KIMBERLY BRIGHT (WRITER)

I first encountered Pennyblackmusic in 2013 when I was researching a post for another website. I read it often from 2014 on, especially when chatting with a friend whose knowledge about '90s-'10s UK indie bands is downright intimidating. There are a lot of British indie artists who were basically ignored in the US. I appreciated the writers' enthusiastic, knowledgeable, and warm tone. That friendly good humour was something I greatly missed from other major music publications and websites whose level of venomous snarkiness has gotten uncomfortably high.

I was pleased to join the website as a writer in 2016 and right away had the chance to interview Penny Rimbaud from Crass, something I'd wanted to do for years. Most of us are on the far side of forty, so I don't feel like a decrepit old crone struggling to understand everyone else's cultural references - although I've still never actually seen a 'Blue Peter' episode.

I love Keith How's 'Under the Radar' column about little-known artists, which is going to keep me busy for years.

Pennyblackmusic is a wonderful resource run by a fine team, and I'm grateful to have found it.


DASTARDLY (WRITER)

Hello! Dastardly calling from deep SE18...

I guess ever since 1988 when I decided that ‘music’ was a better thing to pursue than just simply ‘money‘ I’ve found myself wanting to share my discoveries with whoever would listen. Usually this would just be a phone conversation about a gig or the latest amazing album I’d come across, but then about ten years ago I started writing things down and posting them online. In 2012 I met editor John Clarkson at a Pennyblack night at the Half Moon in Herne Hill and he agreed to include my witterings in the mag. So, thanks John! Thanks for always being encouraging and more importantly for putting in the hours to keep the whole show going.

Lastly, I was watching the BBC4 hippie documentary last night and it mentioned the Digger’s Free Shop in San Francisco and an anecdote about a lady coming in to the store and attempting to shoplift. One of the Diggers explained to her it was a free store so you can’t actually steal anything...she snapped something back at him but then the next day turned up with a tray full of doughnuts. Made me think of Pennyblack anyway and how the internet has given it a kind of shopfront for er, free musical doughnuts. Or something...

Peace!


DIXIE ERNILL (WRITER)

I can't fully recall how I came across Pennyblackmusic about fifteen years ago. Was it something to do with the Flatmates and a blog that Martin Whitehead was doing? I really can't be sure.

What I can be sure about was the thrill I felt when John Clarkson agreed that I could submit a review, which would be of a gig the Experimental Pop Band did in Berlin. John liked it and so it began, a journey that enabled me to see some amazing gigs for free - including an after show pass for a Tindersticks gig that allowed me to reminisce with the band about how I'd blagged my way backstage at one of their gigs some twenty years earlier, and interview some of my favourite artists such as telephoning Robert Forster (of the Go Betweens fame) in Brisbane and chatting for an hour to fellow Aussie Elizabeth Morris of Allo Darlin' from the boardroom of my office. All things that would not have been possible without Pennyblackmusic.

My proudest moments, however, have been being able to put on three successful band nights, alongside John, the guy who gave me the chance all those years ago, promoting the various exploits of my musical hero Davey Woodward.

Here's to the next twenty years!


GILLIAN FISH (WRITER)

Happy Twentieth Birthday Pennyblackmusic! I first started writing for the site in 2013 after I was introduced to our webmaster Richard Banks via my sister's partner, after a couple of email chats with John I was soon writing my first article – a review of former Razorlight drummer Andy Burrows' solo gig. Since then I’ve had so many great experiences writing for Pennyblack from covering the Live at Leeds festival and Sound City in Liverpool to interviewing Bluetones front-man Mark Morriss (aka the first ‘proper’ band I loved) to being allowed to vent my frustration towards the organisers of the BST festival in Hyde Park. I’ve only made it to a couple of Pennyblack gatherings in London but when I have it’s always good to put faces to names! John is always encouraging and open to ideas and just generally a great editor for all of us. So congratulations Pennyblackmusic on reaching such a big milestone, here’s to many more!


MARIE HAZELWOOD (PHOTOGRAPHER)

The first I ever heard about Pennyblackmusic was when writer Richard Lewis mentioned it to me in at a gig at the Leaf Cafe, Liverpool in 2011. “You should email John” he said, “he is a cool guy.”

And I did. I was fairly new to the world of music photographers at that time. I had been working for two publications, getting my way around the local network, shooting pretty much anything I was offered.

So, I emailed John and few days afterwards we spoke on the phone. It was a very friendly phone call, I was excited when I hung up. I was hungry, and was ready for more.

The stigma of being new around the block was always frustrating. I saw other photographers getting all the hot stuff, whereas I would cover stuff no one wanted or could be bothered aboit. That was the first thing that struck me at Pennyblack. There was no hierarchy or insider politics. You didn’t need to kiss ass and do your bit before you ever saw a big band. I never felt like I had to prove anything to get something in return.

Over the years I have shot some of the biggest bands for Pennyblack - two consecutive Arctic Monkeys tours, we covered Noel Gallagher High Flying Birds as well as a beautiful show of The Last Shadow Puppets where Alex Turner sang ‘The Meeting Place’ at dusk to 10,000 people at Castlefield Bowl in Manchester.

When I first emailed John after seeing Catfish and The Bottlemen at X&Y festival in Liverpool back in 2012 and told him “they are the next thing” he didn’t laugh (like most people did. He said “Let’s put a gallery up and see if we can get more”.

Pennyblack covered Catfish from the very early days. Way before anyone else had heard of them.

This is something I have always admired about Pennyblack -the freedom. They understand that it is my choice who to cover and which gigs. I never felt like there was an obligation to do a certain amount of gigs in a certain timeframe.

I have always considered John as a friend, not “the editor.” That fully came to life when my partner (and fellow Pennyblack writer) Harry Sherriff had a chance to meet him in rainy London for a Starbucks on Tottenham Court Road and later on at a Bands Night in Manchester.

Considering that I don’t cover as many gigs as I used to, I know there is always a place for me at Pennyblack. And that’s what I like about the magazine. It feels like home.


KEITH HOW (WRITER AND 'UNDER THE RADAR' COLUMNIST)

I arrived at Pennyblack by default really. Fellow PB writer Nicky Crewe and myself were contributors to Sheffield’s finest underground ‘zine 'Sloucher, the brainchild of one Samuel Valdez Lopez who documented much of Sheffield’s underground scene during his studies at the University. After Sam returned to Mexico he put 'Sloucher' to bed and so we were sort of “Out of Work”. I’m not sure how Nicky came to write for Pennyblack, but one evening over tea and cake she encouraged me to get in touch with John Clarkson.

John kindly gave me a trial run in 2015 and the rest is history. I do remember submitting my first reviews and John, with his usual gentleness and diplomacy, thought I might like to re-evaluate my thoughts. It was then I realised a different approach to reviewing was needed. Sam’s approach for 'Sloucher' was more of a “creative writing” and “experimental” angle, whereas 'Pennyblack' reviews needed to take a more considered and thoughtful path.

John was (and is) really encouraging and relaxed during this bedding in period and when I suggested the idea of 'Under the Radar' he thought it was an idea worth running with.

I have always been a sonic explorer. I blame John Peel for opening my mind and ears back in the mid 1960’s. All my life I have been in search of music and artists who are not in the mainstream yet making great music. With the advent of social media, Bandcamp and Soundcloud suddenly it became easier for the underground and overlooked music scene to gain an audience. I wondered if a column bringing to light some of the more obscure musicians that I discover might be interesting for readers.

John is immensely supportive and trusting and makes being part of the team something really special. I am sure we all feel the same way.







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