Sunday, December 30, 2007


Its hard to be too enthusiastic about a year that was, to all extents and purposes, a transitional year. I made the journey, not quite voluntarily but certainly with a degree of consent, from the 9-5 life into what is currently a hybrid of office-based and work from home freelancing that means that for the first time since leaving school at sixteen I’m not a PAYE worker. It’s best described as a portfolio working life at the moment, I’ve set-up a website (not yet fully completed) to promote myself as a credit management consultant and I’ve done (and am contracted to continue to do so for at least a couple of months yet) some work in that vein with a divested part of the business that I worked for over the last fifteen years. That’s not going to be a continuing contract in the manner in which I currently support them and will over the first half of 2008 start to diminish but it’s been useful in finding my feet post-redundancy and has been a help in loosening bonds rather than cutting them dead. But clearly that part of my life is now drawing gradually to a close and I’ll be working hard in the early months of 2008 to attract additional business customers to this element of my freelance endeavours.

More to the point, the taking of redundancy coupled with the continuing contract as it stands has enabled me to see out 2007 in a good financial position and, major unexpected expense aside, means that I can see that 2008 will not be about keeping the wolf from the door during the year but instead will be about building financially for 2009, since as things stand, should I take the easy option and decline to rise from my nice and comfortable bed for the duration of the year, the bills are met. A happy position but also a rare opportunity which needs to be seized with both hands and met full-on if its not to slip away without tangible benefit in channelling my working life in the right direction and enabling me to be more flexible in my working hours and arrangements.

On the writing front, I can be satisfied with my achievements as long as I maintain a healthy degree of frustration keeping that properly in check. I did okay, I could have done better. SAF published my book Strange Boat – Mike Scott & The Waterboys in April and we look forward to a revised edition making its appearance in the Spring of 2008 after solid sales of the first edition. SAF have also accepted the book on the Free Festivals history and culture that I’m working on with Bridget Wishart and that should see publication early in 2009 so all things being equally I should be in the happy position of new books appearing in three consecutive years. I recently enjoyed chatting to former Hawkwind guitarist Jerry Richards and to Here & Now’s bass player Keith Bailey for this project and early in the New Year anticipate many interviews with musicians, organisers, performers, artists and attendees. Also on the book front, I’ve very tentatively started plans for a biography of the fondly remembered husband-and-wife wildlife filmmakers, Armand and Michael Denis, and whilst this is at a very early stage right at the moment, it’ll be another project that will occupy time in the first half of 2008 in an attempt to get it off the ground.

I think it’s really important that my journalism expands out of the area that I’ve been working in during 2007, the rock music genre. So whilst I’m planning to expand upon what I’ve done so far in that vein, it’s one of my principal challenges to start making sales of articles outside of that arena. But it’s been a pretty good year on the music journalism front all told. Record Collector continued to be an important source of commissions. They published a major eight page feature that I wrote on Hawkwind, surveying the fragmented state of the band’s back catalogue for which I very much enjoyed interview main-man Dave Brock, their former manager Douglas Smith and Voiceprint’s MD Rob Ayling. And, having shied away from writing about Hawkwind for some time, it was good to start learning how to ‘work my material’ as it were. Record Collector also gave me the opportunity to interview MC5’s Wayne Kramer and also Suzanne Vega though sadly due to schedule pressures a planned telephone interview ended-up as an exchange of e-mails. A shame. I also wrote stacks of reviews for the magazine and got my name on the Waterboys guest-list at Colston Hall to review their Book of Lightning tour gig for the magazine. Quite what Mike Scott made of that, Lord knows!

I also made sales elsewhere, notably a thousand word interview with Hawkwind’s Alan Davey (now, unfortunately, former-Hawkwind bassist!) for Bass Guitar Magazine; I also interviewed Alan for the SpaceRock website Aural Innovations and did some PR work on his solo album, Human on the Outside. It’s been enormous fun working with Alan on this stuff in 2007. On a sadder note, I made my first sale to The Guardian which, whilst it ticked the box on my ‘to do’ list for the year in terms of writing for a national, was an obituary for Killing Joke’s Paul Raven, someone whose music I’d greatly enjoyed over the years.

So I guess I’ll feel that 2007 was a modestly successful writing year. I currently have another sizeable article in progress for Record Collector and, of course, the book projects. I need to continue to gather new customers for my music journalism and have a few promising pitches to send out in January. I’d like to be able to add ‘liner notes’ to my writing CV if the opportunity arises and I’ve enjoyed the PR work I’ve done so far and will look for more chances to work in this area if they arise. I need to build on my first national newspaper sale. My networking skills need a lot of work on them but I do need to get out and about and get myself better known – I was delighted when meeting Esoteric Records’ Mark Powell at Space Ritual’s 100 Club gig in October to discover that he not only recognised my name but even knew some of the stuff I’d written! But I’ve not been great at taking networking opportunities in 2007 and it’s a skill I’ve got to work on. I’d like to try my hand at some fiction, though I’ve never really seen myself as a fiction writer. And most importantly, I’ve got to keep pushing at other popular culture subjects for my journalism. And get an agent!