james mcmahon

James McMahon (Kerrang! Editor) on Ian Watkins

I have the privilege to be friends on facebook with James McMahon, Editor of Kerrang!
He posted this today and it’s the first thing to slightly lift my sense of nausea with the whole Ian Watkins story, because he addresses very important points regarding the young female audience, beside the obvious accusation to the LostPhophets singer, and I hope everyone reading this will always, always keep this in mind. I would’ve never thought the music industry to be much more or less sexist than any other industry, but clearly the female audience deserves more attention and protection than it’s been given so far, and so please, give attention to this…

//Now that Ian Watkins is, thankfully, entombed in a room for 35 years, I’d like to share some thoughts with you. It’s about time. I’ve spent the last year feeling like they were rotting my insides.
//There’s lots I find difficult about my job. Spelling ‘encyclopedia’ correctly on the cover for instance. I find the constant snipping from people who’d like to work-for-Kerrang!-but-don’t tiresome. I find the personal attacks from the same demographic painful, however much I try to jut my chin out and carry on with what I believe the magazine has to do. But what I struggle with most, is maintaining the social conscience of the magazine, day in, day out.
//Back in the days when Kerrang! carried features like ‘Lady Killers’ (basically Readers Wives for Conan The Barbarian) and View From The Bar (Channel 5’s Ibiza Diaries, but for The Crobar), the only responsibility Kerrang! had to it’s readers was to be an entertaining gateway to a new world of heavy music. Then emo happened – if you forgive the lumpiness of such a categorization – and, for the first time, in significant numbers, teenage girls ploughed through the doors. It’s 2013, and Kerrang! now boasts (and we do boast, we’re proud as punch just to have a readership, especially one as loyal and engaged as they are) a 51/49% split in favour of girls to boys. With that shift comes new, multi-pronged responsibility.
//See, they’re young this lot. Far younger, cooler and self-aware than I was at 13/14/15. And for the last two and a half years - at gigs, at festivals, everywhere a rock band goes and Kerrang! follows - I have seen faces – childish, undeveloped faces – and felt what can only be described as paternal instincts. I am employed to entertain these children. To do so I must never call them children. But as Editor of The Worlds Biggest Selling Music Weekly, one must never, <ever> forget what they are. Ian Watkins – depending on your view of nature or nurture – either forgot, or decided he just didn’t care.
//Putting aside the most heinous, extreme and obviously pedophilic of his crimes – putting aside! I wish! Today I took an extra anti-depressant to take the edge off. It did little – Watkins viewed his audience with an absence of any semblance of respect or responsibility. Dude might think he’s the Marquis De Sade, but with the music he made, and the audience that was duly drawn to it, he was little more than Barney The Dinosaur with a sloped fringe. 
//I said a few hundred words back that I struggle with the responsibility of speaking to my institutions ‘new’ audience. That’s not strictly true. I think I do pretty well – Pandora, Kerrang!’s long running, perennially up-fer-it, pneumatic sidekick, has shed any clothing that once proudly sported the word ‘Bitch’. She’s eaten a few more pies, can spell ‘body dysmorphia’, and is more friend than groupie (oh yeah, I banned the word groupie from the Kerrang! style guide too). We talk about drugs, yes – you can’t talk about rock ‘n’ roll without doing so – but there’s always consequences. Sex is fun too, never gnarly or humiliating. 
//The message, above all else, that this new, largely female, often young audience are VIP’s to the party, not the buffet for people like Ian Watkins to gorge on. It’s exhausting adding an extra layer of thinking to all we do - but we must. All adults must. We must. We must. 
//‘He’ – I’m tired of using and hearing his name – was largely a coverstar for Kerrang! prior to my arrival. But he was a very frequent one. I put him on the cover of the magazine twice. Never in isolation, but as part of multi-frontperson montages, such was the decline of his artistic powers and commercial worth in recent times. In fact the second time I put him on the cover was because his manager came in to see me and basically begged me to (this had resulted from a feature we had ran about the bands endurance, under the headline Unbreakable, where we’d taken a photo of ‘him’ with a grenade in his mouth and added the not-funny-at-all-in-hindsight-if-only-it-was coverline ‘What Will It Take To Destroy LostProphets?’ – ‘he’ accused me of the magazine trying to start shit, via twitter, and duly blocked me. The conversation with the manager and due positioning of ‘him’ on the cover was an attempt to reconcile with a band whose entire history had been told in the pages of Kerrang!). It disgusts me I have to see ‘his’ face every time I head into the archives. Yet I’m hardly the victim. 
//If there is one glimmer of positivity from all that has happened this last year – and it’s a massive, gargantuan ‘if’ – it’s that that we might cut away a tumor that eats away at the underbelly of popular music once and for all. Music is communication. Music is entertainment. Music is revolutionary. It shouldn’t be a guise to abuse. People who lose sight of that – the bands that welcome school girls onto their bus, the bands that see fans as conquests, the people who excuse such behavour as the rewards of fame – let’s start calling them scum, not musicians. Rock can be sexy without being sexist. Rock can be virile without being vile. I don’t ever want to feel like I have this year, ever again.
//But like I say. I’m hardly the victim.

