Welcome to the Rocktopia Interviews Section (* For Members Only)
Interview with Stevie Chick
26 July 2012
Interview by Neil Daniels
Stevie Chick is a freelance journalist, sub-editor and lecturer. He is also the author of authoritative tomes on Black Flag and Sonic Youth.
What was your first published piece of rock journalism?
My first published piece of music journalism would’ve been my self-published ‘zine, Resistor, an A5 Xeroxed thing that I printed up three issues of back in 1996-7. But my first published music journalism in the larger world was a review of Subcircus’s debut LP for Melody Maker, the music paper I’d grown up reading, the only place I’d ever wanted to write, and an organ that was rapidly withering thanks to a radical change in editorial direction.
What publications have you written for over the years?
Melody Maker, The Times, NME, Evening Standard, Sleazenation, Kerrang!, MOJO, Careless Talk Costs Lives, Loose Lips Sink Ships, Plan B, The Guardian, The Stranger, Rolling Stone (Australian edition) and Bizarre… Those are the ones I’ll own up to, anyway.
Who are your rock writing influences?
I have spent much of the last fourteen or so years trying and failing to mimic the stellar abilities of Neil Kulkarni, Everett True, Victoria Segal, David Fricke, Keith Cameron, Sharon O’Connell, Cathi Unsworth and many more who I’ll regret forgetting to list later. And
Lester Bangs’ stuff was what made me really want to write about music, and is still a pleasure, a thrill, to read now. And the writers who wrote for me in editorial positions I had with CTCL, LLSS and Plan B all inspired me to try harder, try better, try different.
Who were your favourite bands growing up?
When a bairn, Madness. Then Genesis. Then, for a baffling while, Level 42 (I’ll still fuck with ‘Something About You’ and ‘Leaving Me Now’). Then Prince. Then Hendrix. Then I got deep into classic rock, from Zep on down. Then Nirvana happened when I was sixteen and I just got lost in all that American underground stuff, which fair rewired how my brain
works. Then I got deep into Hip-Hop. I think by this point I was a grown-up?
How did you get your first book deal?
Everett True was supposed to write the book, and then couldn’t, and asked me if I would. As it was a band I’d been obsessed with for years and years, I threw myself in front of the runaway train that was the chance.
Which was the hardest book to write?
Black Flag. It was crazy hard to track down some of the interviewees. And for many of them, recounting that experience was like ripping open a festering wound, and I felt for them. Of course, this intensity only made the book better, I hope, but it was painful. And a couple of
possible-sources who pulled out of their interviews at the last minute led me a not-so-merry dance.
Can you take me through the process of writing a book?
First, research. Tonnes. As much as you can manage. Then interviews. Then transcription (UGH!). Then writing (YES!). Then finish (MEGA-TRIPLE-YES!) Liberally slather the above with self-loathing, stress, panic and regret. Then ride that sucker to the poorhouse. Oh
Have you had any uncomfortable interviewing experiences?
Numerous. Have been threatened with fisticuffs mid-interview, by someone who could possibly have marmalised me if not for, you know, heroin. Also, I once asked a pair of (non-identical) twins where they first met, which kind of revealed my lack of research in that
Have you had any feedback from any members of Black Flag or Sonic Youth on your books?
Yes, but it was off the record. All nice stuff, mostly, though.
Do you make a living from writing?
Alongside work as a sub-editor and lecturer, just about, yes. But the living ain’t easy.
Can you name some of the best books you’ve read on rock?
Psychotic Reactions & Carburettor Dung: Lester Bangs.
A Journey Through America With The Rolling Stones: Robert Greenfield.
Mama Told Me There’d Be Days Like This and As Serious As Your Life: Val Wilmer.
A Change Is Gonna Come: Craig Werner.
Fa Fa Fa Fa: The Adventures Of Talking Heads In The 20th Century: David Bowman.
Please Kill Me: Legs McNeil and Gillian McCain.
Chasin’ The Trane: JC Thomas.
Can’t Stop Won’t Stop: Jeff Chang.
What’s your music collection like?
Do you have any book projects currently in the works?
Some, but I can’t mention them yet because JINX.
Do you have any advice for aspiring music writers?
Do it because you love it, and don’t do it unless you intend to be brilliant, or die trying.
What are your thoughts on the future of music magazines and books?
Black thoughts. As long as we insult the intelligence of our readers, they will take their attentions and their money elsewhere.
I think that’s the long and the short of it…