tip off

New Kid on the Block: a True approach to music

Three years ago, British music journalist Everett True (born Jerry Thackray) stepped off a plane in Brisbane and decided to stay. So it is that the northern capital has become home to an idiosyncratic, ratty and in-your-face music website, swinging along on a lot of aggregation, attitude and no cash at all. It is this week’s entrant in Crikey’s occasional series New Kid on the Block, profiling indie and new media start-ups. See here for previous episodes.

The name of the outlet is Collapse Board, with the name taken from a song by the Brisbane band the Laughing Clowns. Founded by True and Justin Edwards, today it is run almost entirely by True on his own, who describes himself on the site thus:

My name is Everett True. I am a music critic. This is what I do. I criticise music. The clue is in my job description — music critic. I do not consider myself a journalist, as I do not research or report hard news. I do not consider myself a commentator as I believe that everyone should be a participant. I criticise people and in return I am not surprised if other people criticise me. It is part of the whole deal of being in the public arena. I am Everett True. Believe in me and I have power like a God. Quit believing in me and I no longer exist.”

True has had a long and lurid history with provocative music journalism. Read about his history, and the four previous publications he has been involved with, on his Wikipedia page, which includes the statement

True became one of the UK’s most controversial music journalists — some appreciated his enthusiastic tone, while others were bored and irritated by the supposedly narcissistic, self-serving nature of his work.”

A more up-to-date biography is included on the site of the grassroots-led Brisbane music conference Unconvention:

Everett has the rare distinction of having had articles turned down by the following Australian publications: The Monthly, The Age, Courier-Mail, Sydney Morning-Herald, J Mag, Rolling Stone, The Vine, Crikey, Vice. He has recently been called ‘curmudgeonly’ by Carrie Brownstein of Sleater-Kinney and ‘a dweller on the fringes of society’ by the moderator of the panel of judges for the Australian Music Prize, and been told bluntly by Brisbane sweethearts An Horse that ‘we don’t like you’. Oh, and former Oasis manager Alan McGee broke 30 years of silence towards him a few months ago by stating bluntly, ‘the main difference between you and me is 30 million pounds’.”

But this undersells him. True is perhaps best known as the chronicler  of Kurt Cobain and Nirvana. True’s life became intertwined with that of the band. He was there at all the important moments. It was True who pushed Cobain’s wheelchair on stage for his last UK show in 1992. It was True who introduced Cobain to Courtney Love.

True fell in love with Seattle and its grunge music scene and, one suspects, has travelled through a period of mourning for that part of his life. Read him on this stuff in The Guardian, and see a photo of that wheelchair, together with a True interview of Cobain, on Collapse Board. And his book: Nirvana, The True Story.

And so, following of all that, and for reasons that are not entirely clear, True ended up in Brisbane. He founded Collapse Board, because he thought the music press in Australia was disappointing. Well, that’s putting it mildly. Shortly after his arrival he wrote:

Australians don’t have much respect for the music press — it runs counter to their culture. Australian rock is all about ”Good on ya, mate — well done for getting up on stage and switching that amplifier on”. The idea of anyone actually daring to criticise musicians for the sound they make is almost heresy. Everyone is treated equally, which means no knocking anyone back, however great the temptation. (That’ll be why Australian rock is best known to the outside world for such musical abominations as Silverchair, the Vines and Savage Garden.)”

The original idea for Collapse Board was to create a buzz and sense of community around the underground Brisbane music scene, and he hoped for official help. He had meetings with Queensland cultural institutions and government bodies..

He told Crikey: “I told them ‘give me $250,000 and I’ll do it for you’.” They didn’t bite, but True did it anyway — and Collapse Board continues today, backed by no money but lots of determination. Meanwhile, True is studying for a Phd in online music criticism at Queensland University of Technology, and teaches into a unit with the