This man is writing an issue of Kerrang! dedicated to mental health issues. He’s already shown dubious knowledge of the subject, and is now picking a twitter battle with a Guardian journalist (@tweetcashmore) over an article on depression.

The pinnacle of this is the screenshot above. I would suggest anyone with mental health issues tweets him @jamesjammcmahon and kerrangmagazine to ask why they think this is acceptable, and I would also suggest anyone with MH issues treads lightly on next week’s issue.

no proof-reading. no spellcheck. just word vomit.

I wish I could pin point the moment I fell in love with music. Everything about it. One of the earliest photos of me as a child is sat on the living room floor with my dads massive headphones on plugged in to my fisher price tape deck. 

As I’ve got older, my love for music wrapped itself around my love of writing. The moment at sixth form where it suddenly dawned on me - faced with a UCAS application form - that I could combine the two and maybe actually make a living from it? It was some kind of epiphany. 

Somehow along the last six or seven years of my life, I got a little jaded. I’ve not hidden my dismay at how my dream career is slowly slipping past me as every graduation ceremony at every university in the country rolls around. But that’s okay. Because I still have my music.

I’m lucky. I seem to attach myself to these bands that get the ethos I so fell in love with. Bands that celebrate the unity - both on record and at shows - that music can provide. Bands who tell you all that you’re the same. Bands that don’t care if you were at their first show in a pub to ten people or whether you just happened to hear them on Radio 1 and kinda liked it and bought a ticket to a show.

What isn’t so lucky, sadly, is the surrounding fringes. There’s this horrible sense of elitism hanging in the ranks.

I see it at shows, the looks from 16 year old girls that just scream I’m stepping into a world I’m not welcome. Looking at the rest of the crowd at an All Time Low or You Me At Six show, for example -I’m definitely old enough to at least be their designated babysitter, if not quite their parent.

You’re not in the hustler club? Oh my god, you can’t really like All Time Low then?  What do you mean you’ve never seen this band before? Why are you even here?


I try and work it out sometimes. Tonight it’s kind of become apparent. The penny has dropped. Wherever we go to a show, whatever queue, whatever country? The common denominator as you walk along the line a few minutes before doors is that they all grip a copy of this weeks Kerrang in their hands.

James McMahon, the editor of the dear old pop-punk bible, has gone on a bit of a twitter-spree this evening. What it is to be a journalist. How you don’t just become a journalist and then sack it off for another job when it doesn’t pay off. It just reeks of the snobbery I see at shows every fucking week and it’s pushed me past the point of anger into pure disbelief.

Hey James - it’s really easy to say stuff like that, from the comfort of your nice comfy chair at your K! Towers desk.

