"The old idea was always to aim your mix to sound good on a transistor radio, but I no longer want to make music for garage mechanics to listen to on their transistors blaring away at a distance of thirty feet. I'm actually thinking less these days in terms of mass consumption and more in terms of an elitist thing." Steve Hackett
> MX July 1994
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1981 - 1986
Mike Beecher, Dan Goldstein
That was what I told my parents after I’d spent three days at the offices of Electronics & Music Maker in Westcliff-on-Sea, Essex, in the spring of 1983. I went there as a sub-editing temp, having been a regular reader of the magazine since its launch. I’d left school the previous summer, intending to go to University to read Geography, and had spent a few months as an editorial assistant on a hi-fi magazine at Link House in Croydon.
Compared with Link House, the E&MM offices were a war zone. The building was decrepit. The two guys I was working with, Technical Editor Ken McAlpine and Music Editor Mark Jenkins, had to write everything by hand because there were no typewriters, let alone a computer. The magazine wasn’t delivering the increase in electronic components sales that its owners, Maplin, had envisaged, and while they were trying to sell the title (Link House, ironically, being one of the interested parties), they had cut every last penny out of producing it. The magazine seemed to be going nowhere, and I was heading out the door.
Four months later I returned from an archetypal gap-year summer of Inter-Railing around Europe to the news that somebody called Terry Day had left me a phone message. I phoned him back. He explained that he and his business partner, Dennis Hill, had bought E&MM from Maplin and moved the offices to Cambridge, where their intention was to use the magazine as the foundation for a whole new publishing company. They’d already launched one new title, Home Studio Recording, and were looking at another called Computer Musician.
There was only one problem. They had no staff. Ken and Mark had both quit, while E&MM founder Mike Beecher wasn’t in the office every day. I took a train up to Cambridge from my parents’ house in North London. The offices were bright, modern and spacious. Terry and Dennis were charming, as was their ad sales guy Tony Halliday and the skeleton editorial team of Ian Gilby, Paul Wiffen and Trish McGrath. Terry offered me £100 a week in cash to help get the magazine to the printers.
I never went to University. Why read Geography when you can surround yourself with the latest in music technology, and get paid for writing about it? I wasn’t talented enough to be a rock star, a hit record producer or a professional DJ. But I could do this.
In less than a year I was Editor of E&MM at the age of 21. I’d learnt just enough about magazine editing, design and production to keep the title competitive against Northern & Shell’s Electronic Soundmaker, but the driving force behind our success was the enthusiasm we all had for the subject. We all loved exploring new ways to make music, interviewing the musicians who inspired us (my first was John Foxx, E&MM November ’83) and, in turn, inspiring our readership to innovate and experiment themselves.
We worked long into the night. We agonised over fonts, feature lengths and house styles. We commissioned iconic photographs of our idols (thank you, Matthew Vosburgh!). We welcomed Tim Goodyer and the late, great Simon Trask into our ranks. We changed the name to Music Technology. And we never regretted a thing.
Former Editor, E&MM / Music Technology / Home & Studio Recording
1983 - 1994 (UK Edition)
Mike Beecher, Ian Gilby, Paul White, Dan Goldstein
I joined Home Studio Recording in 1984 as technical editor. My previous career had been in electronics so in addition to writing reviews, my role included designing an electronics project each month for the readers to build. I ran a studio at home based on an open-reel eight-track machine at the time and also played live, which I still continue to do. I’ve suffered for my music so now I make sure everybody else does too!
In 1984 Ian Gilby was editor of Home Studio Recording and his brother Paul deputy editor but they fell out with the magazine owner after he offered them a monumentally insulting pay rise and left, leaving either myself or the guy who cleaned the offices to take over as editor. I don’t think he wanted it. So, with 11 days to go and an empty filing cabinet, I wrote nearly all the May issue.
This arrangement worked out well and we built up a good team including Debbie Poyser and Derek Johnson, both of whom later migrated to Sound On Sound along with myself. I really enjoyed my time at Home Studio Recording where we still made up magazines the old-school way with waxed paper and often worked through the night to meet deadlines. As the magazine started to appeal to more pro users, I changed the name to Home and Studio Recording.
Skip a few years and Ian and Paul Gilby had established Sound On Sound as a rival to Home Studio Recording and to Electronics and Music Maker as they covered both recording and synths in the same mag. There were rumours that Home Studio Recording and the other Music Maker titles were to be sold to Future Publishing, so in 1991 a few of us left and joined Sound On Sound. That was around 25 years ago — and I’m still there. Well, it’s much better than a ‘real' job!
Editor, Sound On Sound
1975 - 1985
Marvin Jones, Craig Anderton
We are hosting and archiving the legendary Polyphony magazine here by kind permission of Scott Lee at PAiA.
We had an opportunity to fill out the collection of issues and create a more complete archive of Polyphony than already exists, so we decided to add it to mu:zines (as we might do for other related publications over time, where it makes sense to do so.)
We will be adding Polyphony into the regular publishing rotation as normal. While that's going on, we're collecting, scanning, and making available PDF downloads of the issues, including many issues that have not been made available elsewhere. Think of it as mu:zines "DVD Extra" bonus content!
1985 - Current (Still publishing)
Ian Gilby, Paul Ireson, Paul White
Soundtrack? "Mmm, nice play on words..."
