As we change our name (I know, I know) we must do a little send off for the old name. Because.
We named our site/mag back in 2012 (only really starting in 2015) after the spirit of Happy Mondays: outlaws, free thinkers, strange geniuses, originals, quiet influencers (Stone Roses, Oasis and more).
Such as this doozy, which went on to influence your favourite films. There’s tons of Trainspotting in here. And this was a video for an Indie band, at a time when money was found for creative work like this based on merit and only made possible by a decided lack of interest in looking at the bottom line, and if anything, hiding the bills from any accountant who might darken the door frame. Good times. “DON’T YOU HATE, HATE WHAT YOU ARE”. Now dance.
But look. We still feel like posers, as we used to say, at times. As much as you might like to think you know about music, a story, a time, a place, if you were there…or not there, and read the daily and weekly missives like letters from the top of Mount Kilimanjaro as others adventures brightened the half-lit daily grind of twenty-something Toronto-tethered Sims, there’s always more.
There’s facets, there’s insider tales, there’s the journalistic sheen that warped and obscured so much and reduced whole lives to drug stories and score /rap sheets. There’s the stories of this band, Flowered Up, whose brothers Liam and Joe Maher, didn’t make it. They are gone. But this moment of music and visual storytelling, and a band that refused to make a radio edit, are important side stories in the massive encyclopedia not yet written about the “Manchester” sound, its pulse, its music, most importantly, its people, its artists, its characters. Its neighbours down the road in Liverpool. And futher afield in the north or the south, often, outside the centre. And we are reminded or even informed about the inner workings of this in the unexpected gift of an interview with a musician who tells of his discovery of the song. The channels are compressed, the gates are down, you can talk to anyone if you are rude enough, or polite enough. Or have something to say, yourself. If you have, or can make, a map. As it ever was.
Happy Mondays were a ten year long overnight success story. Obscure to some/many in our part of the world, daily diet to others. Whenever I’ve found a Happy Mondays fan I know I’ve found my kind. There’s a sensibility. I’ve listened to them for 25 years and still do. They still help me laugh & cope with life, think & deal with absurdities of the world and aid in creativity as much as high-brow literature or the drugs I’m too scared to try.
Also in the cocktail of STEP ON Magazine, there was a good dose of Banksy, who’s work we’d followed for years before his American fame, when he was still tagging in Bristol & around UK. His POV is still important, no matter his mass popularity and the decals on Etsy which are less offensive then the stuff stolen off bridges or THE LEFT BANK in galleries for millions, despite all who’d like to reduce him to anything like the rest of the art world and the public worlds he made works on. He changed the cityscape, he changed the conversation, he changed the country, he changed the world, he changed the art game, foul and corrupted as it is. He changed our hearts, and he sent us a beating message from Bristol that said. “I’m here. I’m angry. The world is dying. But I can laugh about it. In fact, I’m pretty interesting. I have a few cool friends who help me. Remember Punk Rock?” and also said “I see you” to his enemies and to his allies, like us. We don’t know Bansky (we don’t think…) but we love him. He was equal parts angry, subversive, witty, and heart. The heart sometimes had to be painted on to make people remember that it’s the first thing we draw, the symbols on the walls of the caves of our fleeting youths. Now they say “I heart you.” They say XX to strangers. But they don’t mean it. Banksy is forever interesting, even worthy of your one and only tattoo that can’t and won’t be painted over.
We wanted to say something with our unknown, out of nowhere, unsupported and unasked for project, coded but clear to those who got it. To those who got it, it was essential fuel to us. Friendships were made. The name & our work under it had some voodoo that led us to amazing and wonderful places far beyond our home city we wouldn’t have dreamed of, and that we dreamed of in secret, and that were not in the works even four years ago and seemed impossible- like being sidestage for Happy Mondays in 2015, and in the pit shooting them in a brilliant new UK festival which seemed to come out of our dreams, as they returned to the stage on their 25th anniversary; writing on the Mondays in an unexpected musical resurgence of a great time in our world across a number of genres and that is both British and lives in other places too, even in Toronto.
Great music is eternal and does not have album cycles, and it’s still happening right now in your city or will visit you if you are lucky and if you are, answer the call. Hint: the best music is usually terribly affordable and in intimate venues, then and now. Connection, through mystical 90s hoodoo, to people who get it and others creating and celebrating too, was the biggest discovery of all we had in looking to our roots as music fans and once-carefree kids who stood and looked up at these Manc geniuses and wanted to be one of them. How do you do that? You start a band. You make something. You zig when they zag. You disobey road signs as long as you’ve only got yourself and your co-pilot to worry about and the road ahead is clear, fuck what’s behind you in the rear view, that’s history, mate.
