Calum Harvie’s “Run Calum Run” challenge

The music ‘family’ are a big hearted bunch, up and down the country bands, venues and associated hangers on give their time to organise gigs which benefit a variety of good causes. Even CackBlabbath got in on this with our upcoming @Twitrfest in Birmingham.

So good people doing good…..

Not many are quite as, well, odd as extreme music loving, sui-cider brewing, bread “loafing” music writer Calum Harvie who has decided to go several steps further than many of us would even dream of. Well, would you complete at least one race per month for a year, especially if the races are between 5K and the full marathon?

No, thought not.

So we asked Calum about his journalistic life so far, and why he decided to start running for charity.

I mean, that’s a big commitment and we ARE watching. No slacking off….

Photo by Lisa C

How did you first get into music journalism ? Given our very similar formative gig history, at which point did you think that it could be a career choice ?

It was never a conscious decision, to be honest. Back at school I had very little idea about what I wanted to do, other than study history at uni. But it was while doing my degree I realised I really enjoyed writing, and so the seed of an idea that I might like to make writing a ‘job’ was planted. In typical fashion it took me a while to get round to realising that idea; I bummed around a little, did post-grad research and generally contemplated my navel for a few years. I got married in 1999 and that, shall we say, ‘focused’ my attention a little and I ended up working in the financial industry for a few years. The joy of redundancy paid a visit in 2001, so I bit the bullet and decided then to go full time as a writer. I primarily concentrated on copywriting at the time, as that’s where my experience lay. So I managed to build up some decent clients, and I wrote for companies as diverse as Toyota, RBS, Liverpool City Council…not to mention a firm of funeral directors. The writing was sometimes interesting, but more often than not it was a fairly dull task, so I decided to branch out. Music, metal in particular, has been a part of my life since I was about 10, and I grew up reading Kerrang!, Metal Hammer, Metal Forces etc. Being a cheeky sod, I therefore decided to give the old ‘writing about music’ thing a shot, and contacted a load of mags, trying to persuade them to give me a gig. First to bite was a then-new magazine called Zero Tolerance, and soon after that I also had writing published in Hammer, PowerPlay, Disorder, Unrestrained and others. ZT was my main outlet though, and I eventually became sub-editor and then editor in 2006.

You are described as an “extreme music” journalist. At which point does extreme music stop being music and become noise ?

Wouldn’t you say that noise is just part of the extreme music continuum? I would! If we take extreme music to mean sounds which challenge the boundaries of what people accept as ‘music’, then I have absolutely no problem mentioning something like harsh / heavy electronics a la Con-Dom or Black Leather Jesus  in the same breath as Impaled Nazarene or Swans. They’re all different manifestations of music (or sounds) taken to an extreme degree. The idea of ‘extreme’ is pretty relative though. Play Bon Jovi to your average teeny-bop pop fan and they’d probably complain that it made their ears bleed; a death metal fan would, naturally, think otherwise. There also comes a point, I think, where things stop being ‘extreme’. Scum or FETO by Napalm Death were extreme at the time; these days grindcore of a similar ilk doesn’t have the same impact, as it’s all been done before. So is it right that we say that modern grindcore is as ‘extreme’ as the early Napalm Death material? It’s not an easy call.

What’s been the high point of your interview career to date, must be a buzz meeting your idols ?

Oh, it is a total buzz. It used to make me laugh attending press days with a ‘famous’ person, and you’d see some journalists there waiting to do interviews affecting a look of blase disinterest, pretending that they’re too cool to be excited about meeting the interviewee. Utter bollocks. There are some very well known people in the music industry who I’ve met and interviewed many times over and I still get excited about talking to them. Anyone who says this doesn’t happen to them is talking through their arse. Biggest thrill I think has been interviewing Tom Fischer (Celtic Frost / Triptykon) over the years. I was totally obsessed with Celtic Frost as a kid, to the point of making my mum visit pretty much every single record shop in Luzern in the ’80s to make sure I had all the CF vinyl going. To finally interview Tom was a true pleasure. But there have been stacks of other people I’ve thoroughly enjoyed getting to know through my work, Abbath from Immortal was a complete hoot; Glen Benton of Deicide discussed floor coverings with me.

And, have to ask this, what’s been the worst ?

I’ve been lucky in that very few, if any, interviews have gone ‘wrong’ as such. One interview which was particularly slow going initially was with the late Jesse Pintado to discuss the new Terrorizer album. He took an absolute age to answer a question, and digressed so much that he forgot the original point he was making. Oddly though, about 20 minutes later, it was as if a switch had been flicked and he sparked into life. Another slightly awkward moment was when I told Howard Jones from KSE that I thought he was much better in Blood Has Been Shed. Several balls of tumbleweed passed during that interview thereafter, as you can imagine.

You recently left many a wannabe journo’s dream job as editor of Zero Tolerance, what brought that about ?

Well, without going into too many details, 2010 was a fairly challenging year on a personal level and my circumstances changed a fair bit, notably the arrival of my second child. I work from home, which means that I’m also able to look after my kids during the day as well, juggling my work as far as possible. But I wanted to make sure that I had time to spend properly with my kids, and combining that with full-time editing ZT was tricky. So there was that, plus a few other issues, which prompted me to go back to writing freelance again. I wish ZT all the best though, it’s the best extreme music publication out there and I know it’s in very safe hands.

Recently you have embarked on a series of runs in aid of charity, are music journalists supposed to run ????

C’mon, shout ‘free bar in the press area’ at any festival and you’ll get them all running! Well, waddling wheezily, in some cases. But they’ll be moving faster than normal at any rate.

Seriously, what was the thinking behind the Run Calum Run thing, and why did you pick the charities you did ?

I’ve been running as pastime for about 10 years, and I’d done a few races in the past, some half-marathons mainly. But towards the end of last year I decided that I’d like to give my training a bit more focus, so I came up with the idea of running a competitive race every calendar month of 2011. The races range in length from 5K up to marathon distance, and are taking place around the UK. People can read about the races, and my running training, at my blog: http://runcalumrun.blogspot.com and on Twitter: www.twitter.com/runcalumrun. Naturally there’s a bit of a music thing going on in the blog too as you’ll see. As for the charity side: apart from running for personal satisfaction, I wanted my efforts to have a wider ‘purpose’ too. Last year friends of mine lost a close family member to cancer, and talking to them afterwards I learned how valuable the support from Macmillan Cancer Support had been. So that’s why I’m raising money for them. If people would like to sponsor me ñ no amount is too small! – then there are links to doing so online via my blog. Alternatively people can go directly to my page at www.justgiving.com/calumharvie.

After the rigors of editing a magazine, how are you filling your time now ?

Well, I’m slowly getting back on the freelancing saddle again, plus I have a couple of other projects on the go. Having two kids is keeping me on my toes too, as you might imagine.

I believe you’re working on a book ?

Yes indeed. Apart from metal, the music I enjoy most is heavy electronic music & harsh noise, power electronics etc. So I’m slowly (very slowly at the moment) writing an oral history of the genres. It’s a labour of love, but one that I’ve been wanting to do for a number of years, so it’s nice to finally get round to doing something about it. As for timescale…well, let’s just say that it’ll be finished eventually, hehe.

And a band project, I hate to ask, but what sort of music will that be ?

Cock-shredding heavy electronics. That do?