Can you tell us about Counteract Magazine?
Counteract is a regional online magazine with a focus on all things music related in Birmingham and the West Midlands. We take pride in the fact that we are a lot of local bands’ first coverage and we hope we push their music to the masses!
What is the story behind the magazine?
It started primarily as a place to host my work – and also because I kept getting rejected from writing for some of my favourite music magazines when I left school at 16. I’ve always made an effort to ensure that young people get an opportunity to write or take photos for us, as it’s not easy to get started. Some of our team members have gone on, and still do, write and take photos for the likes of NME so I’m glad they got vital experience with us.
I guess I was also frustrated with the perception Birmingham has sometimes received. Birmingham has always had a great music scene, and in the last five years that we’ve seen national coverage, thanks to bands like Peace, Swim Deep, Superfood and Jaws.
You promote events as well, what are some of the highlights from your time as a promoter?
One of the proudest moments for me personally was working with Crystal Fighters. We put them on in O2 Institute3 (300 capacity) and the first time only about 100 people were there. On their next tour we put them in there again and it sold out, and we got them back again in O2 Institute2 the next year (600 capacity) which sold out almost instantly, so we upgraded it to the main room (1,500 capacity) and that sold out too. It was amazing seeing the standing floor and balconies on their feet loving the night.
My other favourite shows include God Damn at the Hare & Houndsin January 2014. This one was a real local affair with 5 great bands and a full house. I should also mention The Wytches at the Sunflower Lounge the next month, coincidentally with God Damn supporting. That one sold out and ended up with me crowdsurfing.
What do you think is special about Birmingham’s music scene?
In the past I don’t think Birmingham has always got the coverage it deserves so the one thing that I’ve found with the music scene here is that everyone in the city sticks together and supports each other. You’ll go to a gig and it’ll be an indie band, followed by an electronic band, followed by a heavier rock band – and everyone there likes all the bands playing. It’s a special city.
What are your favourite venues to see live music in Birmingham?
Where do I start? My favourite venue has to be the Hare & Hounds in Kings Heath. It’s a real Victorian pub with two great rooms upstairs and probably the best sound in Birmingham. The Sunflower Lounge is also great for those bands on the up, I’ve seen some great bands there. I also really like The Flapper and The Victoria.
As a music journalist and event promoter, what advice could you offer to anyone aspiring to work in those areas?
You just need to keep at it. If you get rejected from writing for someone, go elsewhere. If you get rejected from the next place, pick yourself up and keep applying. One day someone will take a chance on you, so just keep going. In regards to the events, I won’t lie and say it’s easy. Those in concert promoting will tell you to expect losses and they’re not wrong. Some events you’ll make money and others you’ll lose money, but as long as you have a love for local music then you’ll be making positive strides and people will notice.