I can’t pinpoint the exact date I started writing about music, but it was roughly a decade ago, so now seems like a pretty good time to look back at those ten years, and figure out what, if anything, I’ve accomplished. Picture it, Manhattan, 2004 – I was a young-ish music fan living in a studio apartment, and still buzzing from all the new music I’d been exposed to in recent years (Sigur Ros, The Strokes, White Stripes…etc.). So much so that I was convinced there were still a lot of other great bands out there that I was missing out on, and dammit I wanted to do something about it. Writing about music would be a way to get access to a lot of new albums (for free!) and maybe even discover the next big thing. With that idea in mind I stumbled across Losing Today, which used to be a print magazine, but was now operating as a website with regularly updated content and a focus on shoegaze music – something I was very into at the time. The site had a link for anyone interested in writing for the site and I reached out to see if I could write for them. I sent what I can only imagine was a poorly written review of M83′s new album, Before The Dawn Heals Us, which I liked a lot at the time, but probably haven’t listened to in a few years. They told me they liked the review and that I could become a regular contributor. I was in. I was a music writer.
Truth be told, Losing Today was operated out of Italy and the people who ran it wrote in pretty choppy English on the rare occasions that we exchanged emails, so I’m not sure how much they understood what I wrote. But it didn’t matter. I was excited to dive in at the deep end and quickly set about the task of getting myself music to review. In what can only be described as an amateur’s display of over-enthusiasm, I picked up the latest copy of The Big Takeover (an indispensable rock magazine I haven’t missed an issue of since 1998) and proceeded to email the record company behind every album reviewed in that issue in an attempt to get on their mailing list for promos of new releases. There were hundreds of reviews in that magazine. Within days my mailbox was flooded…sometimes 10-15 albums a day; definitely more than a sane person could ever review. I tried to hit as many as I could, but I was definitely sacrificing quality in the name of quantity. Even today when I look back at those old reviews I cringe at my misinformed opinions, lack of insight and bad grammar (some of which was so bad I’ve gone back and given their entries on this site an editorial scrubbing). Mostly I can’t believe I reviewed so many records – even ones I didn’t have any interest in.
Writing reviews for Losing Today was exposing me to a lot of cool bands I wouldn’t have heard otherwise. It got me free entrance into a handful of concerts and it even gave me a chance to interview some artists I admired (Pete “Sonic Boom” Kember from Spacemen 3, Anton Newcombe from The Brian Jonestown Massacre, The Black Angels and Yuki from Asobi Seksu), but after several years boredom was setting in. The site was simply not where I was at any more. The other writers – when there were other writers – were well intentioned, but their meager skills made my tired horseshit look like Lester Bangs in comparison, and I longed for a sense of community or at least some form of feedback (although I was thrilled to one day find a discussion on a shoegaze message board about how bad I sucked as a writer). I was simply uploading my reviews to a portal, and sometime a few days/weeks later it would appear, regardless of what I wrote. One time I even put a doctored picture of my friend’s newborn baby in place of the album cover in one of my reviews. It was time for a change.
After plotting my next move, I decided I would create my own blog – the one you’re reading right now. This would give me the freedom to do whatever I wanted to, and to, hopefully, have more direct interaction with readers through comments and emails. I came up with a list of names, and finally settled on Midnight To Six. It was the name of a fine song by The Pretty Things, a band I’d long admired, but more importantly the name had a cool vibe to it and captured the essence of what I was doing with music writing – it was a hobby for after hours. I originally planned to have the site be a clearing house for musical essays, interviews, thoughts, top ten lists and the like, but I soon found that all the time I had to spend writing about music could easily be taken up with reviews, so that’s been the majority of what I’ve been doing ever since.
The only other twist in the story is the brief period I spent writing for a website called Spectrum Culture (www.spectrumculture.com). They somehow found my site and, after a brief interview with its proprietor over Instant Message, I was in. This seemed like a good opportunity to write for someone with a little higher profile than this site, but it never felt quite right. The people that ran the site were really nice and accommodating, but they also had a lot of rules and writing for them kind of felt like work. I had spent years doing whatever I wanted, and all of a sudden I was faced with word minimums, editorial scrutiny and, worst of all, deadlines. I appreciated the opportunity to write for a more professional outfit (although not professional enough that there was any pay involved) but I never really liked the site’s content, and felt kind of like Iggy Pop trying to sing a Yes song – this was not the right place for me and my unique brand of amateurism.
So, that brings us to the present day. Despite the occasional bout of stagnancy and frustration I still love doing it and I’m still getting a jolt of energy whenever I hear something new that excites me or when I have some kind of interaction with a reader. I guess that’s enough of a reward for me to keep at it.
Special thanks must be given to my friend Jake, who, in addition to putting my writing skills to shame with his occasional post here under the name Beerbrarian, has proofread almost everything I’ve written over the past decade. The guy has a career, a wife, and two young kids, yet he always finds time to read my thoughts on third-rate music nobody cares about. I’m grateful for that. He also keeps a well-tended blog over at http://beerbrarian.blogspot.com/
12A26A (aka David)
P.S. Listen to Black Sabbath