Time Capsule

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Cosmo Cater Reflects On Scene Magazine's 1,000 issues

Written by  |  Tuesday, 04 June 2013 02:00  |  Published in Time Capsule

Undercuts were fashionable. So was uplifting house music.

cosmo-cater-2No it wasn’t 2013, it was 1993. Around the end of that year, I randomly picked up a magazine which was then called ‘Club Scene’. It was an A4 colour publication that had exactly what I was looking for: a window onto a scene I was beginning to fall desperately in love with.

I was still way too young to get into nightclubs, but this fantastic music with an insistent beat consumed me. Here was a magazine documenting that culture as it happened locally and internationally, so naturally I read every word from cover to cover, and scoured the stores to get a copy of each week’s edition. In a nerdy fashion, names like Neil Richards and Jenny Juckel became legends in my eyes.

Some years later in 1998, my obsession with the music had only grown deeper, and the magazine had changed to the moniker of Scene Magazine. I found myself at a house party with then staff writer, Anna Glassick. We’d known each other for a bit, but this is the first time we’d talked about her job, how much I loved the music and how I read the magazine religiously.

Before long I was in the Scene Magazine office signing up to review CDs and contribute articles. I was beyond thrilled! It seemed a natural progression to find myself employed in the staff writer’s role in November 1999, and I was to continue in this until mid 2004 when I returned to the law.

I had no background in journalism, so it was a “seat of the pants” experience. My love for the music would hopefully get me by. Working at Scene was a dream come true and an honour. My goal then was to be inclusive and responsive to all the pockets of Brisbane music culture that Scene covered.

cosmo-caterWriting for the magazine was a chance to get a deeper connection with a culture I loved, but also a form of giving back, of acknowledging the DJs, artists and club nights that had inspired me, and also the magazine that I had lovingly read for many years. Further, as dance culture continued to permeate every part of life, it was important to historically document what was happening. This time was a vital time to be involved in dance music culture, as the scene blossomed through a peak from 1999-2001.

They were halcyon days and just the mention of them still gets me a bit misty-eyed. The Pete Tong cover for Scene (from memory it was either late 2000 or 2001) was a high point, both for content and for one of the best covers ever done by designer Pat Herlihy.

As club culture boomed, Scene Magazine was a beneficiary, but it wasn’t always smooth sailing – eventually the peak capped off, the superclubs over-extended and corporates began to wind back their ad budgets, with the whole club scene contracting around 2002/ 03. At a similar time, online media began to radically alter the medium of content delivery away from the traditional print model.

Throughout this, Scene continued to publish a quality offering and the Brisbane entertainment world regarded the magazine as a bible. Street press gives a unique insight into youth culture in general, and browsing through some of the older editions often captures the mood of the times eloquently.

Being there to document what was occurring in dance music culture was a privilege, and along the way I met legends and personal heroes. My interviews with Boy George and Carl Cox remain very fond memories, but some of the most treasured interviews were with artists I admired and respected on a local level. One of the more interesting reactions was having DJ Jen-E tell me that my article about her, which had taken quite a personal angle, moved her to tears.

Also, there was a raft of characters encountered on an almost daily basis. Such as a very cranky Paul Oakenfold; a very “laid-back” Roots Manuva; a guy tinkering with samples called Bonobo; sharing cheese and biscuits backstage with Tiesto; interviewing a little-known Adelaide group called Hilltop Hoods who said they would never be widely known because they were Australian.

As well, there was the endless procession of musicians for whom, sadly, being on time and prepared for an interview was not in their lexicon. Again though, it was the local characters and nightclub identities that made the job come alive! People like Michael Watt, Peter Brown, Jon Griffin, Jason Summers, Jason Kinniburgh, Les Kostoglou, John Hannay and countless more made life’s pattern very colourful.

I went slightly mad doing the club listings section every week. There is only so much variation one can do, and the wording and positioning of listings became a political minefield. Delicate egos were often bruised and irate phone calls and emails followed. Dealing with feedback in this way is not something any university course prepares you for; it was pure ordeal by fire.

As others might attest to in this historical edition, Scene Magazine has always been about the personalities. There have been many staff, almost larger than life, that have made everyone’s lives just that more special. The advertising side of Scene contained strong personalities, and I witnessed a number of lovely people including Karen Sellers, Ray Doherty, Donna Thurtell and many more. I am glad to have worked side by side with a young Gareth Bryant, who has stepped into the editor’s role with fantastic success. Gareth was a natural fit from day one at Scene and his continued association with the company is testament to that.

I also had the pleasure of working with a young Benjamin Law, on his way to greatness even then. Pat Whyte was the editor for my entire tenure as staff writer (interspersed with a few guest spots from Marc Grimwade and me). Pat was above all, a gentleman. Fair, honest, adaptable and open-minded with a gutsy work ethic. Sometimes it was easy to forget he was also an exceptionally skilled writer, and I enjoyed reading his rare forays back into the field – and still do! It was a pleasure to work with Pat and I felt he really got the best out of his staff.

Street press editorial is an exceptionally difficult business and holding it all together on a weekly basis is nerve-wracking. I always felt the Editor’s job at Scene Magazine was like playing the role of Doctor Who: all the different actors brought uniqueness to it, and it was an honour to be chosen.

The engine room of the magazine was the indefatigable Patrick Herlihy. Patrick was tireless, supremely talented and beneath the spiky jewellery and aggressive music, had a heart of gold. Last minute impossible feats of graphic wizardry were standard for “Paddy”. In fact there wasn’t much he couldn’t do.

