The most recent issue of Rough Trade Magazine celebrates the publication’s tenth edition. Since April last year, editor Liv Siddall and art director Bruce Usher, have released an “un-wanky” music magazine from the legendary shop. Each issue is full of new releases, sweet insights to the lives of bands, book reviews, essential staff picks, an agony aunt column and a horoscope for the month ahead.
In light of the magazine’s anniversary, Liv has picked her top ten moments of the magazine across the issues.
1. Charles Bradley’s paintings in issue one
In the first issue of the magazine I went out to New York to interview Charles Bradley about his album Changes. He’s such a beautiful man. I spoke to him about his music but also his love for oil painting. When we didn’t know what to put on the inside front and back covers, I sent wonderful photographer Pat O’Malley around to Charles’ house in Brooklyn to photograph some of his paintings close up so we could use those. I love how our first issue had Charles Bradley’s pet parrot on the front cover, and his paintings on the inside covers – kind of unpredictable and personal.
2. Justin Sullivan’s Fundamental Principles of Touring
Back when this was published, Justin Sullivan was the drummer in Kevin Morby’s band. I met him and we chatted about how he was also a writer for newspapers and magazines. I asked him if he struggled to write while on the road with the band, and he told me about this list he had been making called The Fundamental Principles of Going on Tour. He sent it over and Bruce worked his design magic to make it into a truly excellent feature. Very honest, stripped back information straight from the horse’s mouth. This is my idea of the perfect magazine feature.
3. Whitney’s tour photos
How cute are Whitney? There’s so many of them and they’re so funny and clever and silly and great. I had a hunch that they might be up for doing something a little different to celebrate their album, so I asked them if they would be up for documenting their European tour with some disposable cameras. Turned out the band already had a couple of film cameras on them, so they accepted the challenge. I’d be lying if I said I didn’t expect them to ever actually get around to doing this, but lo and behold I got a WeTransfer file on the deadline, filled with incredible photos taken all over Europe of the band mucking about. Perfect. Those guys are the best.
4. Tim Presley’s comic
Tim Presley is widely regarded to be one of the nicest guys in music. I’ve been a big fan of his records and artwork for a long time, so I emailed him and asked if he fancied donating some of his works for the mag. He sent over a 12-page comic and we published the whole thing. I remember running over to the Oval Space when he was in town from LA and thrusting a pile of magazines into his hands. He was so thrilled. Where possible I want as many features as possible in the magazine to relate to what an artist truly wants to talk about or create, as opposed to just straight up interviews about their new album or whatever. Way better, right?
5. Jof’s Fears
Everyone’s favourite feature. In my first few weeks at Rough Trade an email got leaked from someone in mail order called Jof Owen. It was a huge list of things he was scared of. It’s perhaps the funniest thing I have ever read, so I asked him if he wanted a monthly column to describe in detail one thing from the list per month. This is one of the best ones, in which he describes how he’s never tried to eat a peanut just in case he’s allergic to them and dies. The column is illustrated monthly by Sarah Louise Barbett, one of my favourite illustrators.
6. Angel Olsen in conversation with The Raincoats
The magazine is often quite male-heavy. A proper sausage fest at times. So when Angel Olsen’s fantastic album My Woman was Rough Trade’s Album of the Month I flipped out at the chance of a big feature with her. First up I put the incredible Cara Robbins to the task of photographing Angel in LA. Cara took her to this big old library and did a really fun, happy photoshoot there. Not only that, but we then put Angel Olsen in conversation with legendary punk band The Raincoats. They speak about love, life, family, emotions, singing…the lot. Incredible interview, and very pleasing for me to bring together so many fascinating women on one big feature.
7. The D.D Dumbo feature in Australia
One of my favourite parts of my job is finding out that an artist I need to cover lives somewhere remote, and I have to use my brain and trusty bookmarks folder to find the right photographer and writer for the job, with a very limited budget. In the case of D.D Dumbo, he lives out in Castlemaine in Australia. I knew a fantastic photographer called Jamieson Moore who could probably drive over there, but I had no writer. I asked Jamieson if she knew a writer and she suggested her friend Hannah Welch who was not a music writer, but a musician. I sent them off to the middle of nowhere with my fingers crossed, and a few days later received some of the most honest, beautiful photographs and a very pure, humble interview with D.D Dumbo. Taking those kind of risks and having faith in people is what makes this job so unbelievably thrilling.
8. Interview with Ricky Gervais
NO BIG DEAL. Ha. I literally grew up with The Office and it has shaped who I am today, so when I got offered the chance to interview Ricky Gervais for the magazine I nearly had a heart attack. It was one of the hottest days of the year and I went over to Soho where I spent half an hour in a room alone with the man himself. We talked about music, David Bowie, David Brent, Ricky’s teenage bedroom…oh man. It was the best half an hour of my life. At one point I asked him what David Brent would choose if he was on Desert Island Discs and Ricky Gervais literally improvised/ad-libbed David Brent in front of me. I died. The collage of Ricky for this feature made by James Springall is beyond perfect. We use James’ amazing collages when we aren’t allowed to shoot portraits of the interviewee. It’s a a good way of getting around using lame, dry press photos.
9. The Iggy Pop cover
We ran a big interview with Iggy Pop in the December issue (again, no big deal) and were told we were not allowed to commission a portrait. I knew I wanted something Iggy-related on the cover because he was the Album of the Year and I was wavering the magazine’s “no bands on the cover” rule for this occasion. We considered an illustration, or a collage, but it didn’t seem right. I wanted something Christmassy, fun and very “us.” Then about two days from going to print, the guy who was helping me sort the feature emailed and told me Matt Helders from The Arctic Monkeys took some photos of Iggy recording Post Pop Depression, and did I potentially want to use one of Iggy Pop wearing a santa hat? Um. Yes. Yes I do. Thank you. Best cover yet. Thank fuck for that. The best things always seem to happen last minute.
10. Sadiq Khan visits Rough Trade
We get a lot of famous people coming in to Rough Trade, but finding out that London Mayor Sadiq Khan was going to pay a visit to celebrate his #LondonIsOpen campaign made us all lose our shit for some reason. Noreen McShane, the shop’s beloved manager, was put to the task of interviewing him for a podcast. I asked photographer Nina Manandhar to come in and shoot him wandering around the store, and the shots she took are so un-wanky and lo-fi. So different to how he is normally photographed. The interview covers Sadiq’s musical taste and what he’s doing to preserve London’s nightlife and musical culture. What a legend.
Watch our Nicer Tuesdays talk with Liv here.
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