During my eight years with Pennyblackmusic, I have done heaps of interviews and reviews, some more memorable than others for various reasons. But if we are talking memorable in a bad way, I can only think of an interview I did with Bid, frontman of the legendary band the Monochrome Set. I was a long-time fan of his music, and had a lot of questions for him that I e-mailed and waited for quite some time for his reply. When I finally got his answers back, I couldn't help but feeling a bit disappointed. All his answers was either "yes" or "no", not much to write an article from. So, I had to start reading old interviews on the internet, and read about his career in books in order to write my article...

On the positive side, I have to mention Malcolm Eden, singer and guitarist with McCarthy, one of my all-time favourite bands. I accidently found his e-mail on the internet, and asked him if I could do an interview with him. He agreed, and that started off a correspondence that would go on for more than a year. Today, almost seven years later, we are still in touch from time to time. God bless the internet!


On the first occasion I interviewed a band in person, I was bought my evening meal and handed a bag full of free albums. Naturally, the bar had been set unrealistically high so this remains my favourite Pennyblackmusic memory.

Rydell had produced, in my eyes, 2001‘s best album, ‘Per Ardua Ad Astra’. When it emerged that they lived half an hour away, in Tunbridge Wells, it seemed the ideal chance to break my interview duck. David Gamage, guitarist and Milo Brooker, singer, weren’t put off by the fact that I was a nerdy seventeen year old at the time, and were as enthusiastic about music - their own and other people’s - as anyone I have met.

A lot of people I admire detest critics. Indeed, PG Wodehouse began one novel by hoping that a reviewer of his last book had been eaten by a bear. But when I was a teenager, I really wanted to be one, and having reached the dizzying heights of my early twenties, I’m still incredibly grateful that anyone at all bothers to take an interest in my opinions.

I’ve also found out about brilliant bands that I certainly wouldn’t have noticed otherwise. I hope that some other people were able to get as much pleasure as I have from the Beauty Shop, the Len Price Three, Coastal, Simpatico, Airport Girl, Lorna, the Windmills and, of course, Rydell, and that there will be many more to come in Pennyblackmusic‘s second decade.


I graduated from university in June 2005 and was then left with the unenviable task which many of us “adults” (using the term very loosely) are faced with of deciding “what the fuck do I do now?” I didn’t have much of a plan but eventually decided the best thing to do was to leave the country and move to Canada for a while.

Before embarking on this adventure I had started writing for Pennyblackmusic, partly for fun, partly for the experience and port folio building element, but mostly for the love of music.

The one big adventure between graduating and fleeing the country, which also doubled up as my first live review for the magazine, was going to the Leeds Festival. With the tickets all sorted and everything in place I was excited to go down, just for the one day, as several of my favourite bands were playing, Incubus, Funeral For a Friend and Alkaline Trio, among many others.

I hoped it would be a fun day and that I could do them justice and that I would have lots to write about. About five minutes after leaving Sunderland, my city of residence, my car decided to do me a massive favour and die a death. The fact that I could practically see the office where I was temping at the time only served to rub this in further.

Never mind though, the RAC can fix things, can’t they ? – “No sorry mate I think you need a new engine”, said the engineer after poking inside the bonnet for a few minutes. Forgive my repetition of his original words ! I ain’t no mechanic but was pretty sure that’s bad news. Never mind though, we had left plenty of time to catch a bus down. So off we went on the back of a tow truck to the car doctor where they set about repairing whatever damage I’d unwittingly inflicted on the poor contraption.

Now we had to find an alternative means of getting to Leeds. We’d missed all the buses that would have got there before the evening, so that was a no go. The next stop was a car rental place. Unfortunately the only hireable vehicle was a van – even better, this made things much better, alpha male satisfaction there. After completing all the paper work I fell foul of the final question of “How many points are there on your license?” It was three too many for me to be left in control of something as vast as a van it seemed.

It was yet another notch on the ‘rom-com-ery’ of the day I was having in which everything went wrong. A few phone calls and a less suspicious rental company later, we finally managed to get on the road to Leeds. Driving as closely to the speed limit as possible all the way down, we got there guttingly enough to hear Alkaline Trio playing out their set.

I did get to witness probably my favourite band ever Incubus and also saw the mighty Iron Maiden play the set out, so all in all it wasn’t completely bad day after all.

All I could think of on the way home was how much more interesting this whole adventure would read and surely enough it made for a good tale and was a good baptism of fire if you will, to having the platform of Penny Black Music to discuss my wacky antics.