Everyone gets to meet at least one media mogul in their lifetime, and I am honoured to have met Howard Duggan [founding publisher]. Never ever write off this man. If you start to do that, read the previous sentence again. Howard is every sporting comeback movie rolled into one. On the ropes, Howard gets up from the canvas, looks his opponent in the eye, and prevails. To extend the analogy further, he is a living soccer game, down 2-0 with minutes to play, yet staging a Brisbane Roar-like comeback to win on penalties.

Running a small business reliant on advertising ain’t easy, and Howard has steered the company through some pretty tough times. He found solutions. They may not have always been elegant, but they worked. Howard had, like all media moguls, vision. He also wasn’t above attempting to wreak havoc upon his rivals or pointing out that they weren’t playing fair. As someone with a strong sense of justice, I applauded that. As a lawyer though, I would often get heart flutters when Howard would reveal his latest subversive offering intended for the opposition. How defamatory would it be? Who was in line for a pasting courtesy of the Duggan wit? Would the public get the (not so) subtle digs?

Whilst reflecting on Scene Magazine achieving this milestone of Issue 1000, it’s pertinent to ask 'where have the years gone?'. 1993 seems like a lifetime ago, but strangely still feels like yesterday. It was a pleasure to be part of the journey, and I offer a very heartfelt congratulations to the magazine and all concerned, for achieving this milestone.

Also in our commemortaive edition:
Howard Duggan: Publisher — Reflects on 1,000 issues.
The Editors: Gareth Bryant, Pat Whyte and Neil Richards reflect on their time in the Editor's Chair.

The Editors - 1,000 Issues of Scene Magazine

Written by  |  Sunday, 02 June 2013 04:09  |  Published in Time Capsule

As Scene Magazine celebrates its 1,000th edition, we hear from the 3 most influential editors in the title's 20 year history.

GARETH BRYANT (2010 ~ Present)
gareth-bryantAs a fresh-faced journalism/ honours graduate in December 2001 I arrived at Scene for a three-month summer internship that morphed into the role of editor many years later.

While the company still occupies the same office space, it was a different time — the machinery was certainly last century; five minutes was the waiting time for the staff writer computer to start-up; gig listings arrived via fax; and our photo database consisted of thousands of hardcopy photos and negative slides (I was given the task of sorting them alphabetically one day — hours of fun).

But I was soon introduced to a world where a passion and love for music could find a home; shaped by the guidance of editor Pat Whyte and deputy editor Marc Grimwade, I worked alongside fellow staff writer — the always beaming Cosmo Cater.

It was a game changer when we welcomed Mr Dan Evans — a man who only needs to walk into a room to be noticed — as arts editor in 2006. The role is currently held by Majella McMahon (the baking queen of the office) who expanded upon her fashion repertoire to step into the arts editor shoes.

Then there was the production staff — a mixed bag of all-sorts — lead by the eternally optimistic production whiz Patrick Herlihy (said with a healthy dose of sarcasm — love ya work, Paddy) who reigned for a decade plus.

To fellow editor and staff writer Rohan Williams; aside from bringing all manner of cool to the office with his immense pop culture knowledge and passion for cinema, he makes putting out a weekly title so much easier.

There will be names I miss ... but special mention to Mark Strugar’s continual cheerful outlook as the man fronting the advertising department in early 2012 who gave me hope the magazine could/ would ride out the storm.

In 2013, street press battles social media and the rampant advancement of technology yet every Monday we knock over another issue, making deadline and getting a fresh serving of underground and independent music, arts and entertainment to the streets.

Finally, I’m mighty proud to work alongside a man whose vision to fill the lack of street press coverage for dance music 20 years ago has created a local insitution across all forms of music: a guide to what’s what locally, nationally and internationally.

Howard: you have more guts, determination, persistence, honesty and balls than anyone else I’ve encountered in this industry — I look forward to many more production Mondays as we continue to hit the streets every Wednesday.

(1998 ~ 2008)
pat-whyte1,000 issues of Scene Magazine. Wow. Think about it - 50 odd issues a year. That is one amazing achievement. When I was editor from 1998-2008 that milestone seemed a long way off.

I still look back fondly on the many good times I had at Scene’s Fortitude Valley headquarters and I’m very proud of the work we did and the content myself and a moving cast of colleagues and contributors got up. There were bloody great challenges along the way to be sure, but it really was a joy to go to work each day. How lucky was I to have a job like that!

But enough about me, the accolades must go to one Howard Duggan, the publisher of Scene Magazine. He is the man.

He’s been driving this thing for all these years, through thick and thin, the joys and travails. Many competing titles came and went, they had a crack and folded. But he’s still standing tall.

Scene editors have come and gone - but there have been relatively few, which again is testament to the publisher.

The lanky Howard, AKA Captain Peacock, has outlasted them all in Street Press in Australia. He’s been a sole publisher all that time. No benefactors, no overseas investors, no leg-ups, no second best. What skill, grit and determination, what guts, what stamina. What a guy! He deserves much praise and congratulations.

Street Press is important – don’t let anyone tell you different. It serves the younger generation well. You all know it’s more than just a gig guide and what’s on rag, but a place to learn about music, the arts and culture for generation after generation in the prime years of their lives. It's your thing people – don’t ever let it slip away.

I loved working at Scene but after 10 years and pushing 40 it was time for me to grow up, as it were, and move on to the next chapter.

Now my eldest son is 16 and a Scene reader. Yep, he's one of the cool kids that Howard and Scene Magazine and all the staffers and writers have served selflessly all these years.

Congratulations to Howard, Renee, Gareth and the current Scene crew and to you the reader and all the Scenestrs from across the years. Here’s to a legendary effort and to the future. Well played.

