I’ve loved music for as long back as I can remember. When I was around 9 or 10 years old, my mom would buy all kinds of new music and I would sit with the record covers and marvel at the art and photos while amazing and interesting sounds swirled around the room. And when the feeling was right, Mom would boldly turn the volume dial past 5, the number that was considered the safe point to prevent noise complaints. I still get nostalgic when flipping through the disorganized stacks of vinyl at our local record store and I come across a familiar cover that, as a kid, I would sit cross-legged on the floor and study for hours.
Mom eventually settled in to a pretty steady diet of Country and Western music. It was still performed by crooners with actual life experience back then (Waylon Jennings, Kenny Rogers, George Jones, Conway Twitty…you get the idea) but before all that, there was The Police, Split Enz, Fleetwood Mac, The Cars, and even eyebrow raisers like Rough Trade. Did she really just yell “Is he screwing with her?” Music dominated over TV in my house and I’m thankful for it.
Exposure to different music on a constant and regular basis kept me open minded to what was to come. Hip-hop, Shoegaze, Ska, Reggae, Alternative, Brit pop and Electronic music in all its variations. And although I listened to a lot of different music, I didn’t start to collect it until CDs came along. Before then, it was all about the mix tapes I would make from friend’s records or from the radio, my finger poised to strike “pause” to beat the advertisements.
Photography happened sort of by accident. It was a mandatory course in my college journalism program and required we use a proper SLR 35mm film camera. No auto settings, no Kodak Disc, no Polaroids. Manual everything and a darkroom to process it. I loved every minute of it. The marriage of music and photography didn’t happen until years later when I was asked by a friend to shoot their band’s performance. I was so out of my element. Multi-coloured strobe lights, non-stop movement, people dancing around me. It was amazing and I was hooked. I knew I couldn’t accept it as a one-off opportunity and my search for postings looking for music photographers began. Armed with only one band in my portfolio, SoundProof magazine still gave me a shot and sent me to photograph My Bloody Valentine. Mind blown! If I thought I was hooked before then, I left that gig a full-blown addict.
A bunch of publications, hundreds of bands, and thousands of photos later, my partner in crime and brilliant writer Jacqueline and I started talking. Who is writing about the music we love? When the music we love is covered, is it getting the photography and written assessment it deserves? Is there enough promotion & journalism of new bands that should be in the spotlight in our city? The answer was more or less no. So we said:
“Forget it, brother, you can go it alone” – The Clash
STEP ON Magazine was born and has since become DISARM. And it’s been a fantastic journey so far. Reflecting back on 2 years of us two going it alone, what have I learned? Well this, in no particular order:
1 – Music is as important to me today than ever before. It’s so much more than sounds coming from a speaker. It’s a language, or more accurately, a dialect. It identifies your tribe. Find your tribe and stick with them. Build your army.
2 – The music I thought was great in my teens, is still great today, and will always be great. More or less. We all have our moments and lapses in reason.
3 – The Cure is everything.
4 – Vinyl is superior. As I mentioned before, I didn’t really collect music seriously until CDs. Vinyl was for DJs, end of. When the vinyl resurgence started, I was (quietly) cynical about it and dismissed it as hipster-fueled nonsense. That changed when Jaqueline and I popped in to a local pub one Tuesday night, which happened to be vinyl night. Having a seasoned ear for music and the many different formats, I can say with some degree of authority, it just sounds better. And you don’t need an acoustically perfect room and a tube-amplifier Hi-fi setup to hear it. The fact that Jacqueline soon after uncovered a treasure trove of her original records (Cure, Clash, etcetera) thought long lost prompted us to buy a turntable. We’ll never look back.
5 – Cynicism is toxic (see Vinyl is superior)
6 – Great, important music is still being made today. You just have to search harder to find it. It was easy to find great music in the 80s and 90s. The radio played it, movies used it for soundtracks, stadium-sized concerts were reserved for it. Today it’s rarely found in those places. Scour Bandcamp and SoundCloud. You’ll find it. When you do, support it and tell everyone about it.
7 – Live music is medicine for the mind and soul. Go see as much of it as you can. And don’t miss the openers.
8 – Nothing easy is worth it. No further explanation required.
9 – Don’t discount the little guy. No one is so small they should be ignored or overlooked be it musicians, an indie magazine or fan site. Be respectful and thank the people that promote and support you.
10 – It’s ok to be a fan AND the media. We don’t ever try to hide the fact that we love a band or a musician. We yell it from the rafters. It’s never uncool to wear the band’s t-shirt at their concert.