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About us / Rarely asked questions

What is/was Hearsay magazine?
What is this web version?
Why does this web version have a different look and feel from the printed version?
Who produced Hearsay?
Who contributed to Hearsay?
Who bought it?
How were the interviews conducted?
How was it received?
Why did it end?
Why revive it now?

What is/was Hearsay magazine?
Hearsay magazine was a small-press music magazine which ran for 21 issues throughout the 1990s. Established in 1993, it was based in London, England but primarily covered musicians from the US, Canada and, occasionally, Australia and New Zealand. Broadly, it aimed to cover an ill-defined and under-promoted genre of literate singer-songwriters and college-y bands from the English-speaking world. We took lyrics very seriously. We loved north American bands whose albums failed to get releases in the UK. We revered anyone who displayed irreverence towards genre. We were dismayed by the silos of music criticism which were emerging in our country, with nothing between NME and Mojo. (Mojo didn't actually exist at the time, but that's not the point.) Nowhere in the UK press would you find coverage of the songwriters we'd loved at school and at sixth-form college: the Michael Penns, Jane Siberries and Robin Holcombs of the world. We wanted to see our favourites written about, even if we had to do the writing ourselves. And we wanted the coverage to do justice to the complexity of the music we discussed, which often meant elaborate and discursive reviews, career retrospectives and in-depth interviews in Q&A format. The first few issues of Hearsay were largely review based, but from around issue 11 in 1995 we finally came out of our shells and started interviewing our heroes. A precedent had been set, and the interviews, of a singular kind, became our hallmark.

What is this web version?
This is an online archive of the majority of our best interviews from the second half of Hearsay's life (1996-2000). We have reproduced them in their entirety in the spirit of open access and in the hope they find a wider audience than our print edition reached. We always tried to avoid a 'tell us about your new album' approach to interviews and aimed for something more philosophical and contemplative. As a result, we think many of these interviews still stand up, and are worth reproducing in full in a permanent archive, illuminating the life and art of some unique talents at a fixed point in their career. Here's hoping they find a new audience. Please feel free to link to them and spread the word.

Why does this web version have a different look and feel from the printed version?
This web edition was compiled on a whim in summer 2008, eight years after our final printed issue. The many pages we produced between 1993 and 2000 came together against a backdrop of rapidly evolving DTP and web-publishing technology and we got through a ridiculous number of PCs, printers and scanners in a short space of time. Any original digital files of Hearsay we ever had have long since disappeared or become unreadable (of course some elements, including a number of editorials, were unreadable to begin with). All the text on this site was scanned from the printed page and converted using a mixture of OCR (which may explain the relatively high percentage of typos) and OCD (which may explain the relatively low percentage of typos). Although we built up a large archive of promotional photographs of artists featured, this is now in storage in a mysterious lock-up in Hertfordshire after a house move, so images have been largely drawn from the promotional photos in use on other aggregate music sites. This site also differs from the print version in that we have omitted all the discursive album reviews. For all the amusing turns of phrase these yielded, they had a shorter shelf life than the interviews. A lot of the eccentricities of Hearsay (letters from the editors, lists) have also been omitted to provide fewer distractions from the interviewees.

Who produced Hearsay?
Hearsay was co-edited by two old friends, Ewen Moore and Neil Parkinson, who worked a little too hard on it for seven years. We met at school, met again at sixth-form college and then corresponded at length over several years at different universities. In summer 1993, in the depths of a recession, Ewen took over the reins of a friend's fledgling music magazine. Issues one and two of Hearsay were intended as a forum for unsigned artists. But when the baton was passed to us with issue three, the name was retained but almost everything else went out of the window to accommodate our own baggage. We had bonded years earlier over a mutual love of Aimee Mann's old band 'Til Tuesday, and the relative obscurity of this band (which felt pretty criminal at the time) spurred us to keep seeking out new stuff and to discover such artists as the Triffids, the Go-Betweens, the innocence mission and the Golden Palominos at sixth form. It was this kind of music, however it could be defined, we wanted to write about. We worked together on the next 19 issues to promote the artists we loved, and we only fell out once.

Who contributed to Hearsay?
Over time, we became orbited by a sterling, and ever-changing line-up of contributors, spearheaded by the redoubtable Pete Pawsey - first encountered in a queue outside a David McComb gig at the Borderline. Pete threw himself into our endeavours and did much to set the tone for our interviews (his chat with Peter Blegvad won us a glowing notice in Melody Maker, of all places). The ever-dependable Simon Heavisides, too, made regularly invaluable contributions to our reviews pages. Other contributors, off and on, included Andy Darlington, Richard Bell, Andy Miller, Shaun Belcher, Jon Jordan, Karen O'Brien, Stewart Lee, Anna Domino, David Squire, Sean Body, Chris Fowler (who got us into the whole 'interview' lark) and Martin Williams. It was a bit of a revolving door of contributors, but many people left their mark.

Who bought it?
A broad and indefinable readership but an influential one which existed in a small world of shared reference points and arcane enthusiasms. We had some very cool subscribers and we also gave away a large number of copies to the various record companies, PR types and musicians who corresponded with us and assisted us. Hearsay seemed to have a reach far beyond its relatively modest circulation. Most issues were sold through subscription; a number were on sale in retail outlets from Minus Zero to the Virgin Megastore. We always sold well in the much-missed Helter Skelter bookshop on Denmark Street in London. Towards the end of our life, we even had a US arm, kindly overseen by Paul from Willard Grant Conspiracy (and, latterly, the Transmissionary Six) who sold them to Americans through the band's PO box. He also took copies down to various branches of Newbury Comics in Massachusetts and would periodically post us back envelopes stuffed with ten-pound notes. We're still impressed by his faith, and the levels of effort he expended on our behalf.

