Mick Mercer is going to restart his old ‘zine, Panache. It will have representation both in print and online. Check out what he has to say about it and his history with the old industry of UK music journalism, below!
I AM BRINGING MY FANZINE BACK! (Don’t all cheer at once.) Panache hasn’t seen the light of day since the early-ish Nineties, circa #66, so it’s about time. Boredom plays a part here, as it always has. Right back to when I was at junior school. Paying attention to anything when I get bored is well nigh impossible. Boredom and, as I grew older, a recognition of stagnation. I stopped doing The Mick after issue #58 in 2014, when I realised it had become a routine, and that’s always been a problem, even back in the days of the music press. Many of you are far too young to remember them, but we once had four national weekly music papers in the UK, and it was all Terribly Important. I worked for three of them. Seems a lot, in retrospect.
I started freelancing for Record Mirror almost by accident, after writing to inform one of their staff that their review of The Adverts was complete crap, back when it covered pretty much everything; the Editor believing that if you actually cared about a band, no matter how eclectic, then a review was worthwhile. (I worked for Alf again later when he started Punk Lives magazine.) Then I also started doing stuff for Zigzag, which was the best alternative magazine this country has ever had. Kris Needs ensured it was the best Punk publication in the UK too. Trouble was they never paid us. 😀
My favourite music paper was Melody Maker, as you could tell the writers were seriously into music, rather than themselves. I found they covered really interesting bands from America, back when I was in the sixth form at school, when Paul, Colin and Nick all read the papers. Colin was a fiend for the NME crossword, a paper I never really bothered with, although I liked a cartoon they had, The Lone Groover. Sounds was also pretty good. They had the best early coverage of Punk in this country.
Anyway, it was all pretty exciting, doing my fanzine, starting freelancing. Zigzag sacked Kris as Editor, due to an absurd publisher just when I’d been about to leave myself. I wanted to freelance for Melody Maker and I didn’t see the point of working for people who actually had no intention of paying you!
I stayed on in the hope another publisher would take over the mag, which so deserved saving as a title, as the current one was more interested in the ZigZag Club, which could easily have existed independently. Luckily, I was doing a ‘temp’ job via Reed employment agency, working in the kitchen of an old people’s home. They were desperate for people to work weekends, so I did Saturday and Sunday plus three days in the week, leaving me two days each week to do Zigzag in town. Supposedly, as it wasn’t easy. Luckily I had Panache to keep me sane. Joly at Better Badges was printing us by then, which was awesome.
Within a few months of constantly ignoring Zigzag’s publisher’s suggestions for bands to cover (no doubt he had those planned in exchange for advertising?) I was banned from the actual office, even though remaining as Editor! Towards the end I could pick up post but not even use the phone! It was seriously bizarre. Not long afterwards I was also sacked and celebrated the end of another six months without pay by joining Melody Maker. I think they let me start with a full-page feature on Sex Gang!
After a couple of years boredom somehow managed to kick in, as it was bound to even though it seems illogical as I was having a great time and the paper was fantastic. I asked the Editor of NME, an old Maker writer who didn’t actually last long there, if I could write for them. He said yes, and I did some good features there but I also started looking at the paper, which I’d never really considered before. Fuck me, it was boring! More boring even than the boredom I was going through.
I was still drinking in the Oporto, the Maker pub, with Carol Clerk and the regular disreputables, much to the chagrin of Steve Sutherland, and I asked Colin if I could come back and he said yes, as cheerily as ever. And so I did. Never even bothered telling the NME, not that they’d have noticed.
I’m bored now, as I’m sure you are. Woffling on… when I have a pond to attend to, grass to cut, figures to paint, a book to work out a cover for. I’ll get on with all that soon….
I was doing the new ZigZag simultaneously through all this, so I had enough to keep my mind occupied. Panaches still came out intermittently, and in weird bursts. Kim did a lot, and I hope will be interested again now. It was being printed in Stanwell first, then by me using photocopying places in town. Towards the end of the eighties I was getting restless again when the great Sheldon came roaring over the horizon and got me to do the Gothic Rock book and edit Siren, and all was invigorating again. I had stopped reviewing for Melody Maker, although I have no idea why now, and was only doing the Gig Guide, as they wanted someone who knew how to use QuarkXPress. I told the Editor Allan Jones that I knew, so he let me take over that. That left me a week to learn QuarkXPress. I had no idea what it was! But that’s what you did back then. Blagged your way through.
I still kept doing Panache, using Melody Maker’s enormous photocopying machine, which was amazing, handling reduced type, double-sided pages, the works. Ahem … I probably owe them some toner! (Sorry Allan!) so had plenty of time on a Sunday morning to work on Panaches too. I used to clear it with whatever office dealt with that, and I could get there at 7am Sunday morning, sign in at the front desk, and get most of the gigs listed, popping a few late ones in Monday morning before they were off down the printer to get the paper done. I don’t think I ever saw anyone else in there on a Sunday. Quite understandable. So that became Panache Central for a couple of years. Then they replaced me, which was perfectly fair, as I wasn’t actually doing anything else for them. Panache did dribble on for a few more issues, but it had started to get stale and I stopped.
Sheldon and I had tried interesting firms, especially major labels, in planning magazines/books and tv outlets to benefit from the eventual growth of the Internet, because we could see the scope for excitement, but this was 1992/1993 and all the replies said they were, ‘only into commercial ideas, nothing esoteric, thank you for wasting our time…’! Knowing the internet would herald interesting changes for music coverage I was happy to leave Panache aside and wait. It took longer than I bloody expected, but that’s what then led to The Mick. I felt it was necessary to start something new, just as I now figure reanimating a corpse is a noble solution.
And so on I’ve trundled, books here, internet activity there, nearly sixty issues of The Mick and then, as usual, I just had to stop. I don’t know why it happens this way, but I think it’s healthy. The Mick stops, internet radio shenanigans begin. And now is the right time to bring Panache back. It simply is.
There’s been a lot of talk about fanzines these past few years, a lot of academic studies, a lot of fantastic book compilations (Ripped & Torn, Whippings & Apologies, the Grim Humour one in the works… something Vague-like planned) and I’m not surprised they get such recognition. Fanzines are special, the finest form of music publication, motivated by nothing but enthusiasm. Even when I was working for the papers and magazines I kept Panache going because I loved it, and if people asked who I wrote for I’d always say Panache first. 😊
It’ll probably be rubbish mind, but I’m only planning it to be a quarterly, so your suffering won’t be too great.