NEIL RICHARDS (BNE 1994-1997 & MEL 2003-2004)
neil-richardsThe early-mid ‘90s was an exciting time to be part of Brisbane’s evolving musical landscape.

The dance scene was kicking with venues like The Site, The Roxy, Ric's Upstairs (where you could actually wear shorts and sneakers), The Empire, The Tube, The Tunnel down the coast all playing great music alongside raves like Adrenalin, Strawberry Fields, NASA, Ultrasonic, Vibes On A Summer’s Day (not a rave!) and many others that have slipped my mind. And who could forget Livid.

Howie (as I have always called him) realised that with Time Off and Rave more than capably serving the rock scene, our bread and butter would be the dance scene. Promoters, clubs and fashion outlets were our main supporters and without them we would not have survived. Record companies - then a big part of street press - didn't want to know us but eventually with the support of people like Darren Erskine, Graham Ashton, Chris O’Hearn, Shiona O’Neill and Sony's Jason Parker & Jo Grogan we managed to eek out our own niche as the go-to guys for dance/ pop/ hip hop and R&B here in S.E. QLD.

The more progressive labels such as Volition (home to Vision Four 5, Southend, Severed Heads etc.) and Sony’s John Ferris- fronted dance department were early supporters.

Howard did the majority of the selling (with his musical tastes I wasn't letting him near editorial .... you know he likes that song 'Doop' right?).

As the editor/ managing editor, the biggest buzz for me was being able to give new acts some much needed exposure that, in some cases, would springboard to more recognition interstate (Savage Garden’s Darren Hayes once told me Scene was the first publication to write a piece on them).

If I recall correctly there were no Brisbane acts signed to a major label (back then you actually needed them) so local acts were viewed as inferior to their southern counterparts. Total horseshit of course. The view was that to ‘make it’ you had to move interstate. Thankfully the signing and subsequent success of Brisbane-based acts like Regurgitator, Powderfinger and George proved to everyone we do it pretty well up here. Of course when a dance act like Edwin Morrow’s Sexing The Cherry scored a national hit (1994‘s ‘Steppin On’) we were even more stoked.

In time the staff levels grew and I was lucky enough to have Anita Caruso come on board as  editorial co-ordinator. It was Anita who would trawl through the press releases and talk to the writers about what they were hearing on the street, musically speaking.

As the mag’s credibility grew we were also extremely fortunate to have the services of a lengthy list of contributors that included the likes of Katch (who would go on to form Resin Dogs and Hydrofunk), Frenzie, Jane NEIL CONTINUED ...
Slingo, Andrew Peterson (of Shutterspeed),
Joe Wooley (an artist manager who took great delight in writing scathing reviews of singles), Lars Brindle (who writes for some mag called Billboard these days), Ian Thompson (Full Fathom Five), Katie Noonan and her big brother Tyrone (the driving forces behind the aforementioned George). Even Mike Goldman, now better known for his work on Big Brother, wrote a few things.

We were always trying something be it a ‘black music’ column (this was long before ‘urban’), a fashion section, a world music segment or a gay news column.

It was always interesting ... I remember a time where I sat in with the government on anti-drug/ rave safe campaigns that would run in the paper knowing full well that we had 10 pages of ads for raves where eccies would be rampant!

Another time we discovered a disgruntled promoter was driving around SE QLD. stealing Scene Mags and dumping them because he felt the musical event touted by the centre spread ad was a little too similar to one of his events. Apparently only the strong survive!

Often we’d pull an 18-20 hour shift but I didn’t like to go home until the mag was on its way to the printer. I recall one time we put the Rolling Stones on the cover and everyone had hit the wall, so Howard (whose old diet of coffee and cigarettes sometimes kept him going for days), said he’d finish off the cover.

The next day I asked Howie how the cover ended up, to which he probably replied, “it looked great”. When the issue arrived, the main image was black & white and the band was playing left handed! The Stones playing fucking left handed! Howard, ever the optimist, thought the band “looked much better”!

I recall handing Janet Jackson a copy of Scene Mag to sign only to realise that instead of issue 66 in the upper right hand corner he'd replaced it with ‘Achtung 66’ and the date of Feb 01 1994 had been replaced with “Foist Febree 94” ... he thought it was hilarious. Me not so much.

I left in late 1997 to run clubs for a while but would stay in regular contact. The magazine had earned its stripes and was going from strength to strength.

In 2003 Howard became convinced that the only way for Street Press to have any real power was to become a truly national network (and he was right) and he decided to have crack at the Melbourne market. He convinced me to come back on board but by this time I was running my own business and couldn’t commit to relocating so I would commute weekly. We ended up with a pretty good team, put out a quality publication each week and gave it a real good crack.

Sadly after 12 months we conceded defeat but I left with plenty of admiration for Howard and his fighting spirit. I have no doubt it was his vision, and the mistakes we made, that planted the seed for SPA’s purchase of titles in each capital city thereby creating a truly national network of street press.

Scene hitting 1,000 issues is an amazing feat and one everyone involved over the years can feel very proud. These days I’m just a reader like everybody else. Nothing stays the same I guess. Except Howard’s shithouse musical tastes ...

Also in our commemortaive edition:
Howard Duggan: Publisher — Reflects on 1,000 issues.
Cosmo Cater: Staff Writer, DJ, Raconteur — takes us back ...

Howard Duggan reflects on 1,000 issues of Scene Magazine

Written by  |  Monday, 03 June 2013 05:39  |  Published in Time Capsule
Tagged under

Howard-Duggan-1000-issuesFounding Publisher, Howard Duggan,
quite mad after 1,000 editions of
Scene Magazine.
In 1993 my brother Rohan asked me if I'd sell some ads into his soon-to-be-launched Club Scene Magazine. He nicked off early in the piece and I’m still here.

