Could you tell me a bit about how Soundsphere started up?
It started up in 2008 as a website. The website idea came from when I finished my Masters degree. I produced a great, niche Gothic music publication specific to the North.
I met a guy in a club in Leeds (Kieran Schlecter), told him about my idea and he jokingly well I thought jokingly said that he’d design a website for me. So, this is it, he designed this website out of nothing. So, I was looking for work but I had this dream that I wanted to live, to do it for myself and be a magazine journalist, so I started looking at bands.
I started with local bands at first, to start out small. I was based in Hull at the time, so I looked at bands from Hull, from York and around the Yorkshire region. It was very Goth, very metal and I built this website up. And then a friend of mine (and current film collaborator Mike Leigh Cooper), an ex-student from York St John told me the University was offering a thousand pounds worth of funding for new businesses, for graduates of York St John. I graduated from my first degree in 2007 from York St John. So, I went and did a very small, very Dragon’s Den-style pitch to a panel of judges at York St John University, passed round this terribly designed masterpiece and told them this was what I wanted to do, but proper. And they gave me a thousand pounds, and my challenge then was to work out how to fund it. So I went to a colleague that had worked with a magazine in Hull for a number of years called 24Seven Lifestyle, a lifestyle and culture publication, and she scored me a deal with the printers to print a thousand copies for a thousand pounds. So I set about doing that. I had to find a designer, I used a local agency.
How long was this process taking?
It was about four months of planning. I used a local creative agency called Creative Protege who runs under the name Nugenko now. Through working with the people at York St John who’d given me the money, we kind of built up a relationship, one of them (Heather Niven of Creative York) was mentoring me and put me in touch with Ian Rigby (Creative Protege) who in turn introduced me to my designer (Jamie Mahon) and we set about creating this magazine with my vision and his design skills. We wanted to do something very different, so we built an alternative music publication, but it was also focused on niche genres, so we had Goth, we had metal, we had local indie, and post punk bands. It was very niche, and it was very Northern, which is what I wanted at that time. After about a four month period with a residency in the Phoenix centre, my mentor took me through the whole application process, through costs and projections. While I was getting the magazine together, the website was going from strength to strength; I was interviewing massive bands that I never dreamed of interviewing. Niche bands, but very big within that niche; like Gary Numan and Paradise Lost for example. We began sourcing writers from the students union, obviously the website built and we got more bands in.
How do you source your writers?
Basically through York St John, York University and a series of Uni’s across the North (Manchester, Leeds, Sheffield and so on).
Half of it was people coming to us and saying they’d seen our interview with Rammstein, Incubus, or a favourite of theirs and asking if they could write for us. We’d ask them to send us some of their work, and tell us what previous background they have. We’re not too severe; you don’t have to have a Masters. You have to have real interest. We tend to ask them what their favourite bands are so we can distribute music accordingly. A lot of them are very eager and not looking for pay, they just want experience, and that’s what we do, and we give them paid work if possible. There are options for the writers that are dedicated and stay with us. You have to muck around and rely on people being really nice. I always wanted to be the editor that had no time, but still made time for people. My main ambition is to interview great bands and live my dream, but alongside that Soundsphere is about nurturing great talent in and around York (and around the North of England mainly), at York St John and building relationships with institutions around the country, because what’s the point in having all these great bands to interview if there’s no one to do it with? It’s nice to have other people being as excited as I am. It’s a great privilege for me to be able to help people out.
What would you say the obvious criteria are, besides enthusiasm?
Enthusiasm is great. A desire to study and work within journalism. You have to realise that you can’t just walk into it nowadays. It helps to have some kind of qualification. You have to be open minded, you have to be persistent. You don’t have to have a killer instinct. You know, you don’t have to be the guy that wants to step on somebody else to get where you want to be. Persistence and enthusiasm are the two main things. Unless you show people you really want to do it, nobody’s going to pay attention. Free work in lots of York and London based publications; like One&Other which is a good example here. There are great publications around the North. They won’t all be music related, so you may have to write for a culture magazine, or you might need to get experience at the local radio. I did a bit of local news, weather… I had a go at it all because you need to show that you’re not just a music journalist. I think it’s great to be well rounded. You need to show that you’re diverse and can use as many different styles of writing. Build relationships. Relationships are key. Sometimes you’re more likely to get a job from a mate who works in the industry (in my experience anyway) than you are just applying for it. There’s no reason why you can’t do a short work placement at your local newspaper. Make tea, tea is essential! Go on placements, be generous and stand out. Be nice but show your passion. People will remember you and give you the time of day. It’s about making contacts and about being as passionate as you can. Everybody wants to do it, but not everybody can do it quite as well as you, or to the point where they’ll work for free.
How would you see your magazine as being received?
I would say with the first magazine, we did very well within the Goth and metal niche. In the second issue, people really started to pay attention from our involvement with bigger labels and more commercially accessible artists. You know, we had artists such as Patrick Wolf in the new issue to Pendulum and Patrick Stump from Fall Out Boy. We were getting bands like this, so half of it was me thinking why not diversify? Also, not all the writers wanted to write about metal music. They wanted to experience indie music, electronic, local and international bands. So we decided to work with our writers, and not be exclusive. We didn’t want to stay in the dark and heavier music. We still cover that, which a lot of mainstream magazines don’t incorporate, but we do the more commercially accessible stuff as well. We try to stay within the alternative, so we offer an alternative to pop music, for example. The main genres we cover are heavy metal, rock, indie and electronica. The magazine has been really well received from all sources; we’ve had some really good feedback. We had a much clearer vision, much cleaner and more colourful.
It sounds like an evolving product. What do you see for the future?
I see us just keep growing and developing. Continue working with our writers, and a lot of what they want to do providing it’s within the remit we discussed. Locally sourcing talent to push the brand forward, so more magazines, and with more people bringing them closer into the team.
If people wanted to pick up a copy of Soundsphere, where would they go?
Well, they can go to the site, and they can also get it in a variety of venues in York ((Heaven Forbid! is one example) Hull, and Leeds (Music Non Stop) and in some record stores. In Manchester you can get it in Tokyo Royale, in London you can get it in Resurrection Records. If you’re in America, you can get it from FiXT Music, an online store there.
Soundsphere are hosting a gig this coming Friday at Bar Lane Studios. Check here for more details.