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The sense of peace is a far cry from the mania of the 90s, when Brown was the enfant terrible of UK publishing and founding editor of Loaded, the lads’ mag so notorious that Brown became a celebrity in his own right – a mouthy media presence with a trademark head of curls, fond of bigging himself and his magazine up, and with a reputation for partying hard. Nobody knew I was having serious emotional pressures ... The Loaded staff might be surprised, because my mood swings then were like a sail in a squall I interviewed the playwright Steven Berkoff for Sounds when I was about 19. He decided he didn’t want to do it after my first question, but didn’t have the manners or know-how to end it politely. I genuinely can’t remember I saw anything about him anywhere.”
I’ve never brushed shoulders with royalty and I’d prefer it if the Royal Family invested a lot of their wealth in helping our schools and health service, so no, I don’t think my political outlook has changed since I was down the front of the Redskins or New Town Neurotics at the Hull Trades and Labour club.” Loaded was originally conceived as a magazine that combined music and football. Brown had been interviewed for the NME editor’s job, but ended up being offered the chance to make his own magazine instead. Under the mentorship of IPC’s Alan Lewis, he brought together a small team to create a rough sketch of the mag. It tested appallingly in focus groups, but legend has it that Lewis altered the figures, and so the project was greenlighted. Brown notes that he was younger than pretty much all of his staff, and that his mum had died only months before the opportunity to do Loaded arose. “So there was no structure or sense of recuperation. And then – boom! – I create this thing that explodes, and all of the things about me that annoyed people – my ego and my voice and opinions – got fuelled.” I always thought it was like bands when the key member leaves. The songwriter or lead singer. It was my magazine … which everybody else made greatFast forward to 2022. I’m sat watching the Pet Shop Boys in Hull Bonus Arena with James. He tells me he’s finished his book, the one about the bloke who started Loaded, who went on tour with U2 and was in a ballet with The Fall, who played football with The Cult, drank liquid acid with the Beastie Boys, and discussed the debatable merits of hot or cold lamb over lunch with Michael Caine. The magazine he created became synonymous with bad behaviour in the 90s. Is the enfant terrible of British media now a reformed character?
There were a few too many drug/alcohol related tales in the book for me, however I would also argue that most of them did feel related to a bigger context (e.g. explaining the tone of the magazine through describing drug fuelled trips abroad). James noted that Loaded is now frequently lumped in with the other later 'lad's mags' such as Maxim and Nuts due to it featuring similar content focusing on alcohol and women but that he felt Loaded was above that genre, it was a brief comment but I would be really interested to read his deeper opinion on that and the genre that Loaded arguably spawned whether intended or not. From dancing down the front at Redskins gigs to brushing shoulders with royalty - has success changed your political outlook at all?
I was really mercurial,” Brown says. “One minute I would be happy and planning something fun, and the next I’d be chewing somebody out. Quite often that was because something else had happened in my life in between and, instead of being able to understand how to process that, I would take it out on the next person.” What MTV had been to the 80s, loaded was to the 90s. ANIMAL HOUSE follows James Brown's remarkable career from a high school drop-out fanzine writer with few qualifications to NME features editor aged 22, and loaded founder at 27. In between, his mother died in tragic circumstances and gradually his own drug and alcohol use began to take over. It depends what time of the day and what drugs. And I guess it depends on the individual taking them. In my experience it’s extremely hard to write on drugs but you can get a good flow going if you’ve had a couple of drinks.”
You must have received tons of demos from hopeful bands whilst at the NME . What made the best ones stand out?
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