Friday, 26 June 2009


Michael Jackson died last night. Sad, isn’t it? Sad for his children and sad for his family. Sad for his many millions of fans. Sad, in a weird kind of way, for music. Sad for everyone who bought tickets for his shows at the 02 Arena. I have absolutely no idea why anyone ever thought he would fulfil that obligation, but he was one of the most famous people on the planet and, despite not having made a really good record for over two decades, the power of that fame could have filled stadiums anywhere. So yeah, rest in peace, Michael Jackson. You crazy, moonwalking bastard.

On the other hand, screw Michael Jackson. I know it’s easy to take pot-shots at the dead, and the jokes are all over the internet already. People have no respect, right? Well, yeah, that’s certainly true, but then I had no respect for Michael Jackson yesterday so why would that suddenly change today? The fact is, that man was (and is) idolised by millions around the world, but that idolatry is based primarily on the Michael Jackson of Thriller, Off The Wall and I Want You Back…the guy that sang Ben and made little girls’ hearts melt, and the guy that changed what it meant to be a pop star, spectacularly and irrevocably. But he ain’t my fucking hero. He isn’t my king of pop. Not by a long fucking chalk.

None of my heroes squandered millions and millions of dollars on the maintenance of a childish fantasy lifestyle. None of my heroes squandered their talent, wilfully and with thinly-veiled contempt for an audience of millions that waited patiently for new music year after year. None of my heroes were ever widely suspected to be guilty of child abuse or, if we’re going to be generous, having a highly dubious and inadvisable attitude towards relationships with children. If Michael Jackson was a normal guy with a normal bank balance, he would’ve been in prison yesterday. If you or anyone you know has ever been affected by child abuse or its impact on real people’s real lives, you’ll know why I and a lot of other people feel a little bit sick when we hear people talking about how brilliant Michael Jackson was and how he brought “magic” to the world. Maybe all of those accusations were unfounded. I don’t know. But I think you have to be extremely naïve to think that Michael Jackson was entirely innocent of all the charges that have been thrown at him over the years. And even if you ignore all of that and give him the benefit of a huge doubt, his contribution to the world of music since, say, 1990 has been negligible. He’s been a freakshow and little more. He was clearly suffering from major mental health issues for years, and yet because he was obscenely wealthy, no one ever had the balls to take him aside and compel him to get proper help. Everyone panders to the rich. That’s why the rich always have the option to exist outside of conventional morality, of conventional sanity. So no, he wasn’t my fucking hero.

I didn’t snigger or sneer when I heard that Michael Jackson was dead. I felt nothing, much as I felt nothing when I heard about Princess Diana’s untimely demise. These people, for all their desperate attempts to relate to ordinary folk and to convince us that they cared and loved the millions that fawned at their feet, lived unreal lives in total separation from the harsh, dispiriting reality of most people’s slow stumble towards the grave. That’s no reason to hate them, but I can never idolise someone whose humility was artificial and displayed for effect. I won’t deny it…I love Billie Jean and Don’t Stop Til You Get Enough and pretty much any of those dazzling, vibrant Jackson 5 records. He made some great music, made a lot of people happy and made a lasting contribution to my generation’s cultural memory banks. But I’m not joining in with this global outbreak of vicarious grief. I’m not going to take part in this retrospective rewriting of history. I’m not going to pretend that Michael Jackson “rocked” or that he had any particular relevance to my life. The Michael Jackson that I admired as a child died a long time ago. No gods, no masters, no kings of pop. Count me out, thanks.

Thursday, 25 June 2009


Here it is, then. My first blog. Actually, it’s not my first blog. I started doing this a couple of years ago and lost interest so quickly that I took my own breath away. Partly, I suspect, I simply didn’t have the time or the inclination to clutter the internet up with yet more self-absorbed ramblings…and Christ knows, that appears to be the whole point of blogs in the first place. Frankly, neither I nor 99.9% of the people that write these things are in any way interesting or witty enough to make the whole tawdry debacle remotely worthwhile. And yet here I am again, drawn back into a world where I arrogantly try to present my idle, mundane thoughts as some kind of compelling reportage on my life and the state of the world blah blah blah blah blah…and so on, ad infinitum, until we’re all staring slack-jawed and blank-eyed at our monitors, brains dribbling like opaque treacle out of our under-used ears, brains saturated with inane drivel and an overwhelming sense of futility. Kill yourself now. You might as well.

Let’s try that again.