Truth be told we didn't even know the recently emerged phenomenon that was street press existed — and the unkind would say that nothing much has changed! In those 20 years, we've had some notable achievements of which I, and others, are rightfully proud.

Those early editions were ground out of a residence in Bardon and pretty well my only memories are of my Nokia brick — the size of a lunch box and the battery life of an ad break; and our first record company ad: Polydor's Jam and Spoon.

As the name suggested, Club Scene Magazine was aimed primarily at the clubbing reader — and that suited us fine as Brisbane already had two rock-centric street mags and so began our long association with electronic music.

Very early advertisers included Club LQ, Mary Street, Transformers, City Rowers — all of which have passed into Brisbane lore; but lid-dipping honours must surely go to The Zoo, Casablanca, The Beat and Q Masters: all early advertisers, all still operating and all still under the same ownership. Bravo!

With the explosion of the dance phenomenon, and the rock bases loaded by Rave and Time Off, we embraced 'the scene' with a passion. Rave culture's colour, energy and emerging status made for a serendipitous match for a newly-hatched music mag, published in full colour and gloss (from issue 15) — our counterparts were wall-to-wall newsprint, no gloss jackets for them in those days.

We didn't get our first editor until 1994 when Neil Richards, who'd been our senior contributor, agreed to take the plunge. Neil's R&B/ soul predilection complemented our non-rawk leanings well, but like those who followed him, his genre versatility allowed Scene Mag to play any position; for instance consecutive covers in January 1994 were Carl Cox, Kim Wilde, Peter Gabriel, Baby Animals, d.i.g. and East 17.

I couldn’t have hoped for a better first-up editor. Neil was passionate about his music, had good commercial nous, was well respected, loyal and dependable in what were often choppy waters. It’s why I went looking for him when we launched in Melbourne a decade later.

The first year moved very quickly. Within months we'd found a new home at 17A Skyring Terrace, Newstead (building next to the Newstead ferry terminal) with Darren Clark’s Shawthing Entertainment and Suzanne Snape’s The PR Company.

And it was also time for a format change. Advertisers liked the editorial offering but demanded higher circulation. Today's processes allow us to print a high volume of gloss magazines, but not in 1994, so the decision was made to go to the darkside — newsprint. What emerged: a square tabloid newspaper (bigger than A4 and smaller than A3), was what I termed awful while Jenny Juckel, DJ and Scene Mag writer, refers to as 'the awkward time'. Perhaps inevitably, within a few months we succumbed to the inevitable full tabloid format.

cafe-scene-01Café Scene at it looked in 1997, shortly after launch.CAFE SCENE
In November 1996, when Scene Magazine was exactly three years old, we opened Café Scene on the corner of Brunswick and Ann Streets, where Universal Clothing stands today. It was a not-insignificant operation — trading 24/7 on one of Brisbane's busiest street corners. Café Scene was a bohemian affair that featured an internet cafe component, gig ticket sales (they weren't always sold online!), cable TV (which had only launched in Australia the previous year), a boutique staged area for showcase performances and topped off with full size enclosed, illuminated window displays to the street to promote album launches and gigs. It was loads of fun. Chess (one of my mistresses), pancakes and double strength flat whites around the clock. On tap!

There were sleeping quarters (of sorts) in an alcove above the café and it was there I awoke one morning to the news of Princess Diana's death. At 5am one weekend, we blacked out the windows and hosted a System 6 recovery. We had some serious speakers at the time and it did go off — no doubt much to the confusion of the early morning commuters.

Café Scene is also where I met my wife, Renée — kind of. To service the backpacker/ internet café market, the staff needed to understand ‘chat’ — a precursor to today's social media. The short story is that having signed-up an account on some random chat server to train the staff, I met Renée. And a good job it was too‚ her catering background improved the gastronomic fare 100-fold!

It was also at Café Scene where Pat Whyte, qualified journalist, had taken a job, so when Neil Richards moved on to pursue his own business career, Pat was in the box seat for the big chair back at the mag. He stayed for a decade and probably played a more significant role than any other staffer in shaping the company’s flagship offering.

A gentleman, confidant, a talented writer and universally well respected. As a bonus, he happened to be an excellent editor (he’s an editor with News Ltd these days) who grew the editorial direction of Scene Mag every which way: metal, roots, jazz, dining, travel, tech, fashion, cyber news as well as holding the line on our EDM base.

Editorial and cultural standards have never been higher than under his purview. During the late ’90s and early ’00s, we were fortunate to have landed some excellent sales personnel: Roger Wheelahan, Karen Sellers, Shane Turner, Colleen Ginty, Coreena Duncan and Mark Strugar in particular. I'd like to thank them for their loyalty and their contribution to the cultural growth of the company. The article does not permit proper acknowledgement of the services of Anita Caruso, Jeff Polley, Marc Grimwade, Wade Roberts, Mikolai Napieralski, Michelle Brown, Alex Roche and my two PAs Rebecca Barnes and Jess Goddard. Probably boring as batshit for readers as well!

scene-mag-editorial-bne-05BNE office 2004. Editorial L-R: Pat Whyte, Gareth Bryant,
Marc Grimwade, Sophie Ham, Rebecca Barnes
and Cosmo Cater.
We do quite a few things differently from industry norms, one of which is not having an ad sales commission scheme. I was once told that a commission sale is a dirty sale, and while I'm not sure that's necessarily correct, I'm proud that for 20 years we've paid our advertising staff a salary so they've never wondered what their pay would look like, even during the most challenging trading conditions. There's also the benefit of what they say and write being less strained because their next meal or pair of jeans doesn't hinge on the outcome of any given sale. I don't want to disparage the commission schemes that exist throughout the media — I'm certain there are some excellent ones and excellent people, but this is how we operate — and it has served us well.

