Peer to Peer with JOE MUGGS

Peer to Peer is a brand new interview series on the Weekly Review of Dance Music where I chat with writers in the music industry who are all very much on my level. I'll be knocking about with the great and the good dance documenters in much the same way as Elvis Presley might have had a drink with Muhammad Ali, or The Beatles might have shared a recording studio with Pablo Picasso. Know what I mean?

On Saturday morning, I lounged around smugly in the foyer of The Connaught with one of the worlds best dance music writers and shared more than three bottles of Veuve Cliquot yellow label posh booze, several bags of prawn cocktail crisps and one really long conversation. If you've bought a copy of Mi**ag or the Guardian Guide in the last few years, or read any online dance music magazine you'll be aware of the name, Joe Muggs. If you still haven't got a fucking clue who he is, go straight to the first question and find out. He's up there with the likes of me, Philip Sherburne, Thomas Cox and Kristan J Caryl at the very top of a very small mound of very good international music writers.

What is this not? Peer to Peer is not a cynical plan for me to associate myself, and WRDM, with more established and critically acclaimed writers with a view to securing PAID work with larger organisations and selling myself down the canal; it is simply an educational tool and a reference for all of my younger readers who are looking to get into music journalism. Peer to Peer is a bit like the RA Exchanges, but without the brown-nosing. Read on and think on, kids.

Here is the transcript of our conversation, transcribed by Joe's personal assistant, Pauline.


Q. For anyone unfamiliar with the name Joe Muggs, could you tell them who you are, what you do and why you do it?
A. I'm Joe, I'm 40, I listen to brostep in the kitchen while eating crisps, because I haven't really grown up.

Q. Was establishing yourself as a music journalist really hard or easy peasy?
A. It was really, really hard. Even after I'd started getting regular jobs for national papers I still had a part-time day-job at a GP surgery for several years - so I'd be flown to New York to interview Sean Paul or Vienna to spend three days hanging out with Basement Jaxx, then the next day I'd be on the phone to a district nurse about an OAP's louse infestation. Gave me a sense of perspective I suppose.

Q. At the moment, I feel like the Mad Rapper in Life After Death compared to a few other certain dance writers. How long did you feel like the Mad Rapper before you stopped being bitter and started working harder to get recognised for your writing genius?
A. Actually, because I didn't start taking journalism seriously until I was about 30, I've always felt pretty fortunate to get ANY work when I was surrounded by people who'd been hustling away and honing their skills from the age of 16.

Q. You write for loads of different on and offline magazines and papers now. Who's cock/pussy are you sucking/licking for you to have so much work coming your way?
A. Standard Faustian pact. I'm going to be George Osborne's helmet polisher in hell for all eternity.

Q. Clap or snare?
A. v v v v v v v

Q. How did you come up with the moniker, Joe Muggs, as a writing name? Did you ever toy with prefixing your name with initials, like a proper writer, or suffixing it with something more exciting and futuristic like Da Word Masha (Joe Da Word Masha) or Da Sentence Freak (Joe Da Sentence Freak)?
A. Rather prosaically, I was performing at a spoken word event many years ago, and the promoter found "Mugford" too long for his poster, so shortened it, and it stuck. Only later did I discover that I was now a chain of coffee shops in book stores in America. I do have some other aliases though - you may have seen my work published here and there as 'Caitlin Moran' or 'Simon Reynolds'.

Q. Talk me through your working process, from a practical level. How do you write your articles? Are you an all day note maker like me or do you dedicate blocks of time to whatever you're working on and plough through? Or are your methods secret?
A. I spend all day acting a berk on Facebook, and then write everything in double quick flurries of panic.

Q. What equipment do you use for your work? (E.g. I use an Apple iPad2 and my Nokia 100 mobile phone for notes before transferring to my black Samsung laptop for completion in Microsoft Word. All artwork is done using Google Images, YouTube, Snipping Tool and Microsoft Paint.)
A. I record interviews on my iPhone, then type everything on my Macbook Air which is covered in smudges and banana-scented scratch-and-sniff monkey stickers which the kids put on, and has the "r" and "fn" keys falling off. I never meant to be a Mac geek but the distribution company I do A&R for bought me a computer in lieu of a raise one year, and then I succumbed to getting an iPhone because "they work well together". And I use GIMP to draw think-bubbles onto photos of Kanye West.

