Artist Spotlight: Journalist Russell Deeks

For this week’s featured interview we’ve taken it to a whole new level as we try to find out about music from the critics.  Once the idea hit us we’ve been super excited about this one!  Music journalists are an often forgotten element of the music puzzle, but let’s face it, without these music lovers spending time and energy discovering and shouting about great music, sooo much of it would get lost.

This thought in mind we had a short chat with a man who’s seen, written and shouted more than most.  He’s a fellow blogger and has been one of i-DJ‘s main writers for years… up to the Lostinmusik’s interview podium steps Russell Deeks.

When did you first discover music and summary of your history:
I grew up in a houseful of teenagers as a small boy, so was always surrounded by music. In my time I’ve been a mod, punk, goth, hippy and raver. I’m still all of those things at heart!
The best night of your life was…
There’ve been a lot, many of them slightly blurry… but musically, DJing to an appreciative floor always takes some beating.
Music makes you…
Sound better with you. Oh no hang on that’s not right…
Your guiltiest pleasure is…
Country & western. Blame part of my childhood spent in the US of A.
You got into music journalism by…
Doing a punk rock fanzine with my mate Duncan when we were 15, and discovered guest lists and free records, how could a boy resist?
A typical day as music journalist involves…
No such thing. But it often involves ploughing through piles and piles of crap music (especially now you have to download files and not just open a record mailer), getting increasing hacked off with it allÉ and then finding that nugget that has you bouncing around the room, and suddenly it’s all worth it.
How do you think music will develop in the future?
Bit of an impossible question, but you can be assured that everything that CAN be invented hasn’t been yet. Who in 1970 would have predicted punk six years down the line, or who in 1980 would have imagined rave culture? Come to that, imagine what jazz would have sounded like to someone in 1900 – like music from the future. Which it was, of course.
What’s your one tip for people wanting to be music journalists?
If you want to write, read! The English language is your tool set, so learn how to use it. Read books. And know your music, ALL music. This is why I have Barry Manilow, Wagner and death metal on my record shelves. Oh yeah, and learn to touch-type. It’ll make your working life tons easier and if things are slack you can always go temp’ing! I did in my early days.
What’s the funniest thing that happened to you as a journalist?
Oh god so many stories, not all of them printable. You get to meet a lot of your heroes, but that’s not always a good thing. And there’s plenty of room for getting yourself into drunken scrapes (though I’m living sober now, and happier for it)
When you find great music you …?
Bounce around the room. Cry. Pull silly faces. Play the same record 15 times in a row. Same stuff as you, I expect.
The most important thing an artist can do when sending their music to journalists is…
Make sure you supply all the relevant information, like what label it’s on, when it’s coming out, etc. And send a picture. About 50% of what I get sent doesn’t stand a chance because people don’t grasp these basic principles: there’s not tine to chase these things when other people, whose music is just as good, HAVE bothered.
Do you think there is a common element you notice as journalist that tells you an artist is seriously hot?
I think a key thing is when someone’s taking an established form but putting a new twist on it. Those are the records that stand out, yet don’t alienate the listener.
Are journalists often facing industry pressures to promote people, if so how do you deal with them ?
Not as much as you might think to be honest, especially not now that the record industry has no money and isn’t advertising in magazines! You do get nagged by PRs constantly but you learn to ignore that.
Almost Famous was a great film about groupies, and the whole 70’s era of Rolling Stone writers following bands on the road. How is that situation compare to today and the electronic scene?
Sadly those 60s-70s-80s days of glamour and excess are pretty much over. We all like to party but there’s a job to be done – and you won’t last long in a VERY competitive industry if you’re not doing yours properly. Which is a shame in some ways!
Favourite producer(s):
In dance music RIGHT NOW, I’m very excited about a whole new wave of deep house producers coming up right across Europe – young guys putting their own twist on the deep house blueprint. In dance music of all time then a lot of the more underground New York guys like Victor Simonelli, Tommy Musto, Eric Kupper real deal 90s garage shizzle.
Plans for the future?
Get more sleep, and try and keep up with the constant stream of promos! And try and embrace the online side of journalism more before print dies a death and I become a dinosaur. I already have pretty useless forearms…
If you want to keep up with Russell’s musical discovery’s check out his excellent blog ‘This is why we Dance‘ for daily updates on great new dance music. And as always you can find his fine words in each month’s i-DJ.
As we continue this series of exploring the thoughts behind artists, producers, music industry dons, let us know what you think and if there are any people you’d love to hear from and we’ll do our best to hit them up!
One final thing: Next time you send some promo’s to blogs, journalists etc do as Russell say’s – make sure to include
  • contact details
  • web links,
  • press shots,
  • release date,
  • where you can buy/download it,
  • and last but not least – info on yourselves!

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