SEARCHING FOR THE FINER SIDE OF THE UNDERGROUND
An Interview with Max of Broken Culture
Broken Culture is an independent wesbite set up to celebrate a true representation of underground culture through high quality, detailed and insightful journalism. For a number of years they’ve helped us spread the word about HC so we felt it was only right we find out a little more about who is behind this excellent resource for those interested in the finder side of underground culture…
Max, first off.. please introduce yourself for those who don’t know and tell the people what you do!
Yo, as you can probably guess I’m a Hip-Hop head. I’m also a city dweller, vinyl addict and less-than-occasional drunken fool. I run a website called Broken-Culture.co.uk so I’m the founder over there and also the main editor, writer, designer, photographer etc etc.
I’m also an MC, and a graphic designer by trade.
Your websites manifesto makes for interesting reading. How much of a challenge is it to write on a subject for publication and keep relative to your websites statement of intent?
Essentially, it’s all just about representing for what we love. Although the manifesto mainly talks of d&b and hip hop, the website relates more to sound, mood and quality than it does specific genres. Maybe it’s sunny and we’re going through a Garage phase, maybe it’s winter and I’m holed up listening to deep hip hop, whatever is getting a lot of speaker time gets exposure. I think of Broken Culture more as a representation of vibe rather than a genre, it’s all about showing the more soulful, musical, poetic and generally what the layman might consider ‘musical’ side of underground and street culture. As much as we love gangsta’ rap, and don’t get me wrong it get’s a lot of airtime round here, that’s doesn’t really represent a bunch of white kids from England.
How that all ties in to the manifesto is that people with less knowledge of it consider the things we love as lowlife pursuits. Your average person just thinks of hip hop as guns & hoes, d&b as pills & screechy synths and Graffiti as mindless vandalism. We’re here to show the world that’s not true, and if you dig a little deeper there’s plenty of gems in the dirt. From the gentleman vandals to d&b that warms your soul and Hip Hop that speaks truths as if it snatched the words from your tongue, things aren’t always what they first seem.
As for a challenge, this is what we do, what we love, who we are, so it’s never a challenge. It’s just about representing for what’s real and at the top of it’s game, the rest comes naturally.
Where does the name Broken Culture come from?
As I touched on earlier, people think of the culture we love as Broken, we don’t believe that’s the case. The only thing broken about it is the monetised, corporate imitation of it. In fact, the culture around us is broken, from pop music that’s devoid of talent and soul to art that’s basically a waste of paint. It’s trying to break us too but we stay real and represent truth straight from the heart.
When people think of culture they think of Opera, Ballet and the Fine Art. I feel a lot of that has lost its relevance in the modern world, culture is broken when it’s no longer engaging with the youth, the next generation. We’re a small voice shouting for what we believe is the most important cultural movement of our time.
Your site is updated daily (?), where do you gather your sources from?
It’s updated daily to a degree. I’ve got a day job and am generally a pretty busy person, so if I’m mad busy with work, away for the weekend or just particularly hungover it’s not gonna happen. I love running Broken Culture, but I refuse to treat it truly like a job until it pays enough, this is all just for the love right now.
I’ve always had an ear close to the ground to what I love. I grew into it as a DJ so am constantly scouring for tunes and as a designer/artist I’m always looking for visual inspiration. I just post what catches my eye, sometimes I’ve found that just randomly on the web, sometimes it will be linked by friends and often it lands in the inbox.
So, are you happy for people to send you their music, clothing or products for review/consideration?
Of course. But people have gotta know that the email inbox is always overflowing, so don’t be disheartened if we don’t post it or don’t reply. That doesn’t mean it’s not dope, maybe it just fell on the wrong ears or at the wrong time. Also, please don’t pester, everything gets seen at some point so I’m afraid you’ve just gotta let us do our thing, if we replied to everything that didn’t get posted we’d never have time to post anything.
Just hit the contact page on the website. Clothes for the back are always appreciated, that tends to get you into the good book. But don’t get me wrong, if it’s not up to standard it’s not getting promoted.
How do you set yourself apart from the hundreds of other websites with similar content?
To be honest, I feel like the quality of music and arts journalism nowadays is considerably worse than it used to be, so we make sure everything is in depth and well thought out. We put time into our content that I don’t believe a lot of people do. What’s more, myself and everyone who writes for us is no tourist in this, it’s what we live and we really try and use that understanding to give a deeper insight into things that others might not pick out. Hopefully when you’ve read one of our reviews, it will actually improve the experience of listening to the album for you.
That said, if we’re just another atom pirouetting in the internet whirlwind that’s fine too. Just know that every atom is different, you’ve gotta find the one you relate to and enjoy. This website is essentially built around my tastes, so if people relate and find stuff they like then that’s gravy, keep coming back. By covering a wide range of genres but focusing on a particular taste, hopefully a couple minds can be opened to things they wouldn’t have otherwise heard.
How much of a challenge is it to run a complete website in comparison to a simple blog site? Why is having a full website still important?
