We first came across Jake May when he was the music editor for the student union newspaper at the Cardiff based university we both attended (sadly the paper is now completely online and has a very poor excuse for a music section). For one reason or another we never actually met whilst at uni. The place was lacking in the socialising department especially if you liked going to gigs rather than student nights with wet t-shirt competitions. We bonded about this on Twitter and the rest, as they say, is history. Impressed with his writing and talent for searching out some of the best new music out there at the moment we caught up with Jake to talk about his blog Basement Fever, going to gigs and the hopelessness of the Plymouth music scene…
Cat On The Wall: When did you first decide to start writing about music? Had it been a lifelong ambition or something you just naturally moved towards?
Jake May: Writing about music was something I never really planned to do but just kind of fell into. When I started university I thought I’d try to write for the SU newspaper about a gig I was going to. It got published and I was chuffed. I kept at it and was offered the role of music editor, started writing for other publications, and it has snowballed since then. I used to write the odd Amazon CD review and that kind of thing when I was younger so I guess I always enjoyed it, but never really saw it as something I’d do more of. It’s still not quite a career, but hopefully will be. Maybe.
COTW: How did Basement Fever come about? Why set up your own blog?
JM: There always used to be quite a negative reputation for bloggers and an apparent consensus that there was some pretence behind it, so I started blogging with some uncertainty. First of all, blogging for me was just a place to collate all of my reviews that I’d written, kind of as an online portfolio. I gradually started writing unique content for it and decided that, actually, editing your own site and having full control was pretty similar to editing the music section of a newspaper and was quite a buzz, especially when it looked like people might enjoy some of the music you were featuring. Also, it has a lot to do with showing support to the artists, labels, and promoters that are featured. I hope that, somehow through me writing about them on Basement Fever, they might get some of the success that I think they deserve.
COTW: What do you look/listen for in new music? What kind of music makes you sit up and take notice?
JM: That’s a really difficult question to answer. I try to keep an open mind with musical styles, but I suppose there are some things that put me off, which might be easier to answer. Stuff with too much screaming my ears simply don’t enjoy, for example. I suppose I like music that is fresh, exciting, a bit different, honest. I don’t know. I will think about this question though.
COTW: What do you think about the current music press in the UK? Is there a future for the printed music magazine?
JM: I hope so. It’d be a real shame if everything went online. It’s nice to touch magazines and appreciate their design and layout and feel and smell. It was such a shame to hear that The Miniature Music Press was going online only and I can only assume it’s because advertising costs weren’t really covering printing costs. Hopefully once we are in a bit of a better economic situation, advertising is seen as a good option again and print magazines will reap the rewards. That being said, the NME could really do with moving away from their trashy style headline grabbing front covers, though they could be beyond being saved.
COTW: You’ve yet to fill in the Basement Fever gig list on the blog. What have been the best gigs you’ve attended so far this year?
JM: I’ve just been to The Great Escape in Brighton actually, and saw some bands there I really enjoyed. A local (to Brighton) band called Fear Of Men played a really strong set and I hope to hear more and more of them, and I also loved seeing Bleeding Knees Club play in a vintage shop. That being said, Great Escape overall wasn’t fantastic. I haven’t been to a huge amount of gigs, mostly because I’ve spent a good deal of time in culturally-boring Plymouth. I’m hoping to come to Cardiff for Islet in a few days, that should be excellent.
COTW: You mention quite regularly on twitter your concern/annoyance at the lack of good live music in Plymouth. What do you think could be done to improve the scene or is not worth even trying?
JM: There is a lack of everything. There is a lack of bands, there is a lack of promoters, a lack of labels, a lack of venues, a lack of publications and a general lack of enthusiasm. It’s really quite depressing (unless you’re a blues or hardcore fan and in which case you are probably fairly content. Labels such as Art Is Hard give me masses of faith though and I think if Plymouth can just get a few people as enthusiastic about music as that it’ll help the younger people in the areahttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gif realise at a younger age that getting involved is good fun and Plymouth might start attracting some touring bands and even making some exciting musicians. God knows if it’ll ever happen.
COTW: Finally, what are your plans for the near future?
JM: Finance depending, I’m hoping to do a post-graduate course in multi-media journalism at Sussex. Other than that I’m going to continue plugging away with what I’m doing now, getting over-excited about new bands, become overly aggravated by people talking at gigs, and generally moaning on Twitter.