It’s gone from being the magazine your mum hated you bringing into the house to an innovative addition to the way news and pop culture is covered in this country. But as the UK version of Vice celebrates turning ten is the enfant terrible of the mag world still discernible in say, the recent sober and thought-provoking Syria issue?
“The aims are still the same – to cover stories either that other people won’t cover or to cover stories in a way other people wouldn’t do them,” European managing editor Bruno Bayley told us.
He compares the Syria issue with a 2006 poverty issue which saw the entire editorial team decamp to Nottingham to investigate everything from variety clubs to single mums – a letter from the council leader sits just pages away from a guide on how to rob people. It’s this sort of irreverence Vice is known for, but Bruno is keen to stress the mix of topics has always been an important part of the magazine’s DNA.
"I think some people think we intentionally try to piss people off but it’s not like that."Bruno Bayley
“Take the Poverty Issue and the Syria Issue – it’s the same process, throwing ourselves into one situation or one physical location and getting to the bottom of all the little stories other people hopefully wouldn’t cover.
“There’s been a massive step up in the amount of serious news stories we cover so there’s no need to crowbar in punk music or skateboarding. If it’s a great news story that’s just what it is but you can still do something more irreverent elsewhere in the issue.
“I think some people think we intentionally try to piss people off but it’s not like that. There is no need to make jokes for the sake of making jokes – that would be borderline perverse.”
Design-wise Vice has always been known for its covers, which are given over to big, eye-catching images which sear themselves into the memory by dint of being “funny, weird, scary, depressing or just startling. In some way there’s no pattern but they all really grab you.”
But looking inside at some of the earliest issues the consistency is striking. “Overall it’s amazing how little has changed,” Bruno says, ”but there’s slightly less hot pink going on than there used to be. If you think the stuff you are writing is interesting enough or funny enough then you don’t have to get too precious about design.”
And with Vice’s video arm really ramping up the standard of online television, what future for the magazine?
“I still think – obviously from a biased point of view – the printed magazine is the flagship for the whole company. If people have heard of Vice they tend to have heard of it through the magazine. That might change quite soon, because we’re making so many films and they’re so good. But I would like to think the magazine the most concentrated, direct way of looking at Vice.”
If Bruno and his team can keep up this combination of defined brand values and the flexibility to evolve and grow, don’t bet against a 20th anniversary in 2022.