In 1998, the lease at Entertainment Place was up and we needed a new home. We found great digs at 192 Brunswick Street, Fortitude Valley (between the The Arena (then The Roxy) and St. Vinnies) and we've been there ever since. Three metres and a concrete wall separate us from the main room next door so many a Friday afternoon soundcheck was a challenge, especially in days when people used telephones to conduct business. T.e.l.e.p.h.o.n.e. — look it up!

On the topic of technology, it's worth noting that Scene Magazine didn't operate its first e-mail account until 1999 — especially odd since we’d been at the pioneering end of the internet café industry three years earlier. Record labels and promoters couriered their artist pictures to us. We'd then print each page of the magazine on an A3 laser printer and drive that artwork to the printing presses. Then the world got really advanced and we all drove around with zip and jazz drives. Zip drives — look it up!

It's in the production arena that Scene Mag's longest-serving staffer (11 years), Patrick Herlihy, gets special mention. Pat, with serious goth tendencies, was both a talent and a stalwart, well-known and regarded by a couple of generations of advertisers. Pat's technique and speed were second to none and we were very lucky to have his services. Even The Gorillaz thought so: they selected his Scene Mag cover for inclusion in one of their artwork showcase publications. Top right cover of this page.

scene-mag457-streetsIssue 457. 8th October 2002.
Scene Mag gets a gloss cover.
Scene Mag wasn’t CAB audited. I had a number of misgivings with the process and believed it was subject to publisher manipulation. I still hold that opinion, although I don’t say that all publishers do so. In 2000 I became aware that Time Off had, at least on occasion, printed some thousands of copies fewer than their stated CAB audit on that same edition’s front cover. I published a full page ad blowing the whole shooting match sky high. Very public. Very full page.

They weren't pleased, and nor were the audit people. They both sent me the sternest letters from their legal people and I told them all to sod off — and they did. We never heard from them again — and the allegation was just left hanging out there like a big, dirty lurgy. Over the years I have run various parodies of the audit process, all resulting in the same letters, all resulting in the same response.

It was around this time that Scene Magazine moved into the number one spot in the market. More pages. More colour. More ads. Market positions invariably ebb and flow due to a variety of factors, but this was significant because it was the first time Scene Mag had reached the mark having been the last title to enter the (saturated?) Queensland street press market. We were assisted by the burgeoning club market, but I believe we were progressive in most facets of our business and we had earned our success.

Issue 457 (8th October, 2002) heralded the advent of a gloss cover — the first in Queensland — and we remained alone in that claim for many years. Our website resided at the sceneonline.com.au domain on account of a grubby cybersquatter at scenemagazine.com.au. He eventually got bored doing nothing and vacated around 2007.

It was at this time of high growth that thoughts of expansion developed, and it was a toss-up between Perth (which was a one-paper city) or Melbourne, the heartland of street press and what was certainly then, the music capital of Australia.

scene-mag-editorial-mel-04MEL OFFICE 2004 L-R: Neil Richards, Luke Robertson, Leigh Gruppetta,
Aaron Moodie, Kate Geyer, Howard Duggan and Anna Jurewicz.
We launched Scene Magazine in Melbourne on 30th April, 2003 with a very good offering. Although the Brisbane edition had expanded into the rock arena, we pitched Melbourne as 'dedicated to dance'. 'Beat' and 'Inpress', the incumbents, were running the same format as 'Rave' and 'Time Off' in Queensland: rock out front with a club supplement.

We started hard with a gloss cover and eight pages of full colour gloss in the middle — more than our rivals, with one of them still entirely in newsprint. I'd been told, upon news of our imminent launch, one of the southern publishers (I won’t divulge which) interrupted their own rivalry to approach the other to explore Scene Mag shutout tactics. Ten years later and we’re allied with one of those publishers — I must get around to asking whether the story was apocryphal!

We enjoyed immediate support from a number of national advertisers and steadily grew the business. Record labels were booking into both titles, EDM retailers such as Central Station Records, DMC and others were supportive, and Melbourne clubs to varying degrees were warming to the whole 'dedicated to dance' offering. At the time, there were more copies of Scene Mag on the streets of Australia than any other title.

By Christmas of 2003, it was apparent it was going to be a pitch battle. Inpress had discovered gloss stock in a hurry and Beat had thrown out its entire club offering which had served it well enough for a decade and rebranded as 100%, supported with a sizeable street poster campaign. And who could blame them — one might think the outfit from Brisbane was showing them up!

Three days before Christmas 2003 (on production day in both cities), my first first son, Andrew was born ten weeks prematurely. In the second week of January, he was diagnosed with cerebral palsy.

We hadn’t yet made any money in Melbourne. In fact we’d invested a heap establishing the Scene brand, but with the two giants finally awake and reacting like they should, all considered, the decision was made to bid a retreat back to Brisbane, where business had never been stronger. And so on 24th March, 2004, after exactly one year of publishing Scene Magazine we withdrew from market — with a promise we'd be back!

Melbourne is a beautiful city, I could easily live there — I met some terrific people with whom I still stay in touch. 2003/ 04 holds some of my fondest publishing memories.

The next significant milestone was another change of format. The emergence of the festival scene, the change of millennium and advances in printing technologies, allowed us to ditch the newsprint in favour of a return to A4 — but this time, it was gloss throughout, colour on every page — a format still unmatched anywhere in the country. Our page count, staffing and circulation increased dramatically.