My car still works today. I still have about the same amount of luck, and still haven’t quite figured out what the fuck to do with my life.


I've discovered a lot of new bands through Pennyblackmusic but the one that sticks out most is the Shortwave Set. I was introduced to the Shortwave Set when I saw them live supporting Goldfrapp. They stood out and were a highlight of an already fantastic gig.

I went on to interview Andrew Petitt from the band. It was great to get behind the music and chat to him about living in London as I was thinking about moving to the capital at the time.

Since then I've seen the band headlining thier own gig. It was great to see them playing their new material and also to see how much their fanbase had grown. They are now one of my favourite bands, I'm sure I'd have come across them eventually, but without PB I'd have missed the beginning of their career and never got to chat to Petitt about their music - definitely an experience to remember.


This is year 10 for Pennyblackmusic and I think I have been here for a bit over nine of them. And while I feel like I should say it doesn't seem like it has been that long, it really does seem like it has been that long!

I first heard of Pennyblackmusic via the indiepop list. I can't remember whatthe original message was or what made me write back to John, nor can I remember the last time I was on the indiepop list. I think the first review I wrote for Pennyblackmusic was for an album by Motion Picture. I had a radio show on KSCU, the radio station of Santa Clara University, at the time. I was in graduate school at another college, but I liked the radio station at Santa Clara better, so I ended up there. All of that really seems like a lifetime ago. It was at least 4 girlfriends, 6 apartments, 2 cars and 2 jobs ago. Crazy.

Hmmm, so what do I remember ? Interviewing Patrick Goldstein, the man behind the incredible sounds of Goldstoned. Catching up with Lovejoy frontman Richard Preece on two occasions. Interviewing Greg Prickman and actually feeling like it might be the first time that many people heard of Chuzzlewit. Writing some reviews that were more "creative writing" than helpful review. Writing reviews as I flew around the US or sat in some hotel room while on a work trip. Always making John remind me that deadlines were coming up and then giving me an extra day or two to get him something (just like he did for this...). And of course, the times I actually got to meet up with some of the Pennyblackmusic people in London.

Prior to going to London for a Pennyblackmusic night in 2003, I really only knew John via emails and occasional phone calls. I knew of some of the other writers just from their reviews, but nothing else. So when I actually showed up in London, I was a bit nervous about meeting the other writers. Would they all be indie hipster kids ? Would they accept some lone Yank into the fold ? Would I be able to understand them ? Would we have anything to talk about ? As it turned out, John had managed to attract a rather diverse group of people, from young to old-ish (I was in the latter camp), from hipster to hooligan (not really, but I wanted to pick on Jonjo!), from various parts of the world, and all of whom I could understand!

For some reason, I can't seem to find any photos of all the people I met on these trips. And I would probably only recognize a few of them if I ran into them on the street. Yet, somehow it is the people involved with Pennyblackmusic that I really think of at this time. At that, I'd like to thank John and the others who were there for the fun times in London and all of the other writers and photographers who have given up some of their freetime to to be part of this. Look forward to meeting up with everyone again sometime soon. And this time I will definitely take pictures !


September 25 2007 is the day Eamon Hamilton from Brakes became my sworn enemy. Was it something he said ? Yes, it was. Eamon’s from the West Country, like me, and it turns out that years ago, in the mid 80's, he attended a Pixies gig at Gloucester Leisure – a gig I hadn’t been able to go to for some stupid reason or other that I can’t even remember. For years, I managed to cloak my regret by convincing myself it would have been useless anyway – Gloucester Leisure Centre has the sound quality of an aircraft hangar.

But then Eamon went and ruined everything by telling me: “I remember I went in and wanted to put my coat behind the sound desk, so I turned to this bloke and asked if it would be OK, and he said, ‘Yeah, man, no problem.’ Then I looked up and it was Joey Santiago! It was the first proper gig I’d been to and it was amazing.”

So not only did he see the Pixies when I didn’t and the gig was a blast, plus he got to meet the guitar god known as Joey Santiago. Salt, wound, etc. He went on to tell me he thought there was a bootleg recording of the gig somewhere out there but I think we both know it’s not the same. Sorry, Eamon – there are some things you should keep to yourself and that was one of them. I’m sure you’ve been thinking about getting in touch ever since. I’m positive. Okay, call me next century. I might be over it then…

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