Carl Loben is a Contributing Editor for DJ Magazine (UK), manages Liverpool electro-blues act Killaflaw, produces and DJs and also runs acclaimed independent label Westway with Barry Ashworth (Dub Pistols).
SWMC (Jonty Skrufff): How did you end up doing what you do today? (Did you fall into music journalism or start off with a clear vision, ambition?)
Carl Loben (DJ Magazine): “At the beginning of the 1990s, I’d be reading (rock weekly newspaper) NME and thinking ‘I could do that’. I was a dole-scrounging layabout, political activist and embryonic raver and DJ, but would see nothing written about the emerging dance scene in the UK’s music press. I wrote some sample articles and sent them off to Melody Maker and NME – the rival weekly ‘inkies’ at the time – and fortunately Melody Maker took me on.”
“I suppose I wanted to turn the world onto the wonders of acid house. I soon got waylaid by the nascent drum & bass scene, Skunk Anansie, and the bonkers breakbeats of Squarepusher, but remained at Melody Maker for most of the 90s as one of their dance specialists until a horrendous, bullying rugby-playing oaf took over the editorship and took it down the toilet.
By then, I’d been writing for other dance magazines such as Generator, DJ and Wax, and I fell into doing more and more freelance stuff for DJ until I ended up on the staff – where I’ve remained pretty much ever since.”
SWMC: How big a role has luck played in your life/ career?
Carl Loben (DJ Magazine): “I guess I was lucky to get in on Melody Maker and have a mad time reporting on electronic music in the 1990s, when it was all so fresh and new. In fact, I guess much of my career over the last 20 years has been one long ‘lucky break’ – doing something that I love and am passionate about.”
SWMC: What's been the hardest obstacle you've had to overcome?
Carl Loben (DJ Magazine): “Persuading indie-rock blokes at Melody Maker to give page space to dance music isn't quite up there with conquering Everest, but that was a bit of a battle sometimes.”
SWMC: What's been the biggest mistake you've made?
Carl Loben (DJ Magazine): “It was probably when I was at my most evangelical about drum & bass, and painted myself into a corner as 'the drum & bass bloke'. I learned that you should give full expression to various different interests.”
SWMC: How superstitious are you?
Carl Loben (DJ Magazine): “I’m not really that superstitious, although I never walk under ladders. Or let black cats cross my path.”
SWMC: What advice would you offer someone wanting to follow in your footsteps?
Carl Loben (DJ Magazine): “Don’t, unless you’re really dedicated to promoting new music. It’s not easy to become a full-time music journalist these days – the game has changed. To start with I’d probably suggest not to give up the day job, and to expect low pay for an eternity. Little thanks or credit, stress, and these days not a great deal of glamour.
SWMC: What has been your greatest achievement?
Carl Loben (DJ Magazine): “To have experienced a rollercoaster ride in EDM over the last 20 years, helping to document some of the amazing music and culture along the way.”
SWMC: What's the meaning of life?
Carl Loben (DJ Magazine): “42.”
SWMC: What are your expectations about Sochi: what do you hope to achieve/ experience from the conference?
Carl Loben (DJ Magazine): “I’ve never been to Russia before, and the main things I’ve heard about the dance scene are from wicked Russian DJ Lady Waks (St Petersburg’s In Beat We Trust) and visiting UK breaks 'n' bass DJs like Terry Hooligan.
So I’m hoping to learn more about the Russian scene, meet some of the movers and shakers, and celebrate the international nature of our great scene. Anything I can contribute I’ll be willing to share (about DJ magazine or otherwise), and I’m expecting to drink more than my fair share of vodka.”
Jonty Skrufff (Skrufff.com)