Closing the book on Mongrel, opening the chapter on State
Yousef from Mongrel emailed last night and threw a five year old quote of mine back at me. It’s from The Ticket in 2003, when the first issue of Mongrel appeared. “Magazines of this ilk are supposed to be ephemeral. …
“Magazines of this ilk are supposed to be ephemeral. No one, not least those in the Mongrel kennel, realistically expects the magazine to still be chugging along in five or six years.”
This week, the last issue of Mongrel is out there on the streets. I don’t know the reasons why the magazine is calling it a day but, as with the departure of any mag, it’s sad. I liked what the Mongrel kids were doing, liked their style and the cut of their jib. But, it’s over, time to move on, nothing more to see here.
Foggy Notions too is moving on. Leagues told me last week that the magazine will appear online in the future. No more beautifully produced print issues, no more lavish illustrations on paper. Online, baby.
But as Mongrel and Foggy step out of the printers, State steps in. You know all about State. Headed by a couple of ex-Hot Press pros (John Walsh and Phil Udell from the writing department, Simon Roche from the art department) with experienced music snapper (and accountant) Roger Woolman, State has cherry-picked a lot of top-notch writers and bloggers for its new operation. The website is already live and the print issue appears on Thursday.
The first issue will feature REM on the cover. Yes, the same band who are also on the cover of the current issue of Hot Press (what a co-incidence, eh? Wonder how that happened?) and this month’s Q. That’s how things roll in the music mag world and Michael Stipe chuckles away at it all. His band’s new album is still shite, mind. State numero uno will also have stuff on Ham Sandwich, Adele, Los Campesinos, The Jimmy Cake, Cadence Weapon, Goldfrapp, Stiff Little Fingers and The Kooks.
I can already hear the grumbles: “sure, we know all about those acts, what about a six page feature on Man Man or an indepth feature on Why?”? Great, State will really be appealing to the 6-10,000 people they need to buy the magazine every month with that. Publishing is a business and you need both the big-draws and the interesting small fry in the book.
I genuinely wish State all the best. Publishing print mags is a tough old station, as Leagues or Yousef or anyone else who has ever fancied themselves as a publisher can testify. Only the strong survive and the strong-stomached at that. Advertising agencies, being the bastions of conservative thought that they are (that will get a few comments below), are always reluctant to take a punt on something new. They prefer to point to an existing publication’s ABC figures and hustle their clients towards that title. Sure, that’s their job, but it also makes the business of setting up a print magazine all the more difficult, especially in a time when the traction is online and probably blogging away day and night.
That email from Yousef prompted me to find the article I wrote back in ’03. Some of it – actually, a lot of it (modest, me) – still holds up five years on.
The beauty of magazines like Mongrel is that they reflect what’s going on at a particular time in a particular place. When they overstay their welcome, they become tired, predictable, bored and bland and turn into the NME. For a sense of what’s good and bad about living in the capital in 2003, Mongrel is right on the money and that’s what makes it so exciting to read.
I also wondered back then why we didn’t have more magazines.
Yet for all the mags which come and go (and this despite having had first-hand experience of a few of them), I’m still surprised that we don’t have more. While Dublin may not have the same population as a major US city like Chicago or Boston, we would like to think that there’s a similar interest here in arts, culture, local politics and having a good time. But while those cities can support a few different free, hefty weekly publications, Dublin has The Event Guide, newspaper supplements such as The Ticket and little else. Whatever the reason which prohibits us getting more ink on our hands – cautious advertisers, unadventurous agencies, parsimonious publishers – the city could really do with some more publications to map the mass of opinions, movements and changes which are out there at the moment.
Some things never change.
It will be fascinating to watch how State does in the coming months. The magazine will have oodles and oodles of goodwill from the music community. In a way, it’s an Obama moment. We want change, we’re fed up of how awful Hot Press is, we want a magazine which reflects what actually happens in Ireland and not one which reflects what used to happen in Ireland. Sure, it will cover the same acts as Hot Press (and indeed The Ticket and Day & Night), but it should and probably will cover them in a different way with a different angle. Yes, it would be great to see one magazine on the newstand this month without Michael Stipe’s mug on the cover, but them’s the breaks.
It will also be fascinating to watch the bitch fight which will errupt between the Trinity Street operation and State. Many, many magazines have jostled with Hot Press but none – that’s right, none – have survived. State has the bottle, the funds and the goodwill to make a change. However, it will not be easy. The fact that Hot Press managed to pull together a Stipe interview in jig-time indicates that they see State as a serious threat to their hegemony and they will do absolutely everything to put a halt to their gallop. There will be all sorts of jive-talking going on as both compete for acts and features and interviews. We’ve already seen Hot Press make a makeover ahead of State’s launch to make it look more, er, Stately. Yes, there will be blood as well as ink before this one is over.