We released the digital flipbook edition of the magazine, available to read online on the day of publication. Certainly no big deal now, but another national first-to-market for Team Scene.

Street press was at its zenith in 2007, but some publishers had surely missed the memo regarding the forthcoming decline of print — Murdoch and other illuminati had been warning us all for some years. In 2007 a competitor press title was purchased for a million dollars. You read that right — in my opinion, that’s what the Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels writers woud call the mother of all something or other. I believe the previous owners still pinch themselves every morning and twice on Sundays. The industry had peaked.
gorillaz-cover-junior-magJunior's first issue.

By 2010, we too were experiencing easing print sales and in response launched Junior — a national A5 title, which I'm convinced that in any other era would have worked well — a single title, catering to every state, in a handy dandy format. We signed Molly Meldrum to write a monthly column and covered all genres of music plus requisite fashion and tech.

Junior was CAB audited at over 80,000 copies per issue (no fiddling!), making it Australia's highest circuiting street press — another achievement for Team Scene.

But Junior, too, was put on hold when in 2011/ 2012 titles around us started to fold very quickly. Our company was restructured and the industry lost 3DWorld (it too had recently been purchased at the height of the silly season), Tsunami, MAG, Rave Magazine, Tsunami (Sunshine Coast) and Sauce (Tasmania). My turn-of-the-millenium prediction that by 2010, street press would rationalise to two competitors proved correct. Today, there are two groups in street press, each with a title in each capital city — we are part of the National Street Press (NSP).

In the last six months, Rupert Murdoch's City News and The Independent have ceased publication while just recently, Triple J announced it would cease printing its monthly magazine at the end of this year.

The Scene brand is very much alive and well. With the rationalisation of the print market, we have experienced a significant resurgence of late. Online, Scene Magazine is now the only QLD street press to have a locally-produced website site and continues to grow its audience. We also publish three other sites with no print driving to them, such as scenestr.

I have no idea what the next 20 years hold — but I can tell you for certain, there won’t be another 1,000 Scene Magazines! While the milestone is a rare beast, it is rarer still that the founding publisher is still at the helm.

I have enjoyed much of the journey. For the parts I haven’t enjoyed so much, I’ve been most fortunate to have been surrounded by very good people — staff and family. Thank you to Renée, my beautiful wife and to my parents, who this week trump my 1,000 issues with their 50th wedding anniversary.

Also in our commemortaive edition:
The Editors: Gareth Bryant, Pat Whyte and Neil Richards reflect on 1,000 issues.
Cosmo Cater: Staff Writer, DJ, Raconteur — takes us back ...

Time Capsule - Part 10

Written by  |  Monday, 20 May 2013 20:36  |  Published in Time Capsule

Scene Magazine celebrates 20 years on the streets in 2013. Each week this year, in this column, we're looking back at what we, and you, were doing.

We opened 1998 with Kylie on the cover and sans-editor! Late in 1997, Neil Richards had moved up the road and in cahoots with founding client, Nick Black to launch Euphoria, an RnB club at 383 Adelaide Street (your parents would remember the room as Rumours or Sybils).

In setting one of the themes for this week’s Capsule, I can report that building was bulldozed a decade later in 2008.

The big chair remained vacant until late March when Pat Whyte, a Café Scene man with a journalism degree, presented. He stayed for a decade and probably played a more significant role than any other staffer in shaping the company’s flagship offering — more on Pat in future Capsules.

Our first Arts Editor was by Brinsley Marlay. He sculpted the role, then owned it, leaving a legacy for those that followed. Scene Magazine's arts credentials are unquestionably unrivalled by any music street press title in the country.

Whigfield (Sexy Eyes), Savage Garden and Van Halen all landed at Brisbane Airport in the first six months of the year. In addition to Kylie, covers included Roni Size, John Digweed, Natalie Imbruglia, Portishead, Public Enemy, and may the Lord have mercy on our souls — Peter André. And if that wasn't enough, we were giving away tickets to The Spice Girls!

The Chelsea (next to The Healer (previous Capsule)) in Warner Street, in partnership with Slingshot Entertainment (also celebrating 20 years in 2013), copresented Metabass 'n Breath (US) with local top-shelf supports Katch and Sheep.

Regular columns: Clem's 'New Gen' (Britpop) and Flavours Radio Show 'Tha Broadcast' (Urban). Advertisers included Jamesons (475 Adelaide Street), Stones Corner’s Replay Records, Hipnotic and The Broadway Hotel.

Of special note, the Classic Cinema (977 Stanley St, East Brisbane) was the third advertiser of its type to succumb to ‘progress’. It was to close a mere two years later (mid-2000) and was soon followed by New Farm Village Twin (2003) and later The Valley Twin.

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Time Capsule - Part 9

Written by  |  Tuesday, 12 March 2013 10:58  |  Published in Time Capsule

Scene Magazine celebrates 20 years on the streets in 2013. Each week this year, in this column, we're looking back at what we, and you, were doing.

scene-mag171Birthed as an electronic street press title, Scene’s live music credentials in 1997 were embryonic but there was still plenty of meat to chew on.

In another first for street press in Australia, our ‘Live Scene’ section, was at one stage in the late 90s printed on green paper to help it stand out (20 years later Scene Mag’s live guide listing e-mail address remains greenguide [at] scenemagazine.com.au even the though the green paper is long gone).

The gig guide itself was a full tabloid page of listings in tiny type. The section featured luminaries such as Tumbleweed, Regurgitator, Tylea, Everclear, The Whitlams, Henry Rollins, Custard, Ratcat, My Friend The Chocolate Cake and Jebediah.

