Interview: chats to 6Music's Steve Lamacq

Steve Lamacq has presented shows on BBC's Radio 1, 2 and 6Music since 1992 and he is one of those DJs that is almost religious in his insistence in putting the music and his passion for discovering new sounds before everything else.

MP3 music portal eMusic is handing over the reigns to Lamacq for the week and it looks set to be an interesting one - you would certainly be hard pushed to find a music expert with a broader pallet to do it. Throughout the week Steve will be selecting his top picks from 2011, ones to watch for 2012 and his desert island discs.

eMusic gave bloggers the chance to ask Steve Lamacq some questions and since he has been involved in the music scene for so long I jumped at the opportunity to ask a few questions:

BP: One of the most discussed music reads in 2011 was Simon Reynold's Retromania, in which Reynolds seems to simultaneously celebrate and criticise our collective obsession with the past. One of the central tenants of the book is that the abundance of our modern world means we are less likely to ever have another new musical revolution. You obviously spend a lot of time championing new music - have you read Reynold's book and do you agree with his viewpoint?

I understand his viewpoint, absolutely. One of the first things Reynolds said that I thought was really interesting –it dates from some years ago, but it echoes all around me now – is that when you become a music journalist, it became harder and harder to fall in love with music. Because you get so much of it. I mean, when we were growing up, you probably bought one album a week or one per fortnight or something, and then you spend all your time being obsessed with the record: learning it, learning the lyrics and staring at the sleeve. That devotion to a record – it was already hard by the 90s, but it's really tricky now. I have to wonder myself whether we really listen to music now. Music has become almost like rolling news. Does it just sort of flash past us? 

It's much harder to pick out the trends. There are a lot of tastemakers, still, who look at strands of what's happening at the moment, but it's hard to make sense, overall, of where music is going. Will there ever be a cataclysmic musical revolution like punk rock or the two-tone movement in the UK, or even Brit-Pop? I think it'd be difficult. But I also think you can't rule it out, because if the musical way-lines meet, people will take notice. But it's gonna take something of real musical import.

Classically, music goes like the tide: In and out of the mainstream. I think a lot of where I suppose where we're going right now is that music has moved out to the periphery again. But when that tide comes back in, who knows? That may be the revolutionary musical moment we've yet to see.

BP: As a music blogger I'm frequently asked for advice on how to break your music - whether you should give it away, target bloggers, go on the road or do the old fashioned thing of sending music into a record label. What is your view? Is there a standard approach or does it depend on the artist and genre?

Yeah it does, I think. This is a place where major record labels go wrong, I think. They think, "Oh, if that works once, that's a blueprint; let's do it again." But every band is different. Even in the old days with Elastica, we did the opposite of everything everyone told us to do. Everyone said the 7-inch was dead, so we did a 7-inch single. These days, you should just think about that. If you think bands are making themselves too cheap by just giving stuff away, don't give stuff away. If you're a pop band that just wants the pop dollar, than go that route and do as much as you can to sell yourselves. If you're a group that wants people to come to you, be more mysterious.

Mainly, however you do it, it's all about timing, really. In the UK particularly. If you were a band starting now, you'd put your head above the parapet at just the right moment. If you do a gig in London the second week of January, when nothing was going on, people will see you who won't see you in March because everyone's playing. These days we know that even with all the A&RS and the blogs and the major-label scouts; if you're really good, you will get found. It's just what you do with it.

BP: On a related retro tip - if you could re-experience one musical event, be it a gig, a radio session or just listening to a favourite album for the first time all over again what would it be?

Teenage Fanclub did two gigs in London. It was the first two gigs in London I think they'd ever done. Somebody had told me about this band from Scotland, and that I should check them out. So Friday night, I went to go see them at this place called The Falcon in Camden. They got in their van at Glasgow at 7'o'clock in the morning to drive down to London. They started drinking about ten. They got to the gig, they carried on drinking. They got onstage, and they were so drunk that after three songs, they started the next and it went wrong. They said, "sorry about that" and started it again – went wrong. Said  "sorry about that." It went wrong again, and Norman Blake said "Look: Does anyone want us to have another go at this song, or should we just move on to the next one?" And got the crowd to vote. It was one of the most shambolic but endearing gigs I think I've ever seen from a band I love. I fell in love them virtually immediately.

But the next night they played another gig at a place called the White Horse in Hampstead. This was a tiny little basement in a pub in North London. I had to stand on a chair at the back because there's no way of seeing them onstage. And in a crowd of a bout eighteen people, Teenage Fanclub played one of my favorite gigs of all time. They were just pristine the next night. And it was all the stuff from Catholic Education. They did "Everything Closed," which almost went on for nine minutes. It was almost a religious experience. And if I could relive that again, that's the place I'd go back to.

Thanks to Steve for taking the time to answer my questions and to eMusic for setting it up - you can read the full interview on the eMusic site. You can also check out Steve Lamacq's takeover of the eMusic homepage for some top music recommendations and you can read about his Desert-Island Discs here.

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