Synthetix? "Nah, people will think it's a haberdashery magazine..."
Recording? "Simple and to the point..."
Multitracker? "Getting better..."
Two hours later, my brother Paul and I were still thinking up names for our dream magazine when we stuck our favourite Bill Nelson album on the turntable and stopped to make another cup of tea. Glancing at the album sleeve, inspiration struck.
"What about 'Sound On Sound', I enquired? "That's the one!" confirmed Paul.
And that's how, way back in May 1985 in a rented bungalow in rural Cambridgeshire, the monthly magazine that recently celebrated its 30th anniversary came to be called Sound On Sound.
Looking back, it seems like only yesterday when two young, enthusiastic lads resigned from their editorial jobs because they were at loggerheads with a publisher who did not understand their vision of a magazine that would encapsulate the converging worlds of recording and music technology.
That's what we were interested in, and it was obvious to us back then at the birth of MIDI that it was only a matter of time before tape recorders were replaced by digital sequencers with random access, ample capacity and resolution to record entire performances, as well as control the entire mix. How could you publish a magazine about recording and not include MIDI sequencers?
So we left our jobs and signed on the dole. Two weeks passed and our rent became due, and that's when 'Red Cross food parcels' and financial subsidies from our parents commenced and we quickly realised that we had to get another job. Encouraged by our father, the obvious solution was to start our own magazine!
We quickly dismissed the idea as foolhardy and a guaranteed way to make ourselves bankrupt, as we knew nothing about running a company, but the seeds were sown that night as we lay asleep, dreaming of what might be. Next morning, we awoke filled with an ingrained sense of passion for the subject that still underpins the magazine today.
The November inaugural issue of Sound On Sound hit the UK streets on October 18th 1985, backed by a TV advertising campaign that aired within Channel 4's cult music programme, 'The Tube'. Tina Turner should have headlined the show that week, but due to illness was replaced last minute by Ultravox lead singer Midge Ure (interviewed and featured on our front cover), whose first solo single had just leapt up the charts to No.1. We couldn't have planned a better launch campaign, and Sound On Sound Issue 1 flew off the newsagent's shelves and into history!
Sound On Sound is very much a team effort, and we have been very lucky over the years to attract some of the most talented individuals in the industry. I cannot let this opportunity pass without thanking and praising all past and present SOS staff and contributors, our loyal readers and advertisers, for it is your contributions and support that have helped shape SOS and make it what it is today: the most respected, authoritative publication in its field. We're immensely proud of that achievement.
Ian Gilby, Paul Gilby
Co-founders, Sound On Sound
1986 - 1994 (UK Edition)
Dan Goldstein, Tim Goodyer, Nigel Lord
When I pitched up for my first day on the staff of Music Technology in 1985, I had been running a keyboard rig characterised by a Minimoog, Jupiter 8, Clavinet and Wurlitzer piano. I was also using a good selection of footpedals. I had a TR808 and TR727, and my Atari ST/Creator sequencer setup. I’d been in numerous recording studios, from the demo studio/big room tradition, and had glimpsed the possibilities of the personal multitrack recorder.
The keyboard player’s world was changing. It was exhilarating and it was scary.
Two years as MT’s Music Editor put a succession of artists in front of me – from synth-pop bands, through studio recluses and ‘non-musicians’, to modern classical experimentalists – many of whom were shaping both the music and the tech. A further five as Editor proper gave the best seat to watch technology and music go through some truly seismic changes, and I shared it with truly great staff and contributors.
Together, we watched the birth, adolescence and evolution of MIDI. We watched ‘alternative’ synthesis architectures join subtractive synthesis – FM, Linear Arithmetic, additive... We watched sampling imprint its schizophrenic character on replacing both traditional instruments and traditional means of making music. We watched the economics of music making turned over. We watched major recording studios close, and sequencers become digital audio workstations. We watched the reinvention of the DJ and the ascent of dance music.
And we wrote about it, at length and in detail. Before MT, magazine work was unexplored territory for me, and without the faith (and subsequent tuition) of editor Dan Goldstein, I wouldn’t be writing this now. I also had the pleasure of working with and learning from the greatly missed Simon Trask. Seeing my work and that of the MT team live on as a historical resource is a great thing.
1983 - 1985
Paul Coster, Joe Hosken
The 'free' tape on Electronic Soundmaker Number One was created in the front room of a guy called Chris Everard, mostly with borrowed kit. Everything was all very 'seat of the pants'. No one really knew what we were doing!
From there we moved to Ardingly in Sussex where Curtis Schwartz provided the studio and expertise to produce 60 minutes of music, reviews, samples and demos on a monthly basis. He still runs a successful business from the same location.
Editing ES&CM was hard work but fun. Technology was quickly changing how music was produced - our job was to try and interpret that and find a common link between the various electronic 'genres' from experimental and the avant garde to mainstream pop. I had two assistants - Sean Rothman and Tony Reed. Both knew more than me about the 'technology' and musicianship but I felt we complemented one another.
In retrospect we were too eclectic. Getting WH Smiths to stock a magazine with a tape attached was difficult too. Our sister magazines were initially International Musician and Home Organist, then latterly a load of adult mags so the writing was on the wall...