A lot can happen in two years. You could find true love, scrape some A-Levels, watch every episode of ‘Friends’ 221 times. Or you could produce a music magazine.
I’ve never quite known whether Bristol Live was a really DIY magazine, or the Rolls-Royce of zines; and perhaps it’s neither. The important thing is that whatever it is, it seems to have stuck. Thus it’s with great pleasure that I look back on the highs and lows of a what I like to call a music-lover’s adventure in print publishing.
They say all the best ideas start in pubs. Whether correct, or just masking their unsightly alcoholism, back in the wintery tail-end of 2011 I was indeed hunched in the corner of such a drinkery, with my to-be colleague, trying to figure out how to start a dedicated music monthly for Bristol. After at least twenty post-gig conversations that year alone about how ‘someone’ should get it together, even the decision to take the plunge seemed to raise more questions than it answered. How do we print it right? How do we create a magazine with a place in the digital age? And how do we make it come in on budget? Herein the difference between having and ‘doing’ an idea became all-too clear.
When an uncharacteristically bright caveman (or woman) invented the wheel, it’s entirely possible that a hundred hairy Einsteins had the inkling prior, but lacked the drive, volition or opportunity to make good on their half-baked discovery. If I were to impart something to a (hopefully tear-sodden) grandchild at my deathbed, it would be that your inclination for get-up-and-go is oftentimes more valuable than the gleaming, fabled ‘idea’ made famous in American blockbusters and dot-com millionaires’ memoirs. Don’t wait for that groundbreaking idea until it’s too late – take something good and run with it.
So armed with google and a dodgy download of photoshop we embarked on a journey that would see us laugh, cry, and create permanent back damage from lugging box after box of gig-going goodness around the city. I gave up booze (yes, it’s really been two years since my last beer), started working sixteen hour days and ploughed myself into the kind of healthy debt deserving of an artist in Cameron’s glistening utopia. Weekends became a distant memory and friends began to wonder if I’d been absorbed into some sort of A6 cult. All. Hail. Zine club.
After working out a format that felt modern and feasible, it was time to get some content together. A cup of tea with every venue in town soon left us with a healthy listings section and a strong desire to visit the bathroom; and with the zealous support of our much-loved venues we set about making a magazine. Between the fanboy writing and the clumsy design work, issue one was born. A cover feature with Towns, a review of Towers’ first EP and a chat with none other than the then fledgeling Howling Owl Records, about how Bristol’s noisy rock scene would rise up in the ensuing eighteen months. I should have put money on that one.
It’s a nerve-racking moment placing your bank card on the counter as the printer hands you a bill for hundreds and hundreds of pounds – especially before you so much as submit the artwork. As many of you may know, business-types have a month or so to make good on their various purchases, thus greasing the wheels of industry, but not a shifty twenty-something who hasn’t slept in a week. It paid off, and in due course our first issue was arriving in more boxes than I’d ever seen. The only thing more ridiculous than getting them all up the stairs of Start The Bus (above which we operated out of a forgotten hovel) was getting them into the back of our friend’s Vauxhall Corsa.
From there it was the home-stretch. Having compiled a huge list of drop-off points we quickly found that in reality a clipboarded spreadsheet becomes quite unhelpful. But like desperate pigeons we learnt our way around the backstreets of Bristol and devised routes that didn’t involve passing the same post office five times, or heading gleefully up one-way roads. This whole process recurred for two years, and for as long as we’re wanted, it will continue to do so.
When I look back on this period of my life there will be much to consider. Though at times gruelling, the things we’ve achieved have truly shaped us. A city festival with amazing bands and new music powerhouses like DIY, Artrocker and The Line Of Best Fit. Starting a London magazine with talented industry-types that became new friends. And of course re-branding from Fear Of Fiction to Bristol Live, the slickest and most inclusive version of ourselves to date.
My favourite cover? Impossible to say. It’s The Gnarwhals though.
Read the print issue this article is taken from here: