Tomorrow, Davy Reed is headed up to Manchester to hand deliver 12,000 copies of Crack magazine. A true team effort- everyone chips in to make sure underground music fans across England can have their dose of Crack’s culture. As junior editor, he faces responsibility for checking the content of all the fields Crack moves in, but his writing focuses on the US hip-hop scene. Here, we talk Bagel Boy, Simple Things Festival, and gender in the underground music scene.
Crack found itself on the ladder of respectability by issue five through their interview with James Murphy of LCD Soundsystem. The publication has since branched out into programmes including The Warehouse Project, and Outlook, as well as being part of the team behind influential music events. Founders Jake and Tom are childhood friends who grew the cultural compendium that is Crack, from a blog after being reunited in Bristol, their home town. As a free publication, Crack makes its money from advertisement revenue. An obligation to quality, and specific criteria, the adverts are always appropriate to the articles that fit the brand’s mantra. No evil corporations advertise here.
Davy moved from Newcastle down to Bristol in 2008. The WesternEye gave him a platform to kick-start the writing career that Stool Pigeon and old copies of Mojo had ignited in him. Despite having little idea of what Bristol was all about before the move, it only took a walk around Stokes Croft on a sunny day to be convinced that this was the city for him. ‘The first real night I went to was at the old fire station, an Invisible Circus night. That was absolutely mad, that was the first night I realised there was loads of mad s**t going on here.’
While still at uni, Davy sent the Crack team some of his writing but nothing came of it. So he set off to Crack’s headquarters and asked to write for them. ‘For about a year I… was bugging them with anything I could, and asking for feedback. Eventually they started trusting me with interviews.’ What started off as a 25 hour a week unpaid internship, has evolved into a career with a full-time wage.
‘Chuck D [of Public Enemy] was the first [interview] that really felt real. Ghostfaced killer was pretty surreal. [I] went and interviewed him and he was lying in his bed, eating a big bag of pretzels, it was like I was reading him a bed time story or something. Little Dragon was one of the early ones I did [May 2012] and I was a bit too nervous to enjoy that. It’s funny to overcome that initial anxiety, and learn how to plan your questions and how to frame things, especially when you can meet some unpredictable, undisciplined characters’.
But it wasn’t plain sailing from degree to Crack. After graduating, Davy went from being on the dole, to working in ASDA, to being on the dole again, to getting sacked from a frozen yogurt company on his first day, ‘I was gutted about it, I even got the hat with the little angel wings on it’. To add to the job hunt stress, the papers were full of news about the Coalition’s latest scheme to lower unemployment rates; workfare. He has concerns about the impact of schemes like workfare on smaller or alternative publications. It seemed the only outcome of compulsory work experience was free labour for companies and less time for individuals to gain valuable job experience. This was especially awkward as the foot-in-the-door for most careers requires at least a small amount of unpaid work or time as an intern. ‘It’s not black-and-white, because most small companies, like art companies, media companies and publications – no-one’s getting rich off this, no one’s making a lot of money, it wouldn’t exist without that. Personally if I wasn’t able to claim some sort of benefit and get some sort of support after university, I wouldn’t of been able to do what I do now’.
London is a much harder scene to get experience in, Davy tells me how you’re often required to do an indefinite amount of unpaid work, ‘it’s basically totally excluding anyone who isn’t privileged enough to get financial support from their parents’. Davy believes this jeopardises what he terms ‘serious media’s’ neutrality, and objectiveness. ‘Even supposedly left-wing publications like the guardian, the vast majority of staff are privately educated. That affects the media so the coverage and the people aren’t as sympathetic and they’re dominating. There are people who abuse the system, I guess, but the people who write about these issues can’t have as much compassion because they haven’t directly experienced these problems.’
To counter this distorted view in the press, Davy points to schemes such as one UWE has run, where media outlets like ‘Encounters Festival’ work with the university to get students and graduates from all backgrounds into media.
Following the Leveson inquiry, Davy still leans towards supporting total freedom of press, without government regulation. He did find the public’s reaction about ethics and practises in media inspirational, and believes the modern age of strong online communities means it’s harder to pull the wool over people’s eyes; as the Daily Mail are discovering after publishing controversial remarks about Ralph Miliband, the public are providing their own checks and balances. ‘There’s more transparency and these things come to light. There can be solidarity online against these publications. At the minute with the government and their ideology, I don’t think they give a s**t about anyone, they’re perfectly happy with privileged white men doing coverage to favour privileged white men’.
Davy found refuge in the world of bar tending, specifically the Social on Cheltenham road. ‘I think [bar work] is quite good ‘cos if you have other projects you have all these free days… [also] the Crack guys are a totally independent team, with flexibility for their staff, and the freedom to develop their journalists in their own time-frame. It was one of these things I think if I’d gone to London I’d have really struggled, ‘cos a lot of the bigger publications and companies, they get so many people in, and it’s less personal and a lot of them just demand for an unspecified amount of time – completely full time hours. So I don’t think I would’ve been able to do that’.
Davy isn’t keen on the idea of networking; that idea of blurring the boundaries between professional interests and socialising. He advocates Bristol’s laid back attitude, pointing out that the nature of many promoters’ names revolve around concepts of love. ‘Maybe if I was in London, you’d be going out and things to these like yuppy bars and like schmoozing and that’s like, I’m just too awkward to be good at that but like here, you know these relationships professionally seem to develop naturally’.
Davy was at Simple Things Festival in mid-October, which took place in venues across Bristol. His role was interviewing and enjoying the marvels of controversial – ‘but in a positive way’ – transvestite US born rapper Mykki Blanco who is ‘really pushing the boundaries, with confrontational lyrics’… Over the last couple years [there’s been] more acceptance of non-heterosexual cultures, it’s been really big. Mykki Blancos kind of been at the forefront of that so thats been cool to have that on’. He also really enjoyed These New Puritans whose latest album Fields of Reeds, is his album of the year.
Crack journalist Anna Tehabsim, interviewed Nina Kravizin the aftermath of her RA video which brought into the forefront of discussions about gender and sexuality within underground dance music. Davy feels Maceo Plex’s initial negative comments towards the video were uncalled for. ‘One thing about dance culture, and rave culture, its origins, are from queer culture, and… this un-gendered space, it’s not like the conventional kind of club culture, which is essentially for the male gaze. The last thing you want when exploring this alternative music is for it to get polluted by all the misogynistic creeps’.
These days, Davy’s living off Bagel Boy, and no greasy spoon or restaurant can entice him away from their bagel-y goodness.