Q&A With Neil Kulkarni

18th June 2018

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As a prospective new student at BIMM, we figured you’d be interested to read about our tutors and their backgrounds within the music industry, which is why we’ve been conducting Q&A’s with some of our newest recruits to scratch beneath the surface and highlight why they’re such an asset to our faculty. Expect rock ‘n’ roll stories, career-making anecdotes and just a bit of name-dropping for good measure.

Who are you and what department are you joining at BIMM?

Neil Kulkarni, music journalist and critic.I will be module leader on the Music Journalism course in Birmingham BIMM.

Can you sum up your career highlights in the music industry up until this point?

In terms of sheer satisfaction, completing ‘The Periodic Table Of Hip Hop’ for Penguin Books which came out in 2015. It was a chance to write at length, and in detail about the music that has been the major love of my life, hip hop.

In terms of weekly journalism work jetting around the world interviewing my heroes (Jackie Chan, Public Enemy, Dre, Cypress Hill, Ozzy Osbourne, Metallica and far too many others to mention) has always been a joy. Interviewing Marilyn Manson in the back of an ambulance (a long story I’ll tell you some day), chatting with Eminem after his first UK appearance, riding round L.A with Tommy Lee, being on the road with Rob Zombie – I’ve had a lot of fun over the years.

BUT if I’m honest, the highlight so far was that first time over 25 years ago when I walked into WH Smiths, plucked a magazine off the shelf, flicked through it, and saw my name in there, in print, under an article I’d written. I was floating on air and I’m not sure I’ve come down since – that’s an endless high, an addictive one too! I still get a thrill seeing stuff I’ve written in print and I think I always will. If you’re a writer and a reader, that’s something that never gets old. You always feel giddy with excitement.

What are you most excited about teaching the students/what excites you most about working at BIMM?

The opportunity to share the skills I’ve developed over 25 years of magazine, newspaper and book writing but more importantly, hearing what the student’s ideas are. There’s a danger that music-journalism, like a lot of journalism, could simply become a hobby for the privileged. I can’t wait to find out what my students are into, what they want to say about what they’re into (and what they’re NOT into!) and give them the tools they need to express themselves in a natural and confident way.

I want to enable my students to be good READERS as well as writers – directing them to the key figures in music journalism who are important. I also want to get more diverse voices into music journalism. Fundamentally though, my goal is that by the end of my time with the students, I will be able to spot their writing within just a line: that’s what a great writer develops with their readers, a real relationship of trust and friendship and that kind of unmistakeable unique style that brings readers back. I want every one of my students to find their voice and express it as loudly and proudly as possible.

I also hope to allow my students to make sure their work is as visible as possible – forging connections in the music industry that will keep them in the game – but more important than visibility (which can pass if you haven’t made sure you have something worth saying) is longevity, developing a personal style in the writing that will ensure you can make a career out of it. People, despite the pessimism around the media, WILL come back to great writing again and again. I want to help my students create the great writing that’s inside them waiting to come out. I want them to love writing about music. Because I’d still say, even after quarter of a century doing it, it’s the best job in the world.

Top 5 records of all time?

Oooof, that’s a toughie. Today (and this will change tomorrow) it’s…
1) Public Enemy – Fear Of A Black Planet
2) The Rolling Stones – Between The Buttons
3) Miles Davis – On The Corner
4) Throwing Muses – House Tornado
5) Michael Jackson – Off The Wall



James Watts

Social Media Assistant, Professional Bassist and Music Journalist. Career highlights include performing at some of the UK's premier music festivals, recording in Abbey Road and interviewing Debbie Harry.