Cover Story: The Final Perth Issue

Published in The Music (WA) and on, July 2015

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Current editor Daniel Cribb digs into the past of The Drum Media and The Music to see what made the publication click and the WA music scene so special.

Perhaps it’s the isolation that so many Perthians seem to complain about that saw the WA music scene fight for a voice on a national level and yield the amount of talent it has. It was the perseverance and talent of bands like Eskimo Joe, Sleepy Jackson, Gyroscope, Little Birdy, Pendulum and more that attributed to the state getting recognised on a national level, and that’s what caught the eye of publishers Street Press Australia.

With established street press set up on the east coast, there was something about WA that managing directors Leigh and Craig Treweek and Julius Larobina felt compelled to cover, and thus in 2006, The Drum Media was born, first hitting the streets on September 21, 2006 with Jet on the cover.

Our now national editor, Mark Neilsen, relocated from Sydney for six months and was thrown into a new environment to get the gears in the motion. Often working 12-hour days to pump the mag out, he admits he might have missed a few classic gigs, but there’s one origin story he was at the forefront of. “One thing I was glad I wasn’t asleep for was the emergence of Mink Mussel Creek,” Neilsen tells. “We were given a tip off that we should check these guys out from the moment we got there. The energy and performance they displayed was amazing, from the crazy moves of frontman Nick Allbrook (I have vague memories he also played the flute at that time – forgive me if nearly a decade down the track that’s not correct).

“Team Drum Perth were enamoured and kept an eye on their progress. When later the likes of Tame Impala and Pond emerged from those beginnings, I remember the excitement when we found out that these acts had their origins in Mink Mussel Creek.”

The long hours paid off, and Drum received an early nod from the local industry with a WAMi nomination after only a year, which stemmed from the dedication to shine a spotlight on local talent. “We went in with the idea, much like in the other states, to give coverage to music that we thought was a bit of alright, regardless of an act’s standing. So while we did cover acts that already had an established standing from Perth, such as Eskimo Joe, Little Birdy, et al, there were a whole bunch of other acts we got to give a push to.

“I remember in my time there I found a whole bunch of cool indie acts that I probably never would have discovered had I not set foot there. These include but are not limited to: Sex Panther, Capital City, New Rules For Boats, Institut Polaire, Streetlight, Sugar Army, Abbe May, Eleventh He Reaches London, Faith In Plastics, The Kill Devil Hills and more. Some are still with us, many gone, some have evolved into other entities.”

Drum secured its place in the scene, and Neilsen headed home to man the Sydney mag, resulting in Ben O’Shea stepping up as editor. “There was a real sense of excitement about what we were doing,” O’Shea recalls. “We were relatively new in town but people were aware of the significance of Drum on the east coast and were enthusiastic to see Perth represented in the magazine. That enthusiasm from readers and the local bands we interviewed was pretty fantastic.

“It was a time of consolidation for WA music, when acts that had blown up a few years earlier were releasing follow-up albums that cemented their status on the national scene. Gyroscope and the John Butler Trio both topped the charts with their albums and The Panics took out triple j’s Album Of The Year award. And anyone who was anyone in the WA scene appeared in local filmmaker Aidan O’Bryan’s excellent music doco, Something In The Water.”

In 2008, we saw music lover Rachel Davison – who now manages Perth bands, among other things – take control of the ship. Writing about music 24/7 is something Davison lists as a highlight of her time as editor. “There’s the obvious in being able to profile artists you’re personally passionate about – like I remember being pleased about getting to put My Disco on my first front cover. I also vaguely remember a dude from a local band knocking on contributor Matt Hogan’s door at home, upset about a scathing review we’d published.”

In 2009, editorial assistant Aarom Wilson scored the title of editor. Being a member of the team since the first issue, he was ready for action – and the parties. “We always had an ‘interesting’ office make-up, producing such staff highlights as [sales rep] Aaron Rutter sleeping under the desk with a motorbike helmet on; [sales rep] Matt McMoose failing to get on a plane back to WA (possibly my fault); in a separate incident, an east coast staff member failing to get on a plane (possibly my fault). ARIA partying like F(ail)-grade celebs; way too many late nights (yet never enough) with Leigh Treweek; vomiting at the national staff party at a classy venue over east within five minutes of arriving and many, many more.”

As Wilson’s hair grew, so did our readership and love for WA music. Year in and year out, the WAM Awards, In The Pines, and more further confirmed Perth’s reputation as forced to be reckoned with. “Over the five or so years I was there, no matter how tough times may have been at some points, I never saw the magazine or its owners lose any of their passionate commitment to supporting independent music and meaningful editorial, with little to no consideration to money. As such, I think their contribution to enhancing the independent music scenes in Perth is second to none.”