There was even a dual U2/ The Cardigans front cover in March. The Zoo, The Gig (22 Market St), Our Valley (Brunswick St rotunda) and Mary Street Nightclub (138 Mary St) were regular advertisers.

Notable advertised gigs included Silverchair/ Magic Dirt at the Riverstage, Presidents of the United States of America at Festival Hall (Vale), Sixth Annual Bluesfest, Keb Mo at The Capitol (Van Gogh’s Earlobe) on Stanley Street, Mater Hill, and Alice Cooper at The Gig.

The Healer (a soul, rhythm and blues room), where Electric Playground is today, celebrated its first birthday, while Valley Fiesta was headlined by The Earthmen and D.I.G..

Allergy Spring Music Festival was produced by the QUT Student Guild and featured the future federal Education Minister’s Midnight Oil, Skunkhour, Magic Dirt and Grinspoon (who were to grace Scene’s cover 15 years later.

Q Music was up and running promoting the local and live music with ‘Get Real Industry Showcase’. 15 years later, the organisation commands the national industry’s attention with BigSound.

 Keb-Mo Qmusic-Ad 

Time Capsule - Part 8

Written by  |  Thursday, 07 March 2013 08:09  |  Published in Time Capsule

Scene Magazine celebrates 20 years on the streets in 2013. Each week this year, in this column, we're looking back at what we, and you, were doing.

scene-mag201By 1997, the staff credits had grown considerably. Our advertising team had doubled (Karen Sellers and Justin Galt), and the super-talented Patrick Herlihy (production) began his tenure as Scene Magazine's longest serving staffer. A freehand artist and an early Mac-man (no PC has ever been used in the operation and production of of Scene Mag!), Pat's gothic tendencies somehow melded seamlessly with our electronic/ fashion/ arts bent.

Our lensman Jeff Polley was a prolific pithound whose work was showcased at Café Scene and, we hope, will be again as part of our public 20th anniversary celebrations later this year.

Advertisers included Substance Magazine ('Australia's Foremost Dance Culture Mag'), BPM Records (and alternative to Central Station Records), Jolt Cola (surely the first energy drink?) and fittingly, as we approach comedy season 2013, we remember Peter Grose's Crazies Comedy Restaurant (corner Caxton and Judge Sts, Petrie Terrace) where Elliot Goblet was in season.

But the most telling ad was surely from Mastercard, espousing the benefits of booking concert tickets by telephone no less and giving the operator the your card details down the line! Covers included Bjork, The Cardigans, Faithless, Skunkhour, Corduroy and Ultrasonic - we definitely loved our hardcore.

Next week, the live scene.


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Time-Tunnel Volume3

Time Capsule - Part 7

Written by  |  Tuesday, 19 February 2013 01:00  |  Published in Time Capsule

Above: Café Scene - circa Nov 1996. Cnr Ann and Brunswick Streets, Fortitude Valley, where Universal Store stands today.

Scene Magazine celebrates 20 years on the streets in 2013. Each week this year, in this column, we're looking back at what we, and you, were doing.

Scene Magazine wasn’t quite three years old when the author decided a café was called for.

A big one. A 24 hour one. And one that had internet access (internet cafés were just emerging) ... and one which sold concert tickets ... and where you could play chess at 3am ... and one with with a mini stage for showcase performances ... and one with big display windows for the magazine’s clients to display their wares ... all at one of Brisbane’s busiest intersections and ...

Circa 1998. Brisbane artist David Hooper was commissioned to paint the exterior.

And so a lease was signed on a dilapidated and vacated butcher shop on the corner of Ann and Brunswick Streets, Fortitude Valley, where Universal Store stands today, opposite The Empire Hotel.

Our immediate neighbours included a candle shop, a French patisserie and a barber! But we weren't the first settlers on the New Farm side of the mall — Thea Basiliou's Blonde Venus (1995) and Joc Curran's The Zoo (1992) were the earliest settlers we can recall.

Café Scene opened its doors to no fanfare whatsoever in November 1996. Its 24/7 trading and prime location dictated that it cater to a wide clientele: early morning city workers, bohemians and late-night ravers.

Circa 2000. Just prior to losing the lease to the new owners of the building and subsequent relocation to the Valley Mall.

The many memorables included the unrelenting onslaught that was Valley Fiesta, any eclectic Saturday night crowd and a System 6 Recovery — the reader can only imagine walking past at a 6am Sunday dawn to a blacked-out shopfront from which was emanating the driving hardcore sounds of DJ Thief and co.!

The 24/ 7 backlit display windows were in high demand (as were our pancakes!) and were used as promotional opportunities for Scene Magazine advertisers. It was a lot of fun. But shortly after we saw in the millenium, the owners of Universal Store bought the building and installed themselves as tenants!

The café relocated to the northern end of the Brunswick St. Mall, to the immediate left of Gloria Jeans, where it operated a far more salubrious, licensed, establishment offering al fresco seating in the mall or seclusion inside.

Friday and Saturday night entertainment included live Latin sounds and many of Brisbane’s emerging DJs — all this until 2003 when the business was sold as a precursor to Scene Mag’s expansion into Melbourne. But all that’s six years in the future. Next week, back to 1997!

Above: Circa 1997. Reading Scene Magazine in Café Scene. Window looking out to The Empire Hotel.

Above: Circa 1999. The internet has moved behind and to the left of the photographer. Window looking out to The Empire Hotel and the doors that never closed.

