Undercuts were fashionable. So was uplifting house music.
No it wasn’t 2013, it was 1993. Around the end of that year, I randomly picked up a magazine which was then called ‘Club Scene’. It was an A4 colour publication that had exactly what I was looking for: a window onto a scene I was beginning to fall desperately in love with.
I was still way too young to get into nightclubs, but this fantastic music with an insistent beat consumed me. Here was a magazine documenting that culture as it happened locally and internationally, so naturally I read every word from cover to cover, and scoured the stores to get a copy of each week’s edition. In a nerdy fashion, names like Neil Richards and Jenny Juckel became legends in my eyes.
Some years later in 1998, my obsession with the music had only grown deeper, and the magazine had changed to the moniker of Scene Magazine. I found myself at a house party with then staff writer, Anna Glassick. We’d known each other for a bit, but this is the first time we’d talked about her job, how much I loved the music and how I read the magazine religiously.
Before long I was in the Scene Magazine office signing up to review CDs and contribute articles. I was beyond thrilled! It seemed a natural progression to find myself employed in the staff writer’s role in November 1999, and I was to continue in this until mid 2004 when I returned to the law.
I had no background in journalism, so it was a “seat of the pants” experience. My love for the music would hopefully get me by. Working at Scene was a dream come true and an honour. My goal then was to be inclusive and responsive to all the pockets of Brisbane music culture that Scene covered.
Writing for the magazine was a chance to get a deeper connection with a culture I loved, but also a form of giving back, of acknowledging the DJs, artists and club nights that had inspired me, and also the magazine that I had lovingly read for many years. Further, as dance culture continued to permeate every part of life, it was important to historically document what was happening. This time was a vital time to be involved in dance music culture, as the scene blossomed through a peak from 1999-2001.
They were halcyon days and just the mention of them still gets me a bit misty-eyed. The Pete Tong cover for Scene (from memory it was either late 2000 or 2001) was a high point, both for content and for one of the best covers ever done by designer Pat Herlihy.
As club culture boomed, Scene Magazine was a beneficiary, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing – eventually the peak capped off, the superclubs over-extended and corporates began to wind back their ad budgets, with the whole club scene contracting around 2002/ 03. At a similar time, online media began to radically alter the medium of content delivery away from the traditional print model.
Throughout this, Scene continued to publish a quality offering and the Brisbane entertainment world regarded the magazine as a bible. Street press gives a unique insight into youth culture in general, and browsing through some of the older editions often captures the mood of the times eloquently.
Being there to document what was occurring in dance music culture was a privilege, and along the way I met legends and personal heroes. My interviews with Boy George and Carl Cox remain very fond memories, but some of the most treasured interviews were with artists I admired and respected on a local level. One of the more interesting reactions was having DJ Jen-E tell me that my article about her, which had taken quite a personal angle, moved her to tears.
Also, there was a raft of characters encountered on an almost daily basis. Such as a very cranky Paul Oakenfold; a very “laid-back” Roots Manuva; a guy tinkering with samples called Bonobo; sharing cheese and biscuits backstage with Tiesto; interviewing a little-known Adelaide group called Hilltop Hoods who said they would never be widely known because they were Australian.
As well, there was the endless procession of musicians for whom, sadly, being on time and prepared for an interview was not in their lexicon. Again though, it was the local characters and nightclub identities that made the job come alive! People like Michael Watt, Peter Brown, Jon Griffin, Jason Summers, Jason Kinniburgh, Les Kostoglou, John Hannay and countless more made life’s pattern very colourful.
I went slightly mad doing the club listings section every week. There is only so much variation one can do, and the wording and positioning of listings became a political minefield. Delicate egos were often bruised and irate phone calls and emails followed. Dealing with feedback in this way is not something any university course prepares you for; it was pure ordeal by fire.
As others might attest to in this historical edition, Scene Magazine has always been about the personalities. There have been many staff, almost larger than life, that have made everyone’s lives just that more special. The advertising side of Scene contained strong personalities, and I witnessed a number of lovely people including Karen Sellers, Ray Doherty, Donna Thurtell and many more. I am glad to have worked side by side with a young Gareth Bryant, who has stepped into the editor’s role with fantastic success. Gareth was a natural fit from day one at Scene and his continued association with the company is testament to that.
I also had the pleasure of working with a young Benjamin Law, on his way to greatness even then. Pat Whyte was the editor for my entire tenure as staff writer (interspersed with a few guest spots from Marc Grimwade and me). Pat was above all, a gentleman. Fair, honest, adaptable and open-minded with a gutsy work ethic. Sometimes it was easy to forget he was also an exceptionally skilled writer, and I enjoyed reading his rare forays back into the field – and still do! It was a pleasure to work with Pat and I felt he really got the best out of his staff.
Street press editorial is an exceptionally difficult business and holding it all together on a weekly basis is nerve-wracking. I always felt the Editor’s job at Scene Magazine was like playing the role of Doctor Who: all the different actors brought uniqueness to it, and it was an honour to be chosen.
The engine room of the magazine was the indefatigable Patrick Herlihy. Patrick was tireless, supremely talented and beneath the spiky jewellery and aggressive music, had a heart of gold. Last minute impossible feats of graphic wizardry were standard for “Paddy”. In fact there wasn’t much he couldn’t do.
Everyone gets to meet at least one media mogul in their lifetime, and I am honoured to have met Howard Duggan [founding publisher]. Never ever write off this man. If you start to do that, read the previous sentence again. Howard is every sporting comeback movie rolled into one. On the ropes, Howard gets up from the canvas, looks his opponent in the eye, and prevails. To extend the analogy further, he is a living soccer game, down 2-0 with minutes to play, yet staging a Brisbane Roar-like comeback to win on penalties.
Running a small business reliant on advertising ain’t easy, and Howard has steered the company through some pretty tough times. He found solutions. They may not have always been elegant, but they worked. Howard had, like all media moguls, vision. He also wasn’t above attempting to wreak havoc upon his rivals or pointing out that they weren’t playing fair. As someone with a strong sense of justice, I applauded that. As a lawyer though, I would often get heart flutters when Howard would reveal his latest subversive offering intended for the opposition. How defamatory would it be? Who was in line for a pasting courtesy of the Duggan wit? Would the public get the (not so) subtle digs?
Whilst reflecting on Scene Magazine achieving this milestone of Issue 1000, it’s pertinent to ask 'where have the years gone?'. 1993 seems like a lifetime ago, but strangely still feels like yesterday. It was a pleasure to be part of the journey, and I offer a very heartfelt congratulations to the magazine and all concerned, for achieving this milestone.