I started my Journalism degree in 2005. I worked on my campus magazine and paper, banded together with some other course people and slogged it on a music website that physically/emotionally/financially drained every last one of us. It was a labour of love, one that went so deep that we knew we had to give it up rather than see it run in to the ground.

See, this funny thing happened. Somewhere between my Graduation ceremony and the inevitable piss up that followed, the recession hit hard. My local paper went from daily to weekly. Jobs that were up for application a week before suddenly disappeared and were replaced by ads for unpaid work experience. Unpaid. Ahh, that lovely little word I thought I’d escape once I had my degree.

So I thought fuck it. I’ll carry on. Get an MA that will stand me above the crowd when the recession starts to lift. Well guess what. It’s not lifted. Those job applications are still few and far between, and when they come along it’s not enough money to live on.

Ohhh I know, I know. Who cares about the money, right? I just want to write.

Life’s funny. Suddenly I had rent to pay. And council tax. Electric bills. Gas. Broadband. And all that free money they were throwing at me for the previous three years? Yeah. Suddenly they wanted it back.

You know in The Office, when Dawn talks about how she started off telling people she was a Children’s Illustrator who did some reception work on the side? Yeah. That became my life. Suddenly I wasn’t a journalist who worked in a bar. I was a full-time bar manager who tried to get her entire month’s time off all at once to try and run in the photo pit at Rock City for the weekend - for free, obviously - just to keep her portfolio up to date.

Hemingway is often misquoted around the internet about his incessant need to write. It’s something I always found myself relating to. It’s something most music journalists I’ve spoken to seem to have - and seemingly McMahon is included. I always respect people who understand that. Because it is a bit of a curse. But what annoys me is when use said curse as a reason to think they’re better than anyone else. 

I’m not better than anyone. I’m a girl who is irrationally in love with music in so many forms and wants to scream it to anyone who’ll listen. As long as I have my music I’ll be happy. Because I’m lucky to have any involvement in the music scene I’m in.

To be a part of the UK music scene at the moment - in any capacity - is something to be proud of. The bands coming out of our country are so passionate and talented, they make me prouder to be British than any football team could. And to be at the helm of - arguably - one of the most influential magazines in the country is a position to be envious of.

And I am. Believe me. Which is why James McMahon’s tweets this evening have riled me so.

I write because I love music. I write for free because at least it means I get to write. I would love it if I could get paid to write.

Don’t sit there and play the martyr when there are hundreds of us that would genuinely do your job for free. Don’t talk down to the people at your lectures who ask how to BE a journalist; just be grateful they turned up at all to ask the question. 

Maybe I’ve completely got the tone of these tweets wrong - as often happens with the internet. But there is such an air of elitism that surounds everything to do with Kerrang! these days that it’s hard to take it in any other way.

Lets just note that this is an editor who - when asked by my housemate why they wouldn’t do an online subscription like alt-press do in the states - responded with ‘but what about your free posters’.

PLEASE. You can’t lecture world/your feed about what it is to be a journalist, what constitutes real journalism and good writing when 75% of the current issue is given to either advertising, full page photography or fucking posters.

I’m 25. I don’t want a fucking poster. I want to know what my favourite bands are doing, when they’re touring, what prompted that amazing song on their new album, why their last album was shit, how the fuck he got that tattoo, why their drummer left. I want words. To read. To move me. To inspire me to write more of my own.

If nothing else I’m grateful that McMahon’s twitter-fest this evening enraged me enough to take to my keyboard. I just wish it was something positive from the magazine that would evoke such a reaction in the future.

You’re right, James. The best music writers are wizards. But the world isn’t like Hogwarts and we’re not all as lucky to sit in the position you do. So do us a favour and get down from your pulpit and pull the wand out of your fucking arse pleas. Go back to writing articles I want to read about bands I’m going to fall in love with. That’s what’s going to make me want to love your magazine again.