It was an attitude that was reflected by the music scene in general. “The ‘closing’ of Ambar was an interesting moment, as the venue’s saving showed what people power – and excellent business minds like those at Boomtick – can achieve.”

Wilson scored a job with WAM and now also manages some top-notch local acts. When he left, the torch was passed onto Troy Mutton. “Aside from exposing music from around Australia and the globe, I think most importantly was the exposure it gave to local artists,” Mutton comments. “It didn’t really matter how big or small an act was, if they had a good vibe and decent attitude there wasn’t any reason they couldn’t get some kind of mention in the magazine.

“As cliché as it is our isolation always has and still does play a big part in setting us apart from the rest of the country. It seems to create a sense of camaraderie amongst bands other states’ might not see, along with that incest element of so many bands featuring so many people from other bands. It also makes everyone push each other a little bit harder and have to work that little bit harder to get out of the state when/if the time comes.”

Mutton wrapped up his tenure at the end of 2012, and Callum Twigger signed on for the biggest transformation to the publication. In 2013, the same year we won a WAM award for Website Of The Year, we transformed into a glossy magazine format. After 349 issues as Drum Perth, as the final season of Breaking Bad began to air, The Music first hit the pavement. The decision to rename the publication came after seeing how successful the site was becoming, and connecting the dots between print and online made sense, especially with the addition of food, arts, comedy, travel and more pieces to the pages – and yes, we do realise it’s called The Music. But music goes with everything. “Switching over the formatting and the structuring and other un-sexy editorial procedural processes was marathonic. I was hilariously burnt-out and burnt-through. But it was worth it,” Twigger recalls.

“It was bold and importantly, it was proactive. Craig, Leigh and Julius saw the challenges facing unreformed print publications and they took the logical step of integrating what was Drum into a national network of print publications. We lost a local brand, admittedly, but we gained access to voices with a national platform. We could support acts in Perth, and have them supported in Brisbane or Melbourne or Sydney. That’s much more powerful and relevant for Australian music than seeing musical talent and movement divided, as it were, along state lines.”

As The Music took off, the scene continued to grow on both an artistic and business level. “WAM took off. Perth’s small bar scene got huge, and it shows no signs of slowing down. We used to have perhaps a new bar opening once a month; now, it almost feels fortnightly that somewhere new and interesting opens up.

“We also partook in the inaugural Big Splash, a band comp that’s just wrapping up its third year and thriving. As for specific local acts: Kucka is doing fantastically, and it was something special to have her on the cover when we did.”

And this is where I come into the picture. I started reading The Music’s predecessor, Drum Perth, well before I became a contributor, and grew to love everything about it, which is why, after writing for Wilson, Mutton and Twigger for two years, I jumped at the opportunity to become editor at the end of 2013. During my time here, it has become apparent just how vibrant the scene is – you only have to look at the latest State Of The Art bill for confirmation that there is indeed something in the water, as clichéd as that line now may be. The scene and industry is shifting rapidly, as evident with the loss of Big Day Out, Soundwave and a string of venues during my residency, but the local talent remains the one constant factor.

There’s a lot of different ways to view a longstanding print publication going digital, and while it’s with a certain sadness we farewell the magazine, it’s exciting to know our efforts building into one of the best music sites in the country will allow us to still play a role in the Perth music scene.

Fans of print will attest to the fact that nothing will come close to reading on said format, and the fact that you picked up this magazine and are reading this confirms that. Grabbing a copy of the magazine every week with a coffee and flicking through the news announcements was a highlight of mine. It’s sad to see that go, but if we needed any confirmation that we’re heading in the right direction, it’s all those times we’ve broken news on an international level via our website – most recently the Tame Impala missing royalties saga. At the end of the day, it’s the quality of content that really matters, and we’ll still be delivering that on a daily basis.

As outlined earlier in this issue, we’ve partnered with X-Press, who will be somewhat of our print arm, resulting being their online component. Becoming friends with the enemy is one way to look at it, but X-Presseditor Bob Gordon and I frequently cross paths at gigs, and as long as he doesn’t find out what I did to his toothbrush while we were sharing an apartment at Southbound this year, we’ll be just fine. It’s a collaboration that makes so much sense considering the amount of love both publications have for music.

The Music recognises the importance and influence the WA music scene plays on a national and international level, and that’s why I retain my role as Perth editor (that and they were scared I’d cry if they let me go), to continues to deliver localised news, reviews and interviews. There’s too much happening in Perth to abandon the state.

It’s bittersweet to say goodbye to the print arm of The Music Perth, but we’re moving into exciting territory and ensure you that we’re far from done. The WA music scene continues to grow – as evident with the likes of Tired Lion, Timothy Nelson, The Love Junkies, Ruby Boots and more blowing up on a national level as of late – and we plan to be there for all it. We’ll see you at a show soon!