was its strange making a magazine to promote a business rather than being editorially independent?
Yeah it’s been hard, but in none of the ways I expected it to be. I have been given an almost alarming amount of creative control over the whole thing, with no hand-holding or questions asked. The magazine is a tool the company can use for selling some records and harnessing all the great stuff that happens in the stores in an archived format, so I don’t have any “targets” or have to delve into sales figures and whatnot. Thank god.

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But as great as that sounds, it’s been hard in that some people at Rough Trade have worked for the company for 40 years, and most of them for more than five years. Making sure they trusted me to make something that would represent a huge part of their life was possibly the most difficult thing I have ever done, and I don’t even think I’ve even completed that yet, but perhaps in a few issues time. For me, the staff and customers enjoying the magazine and wanting to contribute to it is by far the most important factor.

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What are you most looking forward to this week?
Francesca Jane Allen is sending me some photographs I have commissioned from her for the next issue. In the brief I told her to make the band members snog each another, and I think she actually ended up making them go a little further than that. We shall see.

What are you least looking forward to?
I have dreaded this week since I accepted the job. This week the Rough Trade staff and fans worldwide will see the magazine and make up their minds about it. I dread that the world will not like it. Or even worse: not like it, but lie and tell me that they do like it.

What will you be doing after this chat?
Smoke a fag outside the shop and worry about the previous question.

The new Rough Trade Magazine is available exclusively from their shops in London, New York and Nottingham.

roughtrade.com

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