Here it is, then. My first blog…in a while. To be truthful, when I sit and contemplate the value (or otherwise) of my opinions, whether they be on music (which I know quite a lot about) or politics (slightly less so) or anything else (virtually fuck all, but possibly more than you) , I’m always drawn to a mental image of some of the utterly vapid and pointless people that work in the media in this country. Not that I’m totally dismissive of the industry that pays my wages, obviously. Some of the finest individuals I know work at music magazines, but their qualities as people seem to have arisen in spite of their chosen profession rather than as any direct result of some supposed creative skill or zeitgeist-fondling acumen. Hearing the news this week that Conor McNicholas is following Kerrang!’s Paul Brannigan to those well-trodden “pastures new”, leaving the NME crumpled, violated and demeaned in a ditch somewhere in Hoxton, I was prompted first to emit a little cheer…not for any real reason…it’s not like I know much about Conor McNicholas other than that his ears stick out, he hasn’t got the faintest clue about rock music and he’s appeared on a few of those composite list programmes on the telly, spouting idiotic nonsense…and then I shed a metaphorical tear for the state of the magazine he leaves behind. With a heavy heart, I have to say I feel the same way about Kerrang! too. I used to read both religiously when I was a teenager (and Sounds, which died a natural death before it went downhill…probably a good thing, with hindsight) and, of course, I wrote for Kerrang! for seven years and have the mag to thank for my “career” (cue derisive laughter) as a music journalist. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t take any great joy from seeing two once-great magazines being systematically destroyed by preening, careerist pricks (and I don’t mean Mr. Brannigan; a fine and decent man who probably should’ve bailed out a couple of years ago), but that’s patently the situation as it stands. As far as the NME goes, they’ve been flailing around cluelessly for years, bereft of any kind of coherent identity and rather more in love with themselves than their readers (I always imagine the NME office to be like a scene from Nathan Barley…a TV show that the magazine’s editorial team doubtless loved but completely failed to acknowledge was, in essence, about them as much as anyone), continually hedging their bets, taking mindless pot-shots at Morrissey and throwing their weight behind a succession of landfill indie twaddle and the kind of pretentious post-Doherty shite that resonates for ten minutes and then heads back to the dole queue, pockets full of smack. Kerrang! is an entirely different story. I spent years cheerfully defending that magazine, explaining to distraught metal fans that (a) there were still people fighting for metal at Kerrang!, and that (b) the proliferation of lightweight rock and indie/pop bands appearing in the mag were simply a necessary evil imposed on the editorial staff by the powers-that-be, who were drunk with power after a few freakishly successful years spent “rebranding” (try to type that without retching) and expanding into TV, radio and so on. When I left Kerrang! it wasn’t because of some haughty principle. I thought it was in decent shape at the time, albeit still not quite as enthusiastically metallic as it deserved to be. I left because I could see a great team of genuinely decent and honest people being assembled at Metal Hammer and, once a few other personal factors were thrown into the mix, I couldn’t see any reason not to join them. At the very least, and this has been borne out over time, I would get to write about music that I love and care about, rather than fighting for scraps and arguing with the aforementioned preening, careerist pricks just to be able to scrape a living and feed my family. I love it at Metal Hammer. It’s fucking awesome. The people are awesome, the magazine is awesome…even the readers are awesome, despite a worrying penchant for dressing up as pirates. They’ll grow out of it.

Ultimately, I doubt that more than a handful of people give a shit which magazines I write for, my reasons for leaving one and joining another, or what I think about the current state of two magazines that, in fairness, still sell pretty well considering the current climate. But anyone who knows me relatively well will know that the one thing I don’t lack when it comes to music is passion. I genuinely care about music, perhaps more than is strictly healthy, and as worthy and pious as it sounds, music remains sacred to me, even to the extent that I’m prepared to sabotage my own career to avoid joining the ranks of the soulless and the self-obsessed. That’s one of the reasons I don’t live in London. That’s why it makes me wince every time I pick up a copy of the NME or Kerrang! and see yet more vacuous, corporate shite being shoulder-barged into their pages in the breathless pursuit of more 14-year-old female readers. That’s why really I hate being in artificial social situations with music industry folk who don’t really care if I live or die, as long as I don’t shatter the façade of “ooh, this is all really brilliant and important!”…you know, that whole Radio 1 thing, wherein everything is “brilliant” all the time, even though it plainly isn’t to anyone with ears and a brain, and really we’re all just media whores, greedily sucking each other off in a wild and spiralling dance of death and self-loathing, as magazine sales plummet, kids’ attention spans recede and intelligence gets sneered at because it doesn’t really make anyone any money. Christ, I hate the fucking music industry.

And yet, I love it too, because it gives me the opportunity to write about some amazing music and share my passion and enthusiasm with kids who want to buy into the whole heavy metal thing that means so much to me and many of my friends. That’s the problem facing the NME and Kerrang!: do they employ new editors that actually give a toss about music and the joy of shared experience that it brings, risking lowered commercial expectations but retaining some shred of soul and intellect, or do they employ odious, jumped-up, coke-snorting careerists who think that music is simply a lifestyle choice and nothing more and who care more about the size of their salary, a quick but shallow boost to their withered self-esteem and another forward lunge into the black heart of the self-congratulatory, spunk-flecked abyss of the meeja biz? I’d like to pretend that I don’t care. But I do. Good jobs for good people with good intentions, that’s what I say. Fuck the cynics and the careerists and the pointless, flatulent wankers that think that Katy Perry and Fall Out Boy and Scouting For fucking Girls are “important” and "cutting edge", and that Slipknot and Machine Head are silly and dumb and inconsequential. Fuck them all in the eye. Hard. And then go and buy Metal Hammer. It may not be perfect, but at least we try. At least we give a shit.

Here it is, then. My first blog…maybe I should drink less coffee. Whatever. Cheers.