I make a vicarious living doing various jobs, having left full-time journalism at the start of 2018.
I keep my hand in, though, contributing album and concert reviews to The Herald newspaper in Glasgow, Scotland. If you’re into all things with wheels, I also write a fortnightly column for the weekend magazine.
I got into journalism in my late 20s, at first reviewing bands and restaurants for The List, a Scottish cultural magazine. I wasn’t much cop and earned hee-haw, so I thought: a qualification might help me improve and make a living from it. My goal was to lounge around in bars and the sitting rooms of tenement flats in Glasgow writing essays about The Blue Nile and Talk Talk for Uncut and the like. I realised not long after abandoning my jobs as a bar manager and tour manager that the course was built to turn me into either a newspaper reporter or a radio monkey, not an exorbitantly salaried aesthete. Having burned my bridges, though, I stuck with it. Print journalism was foundering but there were still opportunities for people like me, and it was better than buffing the egos of rock musicians or serving pints to hipsters, jobs that, while sporadically enjoyable, did little to engage my intellect.
After forgettable stints as a local newspaper reporter and a subeditor for Teletext (interspersed with European tours selling T-shirts for Belle and Sebastian and husbanding the backline of Icelandic collective Múm) I threw my lot in with my friend Raoul, who was starting a gardening magazine, The Northern Garden. The title was a commercial failure but I learned how to draw pages, edit awful prose and manipulate images.
When, after a year or so of sporadic publication, the magazine finally crashed and I found myself out of full-time work, the father of a friend gave me a break doing shifts at The Herald online to augment the income I was making from freelance sub-editing shifts. My skillset was OK and unlike many eager beginners I was in my early 30s, so I had a head start on the pack of ambitious journo pups with massive hopes but zero life experience. Soon I was a staff member and even sooner I had my dream job: production editor on The Herald Magazine, a heat-set, full-colour weekly supplement with three full-time writers, a full-time designer, a full-time picture editor and, above all, an editor in Kathleen Morgan who was and is a shining star.
Throughout more than a decade of endless flux and turbulence within the print newspaper industry, I clung on (Kathleen, the designer, the writing team, the full-time picture editor and the heat-set printing were gone in no time) and started writing (mostly) about artists and groups whose music made me happy. These were usually published in the weekly and daily arts pages of The Herald as well as the Sunday Herald, all thanks to arts editor Keith Bruce and his predecessor Alan Morrison. I also wrote for The Quietus, a great website covering underground art, music and culture.