Wear your references on your sleeve, just like your band T-shirts (you still have them, right? You still wear them? Not just those good boy outfits that makes grown men at the dinner table look no different than their toddler, benign and neutered for the elders? For the babies? The team jerseys are very important so you can find your people, out there!) Today, even online, especially online, we still find each other through our flags, these colour codes and references that are inside and confusing, unless you know them, when you know them they are a gilted invitation. Answer it, don’t be rude. All who answer it get something more. Connection. The goal, the purpose and the endless, unquantifiable, priceless, often underpaid, abused, stolen, aim and unkillable achievement of music, art, writing, photography. Connection, a word that hasn’t been hopelessly ruined by marketing, they can’t fake it. It’s ours.
We started out doing this from a position of frustration, of homelessness in a way, like many bands do. Creatively unfulfilled, directionless too long, unappreciated.
The same feelings extended to the state of media, the music business, the state of music today (popular/dominant/corporate music you are fed in public and very small children are fed like McDonalds to make you buy expensive merch, tickets and unmemorable experiences they will surely outgrow before you’ve paid for it) and the state of music & film material to read. In a glut of (then) blogs (now taken over by social media platforms, where writing and context are seconded, and community building is challenging) there was only hope in the indie world. So we said, let’s just make something that we feel is of quality, honest, authentic, with love and ignore what we don’t love. No snark, no gossip, no attacks, just have a different conversation and celebrate what we love and we think is worthy, locally, beyond locally, then and now. The one bit of advice from a corner not to be trusted, was filled with a Bronte like dark portent of what such a thing would do to psyches and relationships. How little that person knew us, our psyches, our relationship. Only a few do- and those that do-accept and understand. And we’ve found you.
The frustration waned away, the idea of focus became an exercise in focus itself. TV is gone, America is all but ignored, especially now, aside from some worthy artists and friends. We don’t need ’em. We don’t eat that. You would be amazed how quickly you can make the pop machine of today and the celebrity world disappear from your consciousness, and how much happier you can be when you fill it with music, conversation, and something real, like we used to in the 80s and 90s. Nostalgia is only good for the moment when you realize, “it was better then.” You don’t have to miss it, it’s not your neighbour’s pool, long razed over, or your shiny new bike. It’s still achievable. It’s rock bars that host open nights, and are free. Sit at the bar. It’s pubs that have vinyl nights. Spin your own, or listen to whatever. Sit at the bar. It’s indie bands with the bravery of Braveheart slugging out days as busboys to create great new music at night, for free, the only way, the pure way, and sending it out on a file on a website to the world, to be found and taken in like medicine to a waiting world who understands. Distribution belongs to us. With money unfortunately besides the point right now, freedom and art can really live and breathe and travel unchecked by borders and uncreative people who rage as they hold onto a fantasy of the big labels, the big media outlets, the big laugh they had on the artists they lived off of, artists who live, and remember, and need them not one jot.
And so it does. And we are so happy to have seen it happen and know people doing it. We’re breathless. We aren’t the same people we were before the rabbit hole of Step On Magazine, which, for us unlike drugs, has no dangerous side effects, rather makes us become ourselves.
As the strangeness of fate would have it, we’re now premiering a great feature interview with Happy Mondays’ Rowetta (who’s doing new music all over the scene) in our first issue under the new name, as we leave behind the old skin which was named for her song, which cannot help but have a special significance to us. We’re endlessly grateful, not just for the time and generosity of people like Rowetta and others we’ve had the chance to speak to recently, but to the connections from emerging bands, quiet friends & supporters who have formed communities with us and let us in to theirs, and the artists returning and still going who we’ve had the chance to see play live in the last two years as we’ve been writing and photographing all of this and finding there is much more news than nostalgia in this cocktail, there’s a groundswell, and good music is always welcome, like a party guest who sings for his supper or someone who plays with your kids for an hour, and we’ve no regrets even if outside of the context of Happy Mondays the name does not make much sense and gets jumbled (thank you to the friends who decided it had something to do with Shoegaze and foot pedals, it would have been nice if we’d thought of that) and the name has benign common words in a world that ruins everything by making us live in webpages and indexes first as if that were anything at all but a means of distribution, not the source, as confused as the machine does get about its prominence.
And if the name STEP ON, in context, looked at times like a fan page, and we looked like fanboys, that’s alright, for at its heart, it was that too.
As you were.