We cover a wide range of things (although we feel they’re all closely related) and would like to think that someone that enjoys one thing we post will like the next. Even if it’s a completely different genre and mood, it has the same soul and finesse. That said, it makes sense for people to be able to filter the content to particular genres, mediums etc. Also, it means we can more heavily promote big features such as interviews.
Besides, doesn’t it look cool?
Yer man, feeling the new look and feel of the site especially…So, how do you spread word of your work? Do you advertise your site anywhere?
Word of Mouth is bond. Unfortunately, today’s world requires me to be on social networks more than I’d like, so that too. I don’t advertise, this is for those that are willing to dig a bit for themselves.
There doesn’t seem to be any advertising on your site? Is this a conscious decision and would you consider creating a revenue stream by selling advertising space perhaps?
I’ve sold banners before but I’ve always been very careful about the kind of company we let into the fold. The problem with that is, most of the company’s we’d like to represent don’t really have the budget. Such is life. Unfortunately, everyone’s gotta get theirs and I’m not willing to sacrifice the actual look of the site, which has taken hard work, unless the money is worth that sacrifice. There’s also been a few sponsored posts, and although that seems like the most commercially viable form of advertising for websites like ours nowadays, it feels a bit dishonest to us as they all want you to make out as if it’s not advertising. Besides, marketing agencies aren’t exactly hip hop gurus, they tend to come at us with Drake reviews and stuff (not hating on the guy, but if you need us to tell you Drake exists you probably don’t have the internet anyway).
The tone of your website seems open-minded, friendly and fresh (as if your finger is constantly on the pulse) How important is the language you use on your web pages?
Thanks, it’s nice you picked up on that. I think that’s been easier because the majority of the content is my writing so it’s consistent. As you can probably tell from this interview, I love a good ol’ natter. I like getting wax poetic on cats and playing with words, so the actual language is very important to me. It’s harder and harder to get people to read music reviews in this world of instant gratification, so they’ve gotta be in some way entertaining. That said, I’m running out of synonyms for ‘smooth’, ‘deep’, ‘mellow’ etc, I always wander how much people notice the crux’s in my writing.
Also, it’s about our crew and our experiences as much as the music, that’s why you may notice our festival reviews are more about campsite jokes and the journey involved than they are sets and tunes. Who cares exactly what time that DJ dropped that fresh dub? If it was all about the sets we’d all just listen at home. I wanna know about the vibe and the experience. Let’s kick some anecdotes. We judge music on it’s soul so it feels like the writing should have that too.
How big is the team operating behind Broken Culture?
I launched Broken Culture and I guess I’m the driving force; 95% of what you see there is me. However, there’s also some journalists that contribute to help me out. Peace to Louise Brisbane, Monika Ska, Abi Lewis, Ethan Everton and Vic Freeth on that one, awful kind of you.
I must sound schitzophenic when I talk of ‘we’ all the time, but in reality the BC Clan is just my crew outside of this internet world. They’re the people I step with when I’m reviewing events and the people I jam with when I’m listening to music. Although they’re not directly writing for BC, their mere presence in my life informs my taste and opinions, not to mention plenty of them pitch in by sending me music or just telling me what they thought. They’re all kings and queens and I thank them for that.
Have you any plans to release a print publication? A short run magazine or even a book perhaps?
A magazine was always the plan originally, but Wordplay kinda got that covered now (shouts to them!). I wouldn’t want to do something that’s too much in direct competition with that. However, it’s definitely still a thought in the pipeline, I’ve just gotta find a way to do it fresh. A book is also something stewing in my brain, you’ll have to wait and see on that front.
What I can tell you about more immediately is the ‘Best of 2013’ feature. That’s essentially dropping as a separate website that’s like an online magazine, but with some fancy designer tricks splattered about. It’s just the roundup of our year but looks and sounds awesome, I think people are gonna feel it.
That does sound nice, you’ll have to keep us in the loop with that one.. What are your plans for the site and where do you see it in 5 years time?
At the minute I’m just having fun with it and trying to elevate what I love. The first run of tees sold out in 2013 so I’m going to go in a bit harder on that front, and also have ideas for some other products. Maybe it can be a label, maybe it can be an artist agency, maybe it can be a magazine/book as you say. For now I’m just building a platform to provide exposure for the real shit and a network of readers that appreciate the things I like.
Nas said the world is ours and his word is good enough for me, so let’s just see where it goes.
Peace to all the readers, the listeners, the head nodders and the curious eyes. Without listeners music is a mere falling tree deep in the woods. Without readers our words are simply inane combinations of twenty six characters of human invention. Without hungry peepers graffiti is empty cans of paint, the bombers street fame reduced to whispers. Without the sun soaked bodies in Croatian forts and the sea of hoods in South London raves, our clothes are simply wasted fabric and dry ink. Out to the musically minded, hopefully catch you at the bar. One love to the jazz cats and the bandits.
And peace to you guys, always representing real! Pleasure to be on the other end of the questions for a change as well.
Broken Culture Bandcamp