Q. I was on a panel of speakers at this year’s LEME discussing the future of music journalism. I embarrassed myself by being drunk, zoning out half way through, not being funny and not being able to articulate myself in any way compared to the other people on the panel. What is the future of music journalism?
A. I have done much the same. I would like to think it's - a co-operative of specialist journalists, trusting one another to represent their particular specialism to its best advantage. I strongly suspect that if paid journalism in any specialist fields is going to survive at all, it'll be through some kind of enlightened corporate patronage - Red Bull and Bandcamp being good examples of people who are sponsoring good and more-or-less independent music writing - but honestly: fuck knows.

Q. Nine times out of ten, the DJ will look incredibly serious in press photographs whilst their personality off camera is usually properly fucking ecstatic about life. Are the media demands for moody looking DJs appropriate given that the DJs and the people who actually go to clubs get high, play/listen to their favourite music and have some of the happiest times of their lives? Know what I mean? We're not talking grunge or emo. It's fucking dance music.
A. So you'd prefer magazines full of Fatboy Slim then?

Fatboy Slim, enjoying his job.

Q. Stone cold sober or absolutely fucking terminated?
A. Well, my wife and I did once invent a cocktail called The Peckham Nosedive: 50ml cornershop vodka and 50ml Benylin, stirred well, over ice.

Q. As a professional writer, do you see yourself sticking around music or do you have ambitions to progress in other fields? If so, what fields are open to you?
A. Oh I'm in it for the long haul, but as I get the leeway to be more indulgent, I'll inevitably cross over more into other arts, I'm very interested in culture/tech/science crossover, and I'm definitely up for doing more on broader social context for music & subculture as in this podcast I did with a friend: 

Q. Me aside, what other writers are you into at the moment?
A. Always love reading David Toop and Philip Sherburne, been greatly enjoying Lauren Laverne's insight and turn of phrase recently, and I do like Alex Macpherson: I disagree with him as often as I agree but I love his singular voice and sometimes bloody-minded sticking to his guns.

Q. What advice would you give to any young readers of WRDM who are looking to get into music journalism?
A. Well other than the obvious "have a day job" - pay very, very close attention to how your work is corrected by editors. That's the only way you really learn. If you're lucky you'll find an editor who will dissect your work giving you very detailed notes on what works and what doesn't, which bits are not suited to the publication's house style etc. I had this with Andrew Harrison at Word and Mixmag, and it was probably the most valuable single contribution anyone's ever made to my ability to earn in the long term.

Matthew Wilcock, crossing the Mersey.

Q. Is there anything you'd like to plug on here?
A. I'm managing a couple of guys:

Jabru, who did this beautiful song soundcloud/k7-records/church has a track on JD Twitch's Bucky Skank label and did this outrageously great DJ mix

Matthew Wilcock who's an outrageously talented sound designer, now making glitchy beats and deep ambient stuff:

And here's some of my DJ mixes:


What a lovely young man! Please join me in wishing Joe Muggs all the very best for all of his future endeavours and, if you have a heart, get behind the two lads he's managing these days.

FYI: Joe will be playing a DJ set of ambient filth, fambient dub, dreampop, droning chill, sub-industrial hip-hop-electro and the deepest ever house at the Ace Hotel on Tuesday 21 October. Lads, it's supposed to be brimming with European model type birds down there so DIARISE it, stock up on Lynx Africa and go along: 

NEWS JUST IN: Joe Muggs is also playing some tunes at The Ace Hotel next Tuesday (23 September and all). He must have a monthly residency or something.

In a fortnight, Peer to Peer with Julie Birchill will see her answering the questions: 'why haven't there ever been any good lady guitarists' and 'if someone had a gun to your head and you HAD to suck off one of Bone Thugs-n-Harmony whilst the other four members take turns to smash your back doors in, which one would it be and why?'

Stay tuned...

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