Shoot the Shit…
No Heroes Magazine is one of my favourite Australian punk/hardcore publications. Daring to go the ‘online only’ route – it’s editor Sarah seems to really have her finger on the pulse of some great bands/artists to feature and it always looks fucken awesome. So how does it all come together? Read on!
Tell us a little about the history of the magazine etc
I guess the starting point was one night my good friend (and amazing photographer) Craig Nye were shooting the shit and somewhere along the line decided to do a zine. That was about six years ago, and from there until Issue One was a process of about three years, with lots of stopping and starting.
After I finished uni, I worked for a music publication. That lasted six months but when I left, I took a lot of my contacts from labels and promoters with me and that was the start of No Heroes for real. It took about eight months for us to get the first issue out in June/July 2009 and we haven’t looked back since then! We’re now on Issue 17 and still going strong.
What were/are some of your favourite publications in music? What do you
think makes a good one?
I used to love Death Before Dishonour. I think it’s pretty obvious that mag was a massive influence on us. But to be honest, I don’t really read much music media now-a-days. I used to read Rolling Stone and some of the English publications religiously, but it’s pretty obvious that they’re quite out of touch with the type of bands that we’re covering.
To me it’s diversity in content, clean design and keeping the imagery and writing to the highest quality possible that makes a good music publication, and unfortunately not many of those exist. It’s these concepts that have always been the basis of what No Heroes is about. Originality is also a big thing. We try to keep all our content as original as possible to make people want to check us out. That’s why, a lot of the time, we have our own cover shots (or illustrations as was the case with Issue 15), try to come up with different ideas for articles and try to find an original angle for the stories behind each artist.
I know you just went through a job change. How do you handle running a
magazine and working a full time job?
I’m not going to lie, it’s really fucking stressful sometimes and it’s often hard to build up the motivation to finish work, come home and then spend another six or seven hours at home working on the magazine. Every issue there are at least five moments where I contemplate throwing in the towel and not doing things anymore.
Plus, for how much I say I hate it and I stress about it, I really do fucking love it! I love having this ability to be a part of the music that I love, without having to pick up an instrument (because I don’t have a single musical bone in my body at all!).
Seems like you have an awesome (and experienced) crew of writers and photographers. How did you pick your team and how important is their creativity and input?
First off, though it’s small, I have the best team of writers and photographers that I could ask for. They sometimes drive me batshit crazy, but I don’t know what I would do without them.
The team has come together through different ways. As I said, it started with just Craig and myself, with Craig handling the photography and me the writing. We asked people that we knew were good to help us out with Issue One and some of those people have stuck around and some haven’t. Unfortunately, Craig isn’t as involved anymore however I still respect his opinion so will ask his advice or opinion on new and prospective photographers. Since then, most writers and photographers approach us and when they do we ask for submissions of work to make sure that the high quality levels that were set at the outset can be met by them. If I meet someone and I know that they’re going to be a good fit for the team or have some knowledge or skills that we could definitely use, I will approach them. But, like I said, the criteria for everyone is that they meet the standards that we set originally.
Having the team be creative and have input I think is one of the main reasons why we’ve been able to maintain the standard that we have. I am controlling and I always have to have the last say. Sometimes myself and music editor, Oliver Cation, will get into massive fights because we won’t agree on content. But without Oliver, who has an excellent knowledge of Australian heavy music, I would be floundering for a lot of the more locally based content that we try to keep in every issue. The photographers are another example of the importance of creativity and input. I don’t give them much direction at all beyond “I need this” or “please make sure you catch this” or giving them hints about what to look for because I’ve seen that band play live before.
How do you and your contributors find getting access to your favourite artists for interviews? With blogs/zines/podcasts these days do you think people are a little ‘over interviewed’ and reluctant to take part?
We don’t find it too hard. I’ve networked pretty well to have access to a lot of the artists that we would want to cover and most of our interviews go through the proper channels (publicists, etc.) anyway. You always want content to be relevant, so the artist is always going to have something to push – an album or a tour – so they’re rarely reluctant I would say. Over interviewed is another aspect altogether though. I think you have to be careful to make sure that you find the interesting and untouched angle when it comes to interviewing to ensure that the interview or the story that we run isn’t exactly the same as the interview that you’ll find in over other magazine/blog/news site.
I have told you before I think the photography in No Heroes is excellent and was what attracted me to it initially. Can you tell us why you made such an effort to set and maintain high standards in this area?
Whether print or the net, both are such visual mediums that you need to have excellent visual content in order to stand out. That is the main reason why we’ve made such an effort.
The other side of it is that music photography is such an over saturated field (no pun intended). There are so many people that call themselves photographers that produce mediocre images that often the photographers that deserve recognition don’t get the chance to stand out and get it. By keeping the standards of /No Heroes/ so high, the photographers we feature do stand out.
Is your decision to make the magazine purely online a punt on the fact this is how ALL people will end up reading mags? Or is the goal to get No Heroes in print?
The plan originally was to print No Heroes, but I don’t have the $8000 or so it would cost in start up to get that going. Every now and then we go back and revisit the possibility. It was looking likely midway through last year, but circumstances in my life have changed where that’s a gamble that I can’t afford to take right now. Maybe one day, if things settle down. Or perhaps we might look at doing an annual of the best articles and photos of the year and printing that. Who knows?
Favourite (or most memorable) issue, interview and photo series…go!
Crap! Ummmm …. Issue 14 is definitely my favourite. I think it is the issue that we were the most daring in the content that we chose to put in it by featuring bands like The Snowdroppers and also by featuring my all-time favourite photographer Ricky Adam (check his work out, it’s AMAZING!). Every single band in that issue I love, and I think that’s a first.
My favourite interview I have ever done was with Matt Fox of Shai Hulud (in issue 7 I think). The dude can talk and is one of the most interesting people I have ever met (also one of the nerdiest!). It was really cool to meet someone, connect with them and just spend three hours talking to this person I’ve just met about anything and everything, long after the tape had run out.
Nic Bezzina is one of my favourite photographers that has ever worked on the mag and his series of photos for the Baroness article in Issue 9 are some of the best photos that have ever run in the mag!
Any advice for someone thinking of starting their own magazine/zine?
Don’t do it? Hahahaha. But seriously, it is A LOT of work for not much benefit. You really have to do it because you love it. Surround yourself with the best people that you knowand don’t be afraid to try new things, and that helps to keep some of the passion there. When I get down on the work, I talk to some of the people that work with me on it and their passion, excitement and ideas helps motivate me again. Don’t do it all yourself, and don’t be afraid to ask questions to those that have done it before you.
Also expect to make sacrifices. No one makes money off what we do and I don’t know how much money I’ve put into it. Then there are the time sacrifices: it might sound like I go out to shows all the time, but when I’m at a show, it’s still all a networking or a working opportunity if I have to do an interview. It will take over your life in ways you might not have thought it would, as everything becomes either a new opportunity or a new idea or a new skill that can be applied to how your magazine/zine operates. But that is also one of the benefits.