Wednesday, October 5, 2011

5 Minutes With Paul Trynka

Paul Trynka by Julian Burgin

Paul Trynka is probably best-known as editor of MOJO magazine, the international bible of rock’n’roll music: he joined the title as reviews editor in 1996, overseeing it from 1999 to 2003. During his time on MOJO the magazine’s sales grew from 46,000 to 108,000 worldwide. He has also served as Editorial Director of Q magazine, editor of International Musician Magazine, and founding editor of The Guitar Magazine.

He has written definitive studies of the Electric Guitar (Virgin 1993, a co-production with London’s Design Museum), blues music (Portrait Of The Blues, with Val Wilmer, Hamlyn/Da Capo 1996) and Denim (Aurum Press, 2001) and edited MOJO’s bumper co-production with Dorling Kindersley, The Beatles, 10 Years That Shook The World (2004). All of these books are available in various international editions, including Japanese (Portrait of the Blues, Denim), German (Iggy, The Beatles), French (Denim, The Beatles), Italian and Hungarian (Iggy).

Angie, Zowie (aka Duncan Jones) and David Bowie at a press conference in Amsterdam, 1974. Photograph: Gijsbert Hanekroot/Redferns

Paul has written for Elle, The Independent, The Guardian, Blueprint and many other titles, on design, fashion, music and travel, and in his previous career as a musician made critically-lauded albums for labels like Beggars Banquet and Factory, one of which reached Number Three in the charts. In Andorra. He lives in Greenwich, London, with partner Lucy and son, Curtis.

Q1.What was the first song or record you bought that really changed your life?

PT: It was Hey Joe, by Patti Smith, which I got hold of from the hippie head shop round the corner from my school, and I Remember You by the Ramones, a few months later. Before that point, much of the music I liked was on the point of petering out, and there was a period of desperation when I was considering buying a record by The Eagles. THen suddenly, rather than a dearth, there was this deluge of great music, even more so when I got hold of the Stooges debut album, and my mate discovered the Bowie Santa Monica bootleg.

Q2. Starman is a fantastic Bowie biography. What was the process in writing it? How long did it take to complete?

PT: Starman was in many ways a natural progression from my book on Iggy; broadly speaking, I wasn't convinced by the sections of existing Bowie books that dealt with Iggy. THey didn't give me a sense of their Berlin days - and ultimately, with Iggy, I thought I'd got pretty close to the feel, the texture of their life. So I couldn't wait to get to Bowie and try to shine a light on all the other eras of his life; but it was still a real challenge to wrestle the story into shape, and it took nearly three years and well over 200 interviews.

Q3. I do want to ask about your Denim (Aurum Press, 2001) book and the denim section of your site Have you always been a denim enthusiast?

PT: I think I got given my first pair of Levi's by a friend when I was around 16, they had a huge rip on the front which my sister repaired. The in the 80s I spotted that older Levi's looked nicer than newer ones. And of course the story of denim parallels that of rock music. Putting together a denim book was an accident when I met a neighbour, Graham Marsh - we cooked up the idea to do one that first evening, wrote the pitch within a couple of days, and started work on it within a couple of weeks. I've spent a lot of time travelling around the states interviewing musicians - going to places like Cone, who make Levi's denim, in North Carolina or Lee, in Kansas, was a natural extension of that.

Q4. Please tell me a little about your own music and your albums for labels like Beggars Banquet and Factory.

PT: I started my main band, Nyam Nyam, while at school, we had a track on a local compilation album - later on Peter Hook, of New Order, noticed the sleeve of our first single when they were recording Everything's Gone Green at Cargo in Rochdale, and offered to produce us. Meanwhile we had Ivo Watts-Russell of 4AD interested. Hookie produced our Factory Benelux single, Fate/Hate, which made several dance charts, then our self-produced debut album, Hope Of Heaven, came out on Situation Two. We were widely described as "great white hopes", with remarks like "if this were to sell in large quantities, pop music will never be the same again." Which just shows how wrong critics can be! I hugely value that time making music, but in retrospect I realise that we didn't really have that ambition, that ruthlessness, that talent for self-promotion, that people like Iggy or Bowie exhibit. It's often seen as a character flaw, but I think it's obligatory.

Q5. David Bowie seems to have quietly retired from the spotlight in the past few years. With no live shows on the calendar through 2012 (according to do you think we can ever look forward to seeing DB live or hear new recordings in the future?

PT: David Bowie has given so much of his life over to showbusiness, that it seems totally reasonable that he's finally devoted himself to his daughter, and re-created himself as a conventional dad. I know he feels that Duncan's childhood was affected, maybe damaged, by his unconventional life.He's always been very conscious of the ebb and flow of a career, the importance of a grand statement - so if he does return, it will have to be with a work that is great, not just good, and I think the prospect of any more live tours is remote indeed. That said, I'm hoping we will see new material from the vaults once his deal with EMI expires next year.

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