Ten years ago today I signed on at Blogger* and kicked things off with posts on an article by Greg Mario Whitfield about Bass Culture and a new issue of Datacide Magazine.
Paul Meme and I had been avidly following Simon Reynolds’ Blissout website for a few years and had noted his move to Blogger the previous October. Paul then found this guy blogging as That Was A Naughty Bit of Crap (TWANBOC). And we thought “Oh, ok, WE could do THAT…”.
I started my blog a week after TWANBOC began and Paul followed with Shards, Fragments and Totems (which I always thought was a terrible title) nine days later.
Simon Reynolds’ Blissblog logo
We weren’t alone. An explosion of music blogs had commenced. Initially nobody had a comments facility. (Indeed, the internet was a very different place before Myspace, Youtube, Facebook, Twitter, Flickr existed). Back then, if you wanted to respond to people’s posts you would have to write something on your own blog. You’d find out about new blogs from mate’s blog entries and through links in people’s sidebars. Sidebars got quite political after a while, with huffy handbags-at-dawn “Well! I’ve DELETED you from MY SIDEBAR!!!” anguish from some of the emerging primadonnas. Beyond The Implode’s astute take on this was characteristically essential.
For an old git like me, blogging echoed the democratic responsibility of fanzine publishing.
I gave a talk about my take on blogging and fanzine writing (and how they differ from journalism) at the Audio Poverty festival in Berlin. The audio of the talk is available via that link.
My pre-history of blogging
But actually my written and self-published output was quite like blogging before blogging was possible.
2000-2002: I’d been doing monthly updates to my website with a hooky copy of Dreamweaver and then uploading the pages via FTP. It was fun, but a bit fiddly – and there was hardly any way of getting feedback. There’d be reviews, links to articles I’d published, links to interesting stuff by allies, charts, etc.
1995-1997: The first six issues of Turbulent Times had similar content, except they’d come out three times a year and be mailed out as a four page A4 leaflet, with inserts. Like blogging, this slotted into a community of like-minded groups such as the Neoist Alliance, London Psychogeographical Association, Decadent Action, Manchester Area Psychogeographic, The Equi Phallic Alliance, Parasol Post and the Association of Autonomous Astronauts – all of whom published newsletters in a similar way.
Some sheets from The Sheets Project
1994-1995: Before that, there was what came to be known as The Sheets Project. Once a month I’d post out 50 copies of an untitled A3 sheet with various diary entries about what I’d been up to. Mr Autotranscend would give me some of his A.K.C.T. fiction to include as well.
“The Golden Age of music blogging”
It feels like a long time ago now. I think I’ll always associate some blogs with a particular period in my life, and the music that accompanied it. It was all incredibly fertile – blogs spawned other blogs, online forums, social meet ups, relationships, online mixes like Blogariddims, publications like Woofah and a ton of music projects.
Some bloggers became paid journalists or produced books. (Some were already in this position, but I preferred to see them cut loose online, being gloriously subjective and personal.) Other people came and went – some of them deleting their entire blogs when they’d had enough. I met some amazing characters, both online and in the flesh.
The blogosphere was an incredibly chaotic, fluid, seething mess. I loved it. Even the idea that everything was available online was subverted by falling into a maze of sidebar links and finding that new amazing blog – and then never being able to locate it ever again. People had a laugh AND took it seriously. Tried to out-do each other, but also supported people.
Blogging in 2013
Changes in technology and software have diluted the community aspect of blogging. Now that most music can be heard online, it seems that many people don’t see the point of writing about it. Wankers.
My RSS feed is a bit bereft these days, although I have stayed in touch with a surprisingly large number of people and am vaguely aware of what some of the more conventionally successful ex-bloggers are up to. I think people tend to specialise more these days, which is good if you share an interest with someone, but it’s all a bit tidy.
Simon Reynolds now seems to be running an insane twenty nine blogs, so it’s hardly surprising his original Blissblog has lost focus a bit. (“Crowd sourcing” material for blog posts about drum patterns! Dearie me!)
Matthew Ingram transformed TWANBOC into WOEBOT and then experimented with a fine array of new formats, culminating in his own online TV documentaries before chucking it all in and making music.
He’s now republished his blog as an 800 page kindle/e-book thing. It’s great – really good to see those articles again. A new entry from Matt was the kind of thing you’d surreptitiously print out at work for the bus ride home, but then read it online anyway when the boss was out of the office because you were too excited. Let’s put it this way – I downloaded a kindle app just so I could read it on my computer at home and I wouldn’t do that unless I had to – and I already read most it anyway…
The self-publishing aspect seems to have diminished recently, with people preferring to contribute to online magazines or uber-blogs. I can see why they would do that – you want people to read your stuff and they are less likely to when it is hidden away on a music blog these days, bar a few exceptions. I’m the same, with pieces I’ve contributed to Datacide or Woofah or Agit Disco.
We have “evolved” from people composing blog posts, to forum threads, to Facebook updates or 140 characters on Twitter, to posting nothing but Youtube links or context-less images on Tumblr, to “liking” something with the click of a mouse. Convenience has a lot to answer for, but I think there are still lots of interesting conversations happening too.
And me? Like everyone I’m in a different situation than I was ten years ago. Technology has moved on, my interests have shifted and I have less time/more commitments. There’s nothing subcultural right now that I feel I can slot right into. I feel less need to write about whatever I am thinking about on a daily basis. There’s too much going on, so it’s a good time to focus.
I’ve returned to fanzine publishing as a bit of an experiment, but the blog is still here to flag up whatever I think people should know about. It’s great that Matt has published Woebot as a book, but I feel far happier having ten years of my blog still available for people to stumble on when they are at work randomly googling things. I don’t feel the need to anthologise my writing because (unlike Woebot) most of it was very much of its time.
So! Thank you if you’re still reading this, or have ever left a comment, or sent me a nice email. Or sent me a letter or your music or bought me a pint. Maybe see you in another ten…
The first 23 gigs I can remember going to series
LONDON ACID CITY: When the Two 8’s Clash
Occultural roots of “Inna Gadda da Vida”
Punk Comics 3: Straight Edge
Secret Ska History of Stamford Hill (by Malcolm Imrie, not me!)
*This blog was initially hosted at Blogspot, then moving to my friend Dnyl’s chaos.org.au site before finally being fully integrated into uncarved.org. All the content from each incarnation is here, but some of the older stuff is a bit scrambled after everything got hacked last year.