We begin the week with music journalist Push. With a background in music magazines including Melody Maker, Muzik and Mondo, in 2012 he returned to publishing as editor of electronic music magazine Electronic Sound, first online and now in print. We talk to him about his week ahead as the 50th issue of the magazine is published.
Tell us about your typical Monday journey to work
It’s a 10-minute walk from my house to the Electronic Sound office, which is housed in an old red-brick Victorian warehouse in the centre of Norwich.
My dog comes to work with me two or three times each week and Mondays is one of her regular days. She hangs off the back of her armchair waiting to go to work in the morning. Her name is Dilly and she’s a black cockapoo. She’s seven years old and very cute, but completely bonkers. She’s prone to suddenly chucking her head back and howling for no apparent reason.
Dilly shares the office dog duties with Charlie, a white boxer owned by our art editor Mark Hall. Charlie looks like a cartoon and his eyes are two different colours – one blue and one brown. He is the David Bowie of dogs.
Describe the state of your desk and what you can see in your office
I had to have a serious tidy around for this. My desk is usually a terrible mess. Magazines, vinyl records, CDs, mountains of print-outs, barely used notebooks, unopened post, dog treats, about a million pens… It’s a disgrace really. I blame the parents.
The office is quite big, but there’s not much free space. From my desk, I mostly see my deputy editor Mark Roland, who sits opposite me, and our editorial assistant Fin Milligan, who’s always bombing around the place.
There are five of us working full-time here and we also have areas for storage and dispatch. As well as being available in newsagents and shops like magCulture, we sell a lot of copies of Electronic Sound directly from our website. We bundle those copies up with a seven-inch vinyl record every issue and these are limited edition releases that are exclusive to our readers.
We’ve put out records by some great artists, including Orbital, New Order, Underworld and John Foxx.
Which magazine do you first remember?
The first magazine I bought on a regular basis was Look And Learn, which was a weekly educational title for children. This was at the very end of the 1960s. I remember it had lots of stuff about space travel and I loved all that. My hero was Buzz Aldrin, who I was lucky enough to interview many years later. Look And Learn had lots of history stuff in it too, which I also loved.
As I got a bit older, I became increasingly obsessed with music and I bought magazines like Popswop and Disco 45, before graduating to the weekly music papers when I was 14. My favourite was Sounds, not least because it was very quick off the mark when punk happened a year or so later. Punk changed everything for me. I can’t begin to imagine what my life would have been like without it.
Which magazine matters to you the most right now?
Glory. It’s a football magazine unlike any other. Each issue is very tightly themed and it hooked me from the very first one, which was all about football in the Faroe Islands. It was a fantastic read. I like the look and feel of Glory too. The design is very clean, with lots of white space. The design aesthetic reminds me a bit of Electronic Sound, actually.
Can you describe your magazine in three words?
Stylish, confident, oscillating.
Congrats on your 50th issue! Your editorial team came from the established music press; how have you found yourself producing your own magazine now after the failure of the music press?
Thank you! I’m not sure I’d agree that the music press has failed, though. The NME has bitten the dust – a few years later than it should have done, in my opinion – but there are plenty of other excellent music mags out there.
As for Electronic Sound, our core editorial team has worked together in various combinations for many years, mostly at IPC, or Time Inc UK as it became. It’s obviously more challenging now we’re also running the publishing side of things ourselves, but we’ve developed a business model that’s very different to every other music title – the mag and vinyl bundles and the high volume of sales from our website, meaning we’re not dependent on high street retail sales, plus doing things like selling shares in the magazine to readers through crowdfunding – and we’re doing really well as a result.
I guess the biggest lesson we’ve learned over the 50 issues is that, despite the supposed dominance of digital, lots of people still love print magazines. For the first 19 issues, Electronic Sound was a digital only title, it was an iPad magazine app, but we had a massive uplift in interest in us when we went into print for the first time with issue 20.
The cover design has stayed pretty consistent since the print launch of the magazine, and evokes classic record designs such as the Street Sounds label in the 80s. What can you tell us about what you aim to do with the covers?
I was the founding editor of a magazine called Muzik in the 1990s and the early Muzik covers were always very distinctive. You could tell it was Muzik without seeing the masthead and I wanted us to achieve the same thing with Electronic Sound. I think art director Mark Hall does a fantastic job with our covers every single month.
Our covers are generally very graphic. Mark follows a modernist ethos and like to keep everything stripped back. We don’t use many photos on the cover and we don’t put many faces on there. And on the rare occasions that we do, we always try to do something different with them. I guess it’s about trying to find a visual representation of the vibe of the cover feature, as opposed to saying, hey, here’s a big picture of Artist X or Band Y.
Although the magazine has lots of contemporary coverage, it often presents itself as being quite archival – lots of the covers are based on retrospective moments or masterpieces. How do you balance wanting to celebrate the history of electronic and underground music whilst also acknowledging the contemporary scene?
Our commissioning editor Neil Mason is constantly working on getting that balance right. He’s a walking algorithm of electronic music. I think it helps that, while legacy artists such as Kraftwerk and John Foxx are hugely important to us, this type of music has always been about looking to the future, so our readers are also very open to hearing about new artists. Which is just as well because the electronic scene is incredibly vibrant right now. Our albums section is crammed with new names every single month.
What’s going to be the highlight of the week for you?
It’s my birthday this week, so I guess it has to be that. Please send your cards and gifts to the postal address on the Electronic Sound website.