Time Capsule - Part 6

Written by  |  Sunday, 17 February 2013 15:08  |  Published in Time Capsule

Scene Magazine celebrates 20 years on the streets in 2013. Each week this year, in this column, we're looking back at what we, and you, were doing.

flares96-pp1996 - Everything old is new again ...

One of Brisbane clubbing's time-honoured events was Jon Griffen's Flares. Jon-E worked his funkalicious magic at the city’s and Valley’s hottest spots, spanning the sounds of four decades. Long weekends were often a treat for devotees, where back-to-back nights were served with different genres.

Flares was knocked-off (badly) by a short-lived Step Into Flares — and yes, the events went head to head — and no it didn't end well; but thankfully everyone survived to tell their version of tale.

Bohemian, indie and low-fi offerings abounded. The Alley Kat Café (32 Burnett Lane, City) hosted the mandatory Poetry night (Tuesdays, when else?), X-Files screenings and DJs including Mark Briais (Tube).

Popscene, Brisbane's homage to Britpop had relocated from the CBD to Channel 13 (briefly) at 230 Wickham Street, Bleach’s indie dance at the Lands Office Hotel (Capsule 5), and The Valley Twin Cinemas (most recently incarnated as The Globe, 220 Brunswick St, Valley) would let you in for 8 bucks, while Abigails (16 Robertson St, New Farm) “Toasted the rise of the dressed-up, downtown, easy listening lifestyle ...”.

Babble-On (Elizabeth Street, City), was likely ahead of its time when Circuitree billed Aurora, Matt Kitshon, Pip, Jandy Rainbow, Alphanaut and a certain Kazu Kimura. Bam!

And in November 1996, our own Café Scene opened on the corner of Ann and Brunswick Streets, Fortitude Valley, where Universal Store stands today. More on that next week ...

alleykat popscene

Time Capsule - Part 5

Written by  |  Thursday, 07 February 2013 14:49  |  Published in Time Capsule

Scene Magazine celebrates 20 years on the streets in 2013. Each week this year, in this column, we're looking back at what we, and you, were doing.

scene-mag060By late '94 we'd confirmed our electronica bent; and both reader and advertiser demands were growing.

Needing to catch the wave, we reluctantly said goodbye to the seductive gloss that had made dance and fashion artwork pop, and said hello to the disposable grime of newsprint!

Our first foray wasn't tabloid though — we elected for a square tabloid affair — and it was awful! The rationale was both economics and a desire to hold on to our smaller and more portable origins.

It lasted 15 tortured editions before we went the whole hog — and on the 4th January, 1995, The Scene hit the streets as fully-fledged, tabloid, newsprint, street press.

Advertisers included alternative dance club, Bleach, pioneered by Mark Gregory, who today runs Happy High Herbs (Fortitude Valley and Southport); and Outer Limits Productions whose edgy offerings will be covered in more depth in coming Capsules. For now, check black and white artwork for Strawberry Fields 2 and Oxygen at Grand Orbit!

Roger Wheelahan had joined us as our first real ad exec (see previous Capsule!) in our newly-occupied offices at 17A Skyring Terrace, Newstead, shared with Darren Clarke's Shawthing Entertainment and Suzanne Snape's The PR Company.

Most of the artists in 1995's Big Day Out Boiler Room spread # (#63) had already graced our front covers, including Southend, who months earlier had released a Top 10 ARIA hit with 'The Winner Is … (Sydney)'. See Tube below.




Time Capsule - Part 4

Written by  |  Thursday, 31 January 2013 00:53  |  Published in Time Capsule

Scene Magazine celebrates 20 years on the streets in 2013. Each week this year, in this column, we're looking back at what we, and you, were doing.

scene-mag044Issue 45: September 14, 1994. The last of the initial A4 gloss format before a switch to the dreaded newsprint! But more on that next week. First it's worth looking at just the five preceding issues as so much was happening in our pond, and at such a pace.

Covers: were as diverse as Vision 4/5 & Lollie (#45) juxtaposed with Prince (#41).

Editorially: we were featuring Central Station Records’ Top 10 every week. CSR was a powerhouse operating above Hungry Jacks (Queen St Mall) and run by the perennial Harry Katsanevas (Family/ Fluffy) with assistance from Edwin (The Beat/ Sexing The Cherry).

Scene Magazine's present-day support of gay news is not a new-found thing: Bent Vent was a wrap of the gay/ music scene, written by gay-scene identity and promoter Gavin Waller (RIP) and the vivacious Dixie Lloyd.

Personnel: Neil Richards had become our first editor. A consumate professional, very well respected throughout the music industry (then and now), and certainly not prone to the all-too-common sniffy and tortured tastemaking that afflicts so many in that role. Ten years later, Neil edited the Melbourne edition from our offices in Johnson Street, Collingwood.

Jenni Juckel (DJ Jen-E) was writing the weekly Dance Directions and full page features on all things electronic, while holding down her five-night residency at The Beat.

And in a little-known nugget from the annals, emerging Brisbane musician Tyrone Noonan (George and in his own right), was Scene Magazine's advertising man — albeit not for very long!

Advertisers: Kimberley Davis (Annalise Hartman character in Neighbours) was appearing at Club LQ. Quite what she was doing is anyone's guess, but I'm sure it made sense at the time. The 3rd Brisbane Blues Festival (by promoter Rob Hudson — another hard-wired perennial industry pro) feat. Mick Hadley (RIP) & The Shakers and Lil Fi and The Delta Rhythm Kings. You could catch Hunters and Collectors + Dave Graney at The Roxy for $16 and D:Ream @ Festival Hall (RIP) for $26.

And things for Scene Mag (and D:Ream) were certainly getting better!

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