In case you somehow missed it – Grapevine Magazine is turning 30 this year and to celebrate we’re catching up with the amazing people that made all this happen. Paul Burrows, former bass player for The Mean Red Spiders, joined the team just as Grapevine was learning the ropes and Jamie Moore caught up with him to hear all about it 30 years later…
JM: Tell us a bit about yourself and your involvement with Grapevine
PB: I’d left my previous work to study business and finance at Suffolk College, and I suddenly heard on the radio one morning that Adrian’s partner in Grapevine had tragically lost his life in a car crash. I phoned Adrian to offer my condolences and asked how he was doing, and he said that the work at Grapevine was swamping him so I asked if I could come in and give a hand. That’s how it all started.
I think I was involved with the magazine from around the second or third issue and I was there for around 15 years, and during that time I was still playing as a musician. My role for Grapevine… well I did everything bar print the thing.
I used to sell the advertising, the invoicing, payments, contacting all the venues for listings because at the time there wasn’t a big online presence, and I had to type all them into a Word document, organise it into the right order and sort out any corrections. Once it was printed, I had to fold it and then distribute it. Safe to say I used to have a really hectic two weeks a month.
Grapevine was just printed on a few sides of A4, whereas it’s now printed on glossy pages with colour and a bunch more information, all for free. Back when I started doing Grapevine, we did only music; no theatre or dance or anything. It’s just gotten bigger and bigger ever since and I’m glad I had a hand in it.
JM: What have been some of your favourite memories with Grapevine?
PB: Alan Crumpton always used to make me laugh, he was the original writer for the ‘Jazz Wrap Up’ articles and he used to turn up with his hand written notes. He’d try and put them into the computer but he used to hammer the keys so hard we thought he was going to go through the desk. He was an old school journalist who would type with two index fingers. He was hilarious and what he didn’t know about jazz wasn’t worth knowing, it was amazing. Foz was always great as well, he always brought in the local live music scene and was always supportive of live music.
JM: Why do you think Grapevine is important to the community?
PB: Grapevine has always been the go-to place for finding out what live entertainment was going on in your area. It’s always been hugely appreciated by musicians and venues because it helps get the word out about their gigs. Generally, magazines like Grapevine are largely important. One musician said to me ‘It’s nutters like you that mean that we can earn our living’ and that’s always stuck with me.
JM: What are your thoughts on the adaption to digital in this past year due to the virus?
PB: With the role I’m doing now in the Musicians Union, I’ve seen the industry develop hugely. Not to sound like an old fart, but the changes in technology and the internet has made even more opportunities for music. In my time if you wanted to make an album you had to finance it yourself or you had to find a record label to invest whereas now most artists self-release albums.
There’s been a huge influx of live-streaming and online performances since lockdown, which is great. The difficulty is how to monetise that. I was talking to a musician who had been live-streaming from his basement and he was steaming to about 15,000 people at once worldwide, but of course if you’re doing it by a tip box it’s not as much as you’d get at a live gig. It’s difficult.
Some have even been doing it by virtual reality, where you use your smartphone to move around on stage with the band and select what you hear and what viewpoints you have. It’s really great and you can make money off of it, so it has its up and downs, just like anything.
JM: On the flip side of that, what do you love and miss most about live entertainment?
PB: The reason I left my band was actually because I got tinnitus, which is very common now in the music industry because we didn’t have ear plugs. Some of the pubs I’d play at, we’d have a full concert bass stack, which is mad to think about now; so I don’t go to a whole lot of live shows, but I will be going back after lockdown because I really have missed watching a live performance.
I think with live entertainment, especially music, it’s good for the soul; even singing in community choirs is good for mental health. That’s why I was so confused when people were able to run fitness classes but not a choir practice, people consider fitness sessions as being good for your health and so that’s why it was able to operate, but that’s missing the point. Music, by its very definition, is there to invoke an emotion, and so to be a part of an audience at an event is really important for mental wellbeing. Live performances will come back strong, of that I’m certain.
JM: Is there anything you’d like to say to the Grapevine team before we say goodbye?
PB: I’d like to say thank you very much for the opportunity- they could’ve just sent me away so I’m thankful that they allowed me to come on board and help develop Grapevine. Keep up the good work, I’m always interested in seeing where it goes and I still get my copies every month and I think it’s a great read and all of the team should be extremely proud of themselves.