Journalist Mark Blake has written for many leading UK rock mags
including 'Metal Forces' (remember that mag!?), 'Kerrang!' and many
How did you become involved in the music business?
I had friends who played in part-time groups and another whose
flatmate wrote for Sounds in the early '80s, so I was around that
world ever since I was a teenager. After dicking around for a few
years after college I got sick of working jobs I didn't want to do. I
became aware that I spent most Thursday mornings, skiving off in the
bogs, reading Sounds or Kerrang! So I decided to try my hand at
something I wanted to do. I worked and travelled around America for
six months and while I was out there saw a couple of bands. They
weren't great, but I wrote a review for a now defunct heavy rock
fanzine/magazine called Metal Forces. They took me on as a
freelancer, but often forgot to pay me, and I've been winging it ever
Who have you enjoyed interviewing most and who was a complete
Charlie Watts was a real gentleman. But some of the metal bands from
the early 90s were idiotic fun, especially if you were in a hotel bar
with them at 2am. I'm thinking Motley Crue. I wasn't very taken with Desmond Child, Bon Jovi's
songwriter - but I couldn't say why in a public forum such as this.
What has been the highlight of your career in journalism and rock
Meeting Keith Richards and Robert Plant. Twice, I'm a big fan of the
Stones and Led Zeppelin - and they were both good value. Though one
was more lucid than the other. I also saw one of those men's penises,
but I don't like to talk about it.
What has been your most embarassing moment in journalism? Did you
ever get all the research wrong, and mix up the questions for (for
example) Michael Bolton and Mick Bolton?
I've been spared anything too embarrassing. Though on my first press
trip out of London, I turned up late for the coach and incurred the
wrath of my older and more experienced music hack peers. Ask Malcolm
Dome about it. Yngwie Malmsteen put the phone down on me once - but
then that was more of a blessing.
Anyone you would love to meet/interview but you haven't as yet?
Having done a Zeppelin, a couple of Stones and a Beatle - I'd say
no. But as I grew up in a denim jacket, with a bad mullet, running
around going mad to heavy metal bands, I'd find any of those late
70s, early 80s rockers interesting. What's Phil Mogg's number?
How do you view the current UK rock scene?
It's stifled by the current two-strikes-and-you're-out policy of the
major record companies. Few bands are given enough time to develop,
like they were in the 70s and even 80s. But I do think that the
upside of reality TV music shows - PopStars etc - is that they
trigger a desire in a lot of the public to seek out an alternative.
As such, people want to start their own bands to get away from
manufactured stuff. Hence, the live music scene in the UK is much
more buoyant at a grass-roots level than it was a few years ago. That
has to be a good thing.
Any rock'n'roll tales to tell? Does Sharon Osbourne really have dog-
shit all over the carpet, or is it the pretend plastic stuff they
sell in joke shops?
I didn't see any dog shit. The house was spotless. I actually fancied
her a bit. Though please don't tell anyone.
Who are your musical heroes and why?
Led Zeppelin, The Stones and then, further down the evolutionary
scale, while growing up Thin Lizzy, Cheap Trick, and UFO. Of course,
they're like the struggling third division football team who let you
down most Saturdays but demonstrate blinding form once in a blue
moon... marvellous, jumpers for goalposts, etc. Though I do think
it's time for Schenker to retire and open a sports shop or pub or
something. Maybe not a pub.
Do you approach reviews as a fan ie 'would I pay £15 for this CD?'
or as a professional? (I only ask as many music magazines have
reviewers who seem to dislike bands and yet review that band's latest
cd!) Is it hard to review a band you know you dislike?
I always approach reviews that way. I've rarely reviewed a band I
actively dislike, and I don't think it happens as much as people
think it does. I find that some dedicated followers of bands can't
bear any criticism of their heroes, so have a tendency to pounce on
anything that's less than full marks. I'm the first to admit that
most of my favourite bands have cocked up at some time or another.
More than once, in fact.
Have you ever wanted to kill Valerie Potter or strangle her cats or
anything like that?
Not at all. Valerie is a lovely woman and I'm sure she dispensed
some sage advice to me when I was a struggling hack, drunk in a hotel
bar in Workington, 12 years ago, after turning up late for that coach.
Has the Internet helped music magazines or helped kill many off?
(Smaller printed fanzine magazines have tended to disappear with the
Net's increasing use or they have turned into Internet-only fanzines)
I think it may have damaged fanzines, and with the speed of getting
up-to-the-minute news it has made life tougher for weekly magazines.
But then look at Kerrang! magazine, which is a weekly and is now
selling more than ever. The net's handy, though, when ailing 70s-era
rock bands decide to split up halfway through a tour. The whole world
knows in an instant.
Any bright hopes for the future (bands/labels/venues)?
My mate's nephew's band, Bad Dog Biscuit Thief.
Interview © 2002