An Interview with
bad luck magazine
By Hannah Green
and Caitlin Thomson
We chat to Nathan McLaren-Stewart of music mag Bad Luck Magazine about the
importance of captured moments, authentic music journalism, and striking out alone.
Hello Nathan. Welcome to a digital round two of our conversation about psych music in Bristol. This time, we’re back to discuss the music mag Bad Luck Magazine, which offers a host of interviews, festival guides and new music tip-offs on a beautifully curated platform. First of all: Bad Luck Magazine is pretty fucking cool. Talk me through its conception and birth.
First of all, thanks for the kind words. It started with me and my friend Luca Bailey some time ago. We were both photographing/writing for various indie music sites but didn’t really see the point in doing it for someone else when we could do it for ourselves. It was pretty different back then, I guess it didn’t have such a niche and we couldn’t see ourselves competing against the big guns. Over the years things have become a bit more specific. Luca isn’t involved anymore, so it became quickly about the music I dig, and now we have a few wonderful writers contributing stuff.
On your website you say you were ‘bored of the current state of music publications and working for them’. After my limited stint, I think I might know what you’re on about - could you expand on that a bit? What makes Bad Luck Magazine different?
I just didn’t like being told what to do, and I got bored very quickly of photographing and writing about essentially the same four white dudes in skinny jeans over and over. The NME is running content on whoever pays them the most. I think what makes Bad Luck a bit different is that myself, and the folk who have contributed, really give a shit about the music we write about and listen to. It’s so deeply rooted into us. It really is just music we love, ‘cause why waste your time on bad music? I have a lot of influence from the early days of Rolling Stone and the legendary Creem Magazine, so I think that gives Bad Luck a true rock and roll vibe. Thanks Lester Bangs.
We love an artistic crossover at Helicon. One of the great things about Bad Luck Magazine is its combination of music journalism and excellent photography - no Shutterstock in sight. Your One Shot series especially is really cool. Obviously visual media is important, but here it’s heightened to an art. What does music photography mean to the magazine in general and to you in particular?
Music photography means everything to music, and it’s how I really got into live music. You might look cool, but if there’s no one there to document you it will be forgotten and no one will really give a damn. I’m not saying music is about looks, it’s not, but it sure can help. The importance of photography is unparalleled, look at Ken Regan, Mick Rock and Bob Gruen’s work, that does the talking. Everyone knows Pennie Smith’s photo of The Clash. Captured moments become iconic.
You interview bands and artists from all over the place - what draws you to a potential interviewee? What is important for you to cover?
It’s gotta be interesting. Whether that be the music or the person, though they normally come hand in hand. If I can’t dig the music then it’s very hard to talk to someone about their art. It’s subjective, though. I do like to push people into answering quite specific questions, or topics that can be more sensitive, but there’s got to be trust and respect for that to happen.
Also, as an independent platform has it been difficult for you to obtain certain interviews, or have you found that the musicians you’re interested in are pretty open?
Not really. It’s been going for a little while now and Bad Luck is making a name for itself. Once you’ve built a body of work, and a platform to stand on, it’s not so hard to get where you want to be. Confidence always helps. But you could be interviewing your favourite artist in the world, if there’s no click and no connection between you on a basic human level then you’re not going to get a very great interview.
Do you have a particular ethos for the magazine, a certain set of values you try and stick to?
There’s a lot of magazines out there, some are brilliant, some are not so brilliant. I like to dig deep with my interviews, as I mentioned, so I guess that’s an ethos I stick to. I’ve done interviews that just end up being a bit boring with a lack of answers and I won’t write them up because of that. The only really ethos Bad Luck has is to do justice to the great music that we cover.
We seem to have two extremes right now of a conglomerate mainstream media and people like you guys doing it for themselves and producing interesting and authentic content. Why is it important to have these kinds of platforms and why do you think people are drawn to them?
Because we give a shit! You really think Vice care about anything other than how much money can be fit into their deep, right-wing pockets? The majority of mainstream media is bought out. If you want to find people who are truly passionate about what they do then you gotta dig a bit deeper. We’ve got nothing to lose and no one to censor our ideas. Long live DIY and long live the underground.
And would you say the reward of creative freedom outweighs the struggles of running an independent magazine? (You kind of have to say yes to this one but it would be interesting to know your thoughts on the balance of the two)
Yeah for sure, it’s why Bad Luck exists. Sure, there’s struggles in it, and it’d be nice to have a bit more money, but if it means sacrificing freedom and working for the man then count us out. I can make a mean coffee if I have to work in a coffee shop.
What’s the vision for the future? What’s next?
To keep turning people on to new music. I’ve got lots of ideas and plans, but time will tell. It’d be nice to make some more print publications, put on a few more shows, include a few more writers. Who knows.
And lastly - any wise words for anyone wanting to get their own magazine/website up and running?
You can’t do it if you don’t try, right? Just find what you’re passionate about and go for it. Nothing can bring you down if you’re truly passionate about it. And listen to more Black Sabbath.