Sam Butler, editorial director, Brick.
Sam Butler has been editorial director of Brick since 2016. Aside from his work on the bi-annual music magazine, he contributes writing to a number of outlets both in print and online, and works with brands on both sides of the Atlantic as a creative consultant. We talk to him as issue seven of Brick is published.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
At the moment Brick still runs from a home office, so the commute is a very short one. I’d like to say that I make the most of that extra time in the mornings by running or heading to the gym, but honestly there’s only a 50% chance of that happening. The rest of the time, I’ll catch up on emails and eat breakfast in the company of the Food Network or Sky Sports News.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
Today is the first Monday in over a month that I’m sat at my desk – for the past five weeks, Brick has hosted a pop-up store in Hammersmith. Beyond selling mags, we hosted a series of talks and workshops, as well as building a darkroom in the space where we offered free introductory sessions for young photographers looking to learn how to print.
It was a really rewarding experience, but it has meant that my desk is looking worse-for-wear this morning – condensing the various Post-It notes scattered across it into one long to-do list will be my first task of the day.
Looking past the mess, there’s a framed print of the incredible Dijon (one of our current cover stars) that I’m looking forward to hanging on the office wall.
Which magazine do you first remember?
My true first memory of magazines is seeing the yellow spines of back issues of National Geographic that my dad kept in the garage, but the first mag that I was a regular reader of was Match! Actually, I don’t even know if it’s fair to call myself a reader, as I was mostly interested in the pullout posters – something that I’ve always wanted to include in a future issue of Brick, so watch this space.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
As any regular reader of this site will know, there has never been a better time to find inspiration in the work of amazingly talented magazine makers all over the world. There’s a constantly rotating cast of mags on the coffee table, but the titles I come back to again and again are Fantastic Man for their impeccable pitch and tone, and Victory Journal’s engrossing blend of the iconic and esoteric.
Can you describe your magazine in three words?
Labour of love.
How hard is it to launch a magazine into the music genre, with so many music mags closing down in recent history?
I think the music mags that we’ve seen struggling over the past few years are those longer-standing titles that traditionally traded in album reviews, gig listings and quite time-sensitive editorial content, such as features with artists that are solely focussed on the release of their latest record. The difficulty there is that topical content is so much better suited to online than print.
It’s not specific to music, though. Looking at the magazines I most admire, they are all produced to the very highest standard for a defined audience – people that are so passionate about the subject matter that they want to go beyond what is available online, and really delve into long-form journalism, beautiful imagery and an appreciation of an editor’s curated offering.
Tell us a bit about the decision to release multiple cover options?
We moved to printing four covers last year, which at the time felt like a slightly indulgent move, but I’m so pleased that it’s given us the opportunity to celebrate such a broad range of artists on our covers. This is probably no better illustrated than in the mix of cover stars for our fifth issue, our first four-cover offering. 2 Chainz, D Double E, Kali Uchis and Brockhampton could all not be more distinct in their musical offerings, but all of them are completely true to the spirit we celebrate at Brick.
While we’re on the topic of covers: our designer, Oliver Shaw of Catalogue, always works really hard to bring a new visual identity to each issue, with a new masthead colour and type treatment for each edition. As we release twice a year, it’s part of an effort to keep the look of the mag as dynamic as the artists we feature across our pages.
How do you get a balance between hip-hop’s present and past in the magazine?
A permanent fixture in the mag since the very first issue has been “Digging in the Crates”, where we take a look through the archives of legendary photographers to publish unseen outtakes from iconic shoots, and learn the stories behind some of their most celebrated shots. It’s always been a great way to pay respect to the amazingly rich photographic history of the genre, and we’ve been honoured to collaborate with the likes of Estevan Oriol, Jonathan Mannion, Eddie Otchere and, in our most recent issue, Sue Kwon.
Our Essays section also gives readers a chance to learn stories from hip-hop history that aren’t so widely told, whether that’s an in-depth chat with underground hero Ras Kass in our fourth edition, or writer Max J. Joseph’s exploration of the forgotten pioneers of the Bay Area scene.
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
Having just closed our month-long pop-up store and darkroom in Hammersmith, I’m looking forward to catching up with the whole editorial team to firm up our plans for the next issue. We’ve been having some really exciting conversations around our next cover stars – it’s always a pinch-yourself moment when you get an email to say that someone you’ve been a longtime fan of wants to be on a Brick cover.