How were the interviews conducted?
Initially, not at all. We were rather unassuming at age 20, and avowedly not proto-journalists (unlike almost all of our fellow students). We also assumed most of the artists we wanted to interview were uncontactable. Hearsay was intended as an opportunity for us to analyse and criticise various canons of work. But once we started doing that, freelance zine contributors started offering us interviews which they just seemed to have gone out there and done. We soon found ourselves running entertaining and in-depth chats with some of our favourites, including Robyn Hitchcock, Kristin Hersh and Lori Carson. But it wasn't until a couple of years later, and a rare UK appearance from one of our heroes, Jules Shear, that we blasted out of our comfort zone and made the effort to go and speak to him in person. After that, our profile continued to rise, Pete went off and did a brilliant piece with Peter Blegvad, and then the technology fell into place to allow us to interview people via email. The summer of 1996 was an especially heady, almost surreal season. Two landmark albums came out simultaneously: Joe Henry's Trampoline and Cracker's The Golden Age. As if disappearing into their aural worlds that long hot June had not been exciting enough, we found ourselves dashing off to interview Mr Henry one week, at precisely the same time Cracker's David Lowery was emailing us instalments of our interview (two or three answers to our questions a day, received regularly over a number of days). Suddenly, no one seemed unreachable and certain artists proved to be stepping stones to others. Email interviews were a mixed bag and would either fly off the page or would sputter and clank arrhythmically. It was always a little sad to feel at arm's length from people we hoped to speak to, but the resulting interviews may often have turned out better (the cyber-chats with Michael Penn, Anna Domino and Scott Miller, for example, offer repeated rewards). We were interviewing writers, after all, many of whom responded with extensively quotable, contemplative words not punctured by soundbites or haunted by l'esprit d'escalier. When Ewen, Neil and Pete interviewed people in person, we tried to make sure two of us would go together, in part because at least one-and-a-half of us were shy, but also to set a tone of conversation rather than job interview. (This did not impress Robert Forster's publicist who asked if there had to be two of us so 'one of you can hold the tape recorder while the other one asks the questions.') The Joe Henry, Syd Straw and Stephen Duffy interviews exemplify when it worked the best. We almost never did phone interviews until the final issue when we finally worked out how to record a transatlantic phone call. It added significantly to the impressive roster for our valedictory issue, but we didn't regret the absence of the technique in the previous seven years.

How was it received?
Pretty positively among a core readership and people of a certain sensibility. Sales were modest, but the same could be said of the albums we reviewed. Some people were turned off by the wordiness, others thought it was exactly the right response to the meticulous, crafted albums we were discussing. For some reason, Hearsay always contained some studenty bits, lots of in-jokes and sporadic daftness, which outraged at least one incredibly famous novelist and caused him to cancel his subscription in despair. Such umbrage was pleasingly rare. We knew we had some spectacularly cool readers here and there and were delighted when a number of them went on to carve out impressive careers in music, publishing and west-end musicals. They wrote us terrific letters. We privately revered about ten readers on our database and perhaps wrote everything as if it was directed at them. We were broadly unsuccessful in using Hearsay as a way to meet girls. Our friends and supporters included other zine editors and a number of endearing press officers, who didn't mind when we slagged the CDs they sent us. On occasion, our writings in Hearsay would be regurgitated into genuine press releases which made us think we might have been doing something wrong.

Why did it end?
The impossibility of maintaining the momentum was part of the problem. It felt as if every time we two co-editors met up for a drink, we spent the entire time discussing page plans and interview strategies. Other, significantly better resourced, zines were entering the market which overlapped with what we were covering. Yet our remit was getting more and more blurred with the rise of the alt.country scene, a movement we liked but felt ambivalent about, not least the way it was exclusively hogging the media's attention for the songwriting craft. And there seemed to be a new Lambchop album to review every issue. The internet was starting to change the flow and focus of information on the artists we covered, and the element of serendipity (a chance find at a record fair, a random interview uncovered in a US import magazine) was becoming supplanted by the precision search and targeted information provided by the online world. At the same time, the brilliant, inventive and shamelessly cultured BBC London radio station GLR, a kindred spirit in many ways and a forum for many a Hearsay-friendly artist, was being closed down in response to poor ratings. But essentially Hearsay ended because it was time to start listening to a new album again without the compulsion to write a thousand words on how it made us feel. Shortly after we quit, a proto-reality show monstrosity named Popstars! launched a manufactured band on a complicit ITV audience. The band's name was Hear'Say and we rued the day we failed to register www.hearsay.co.uk as a domain, which we could then have sold for a small fortune. Hear'Say's brief success meant we received some very peculiar, misdirected fan mail from small children for several weeks.

Why revive it now?
Post-Hearsay, we both found jobs working with interesting collections in the cultural sector - museums and galleries and universities. We spend a lot of time with archives and have been thinking about the permanence and impermanence of stuff. Den of Geek recently ran an interesting interview with Stephen King unearthed from 1984, and it was doubly interesting both for its content and vintage. With luck, this applies to many of our own interviews. Moreover, while burgeoning internet trends did for our print publication, it feels more right to embrace them now by using the technology to ensure these interviews are more permanently available for those interested (earlier iterations of the Hearsay site only included a few small extracts from interviews to encourage people to buy the print edition). As the dreaded social networking becomes more a part of life, perhaps there's scope to tap in to groupings of fans of certain artists and point them towards this older material. Oh, and there's finally a Democrat in the White House again. Eight years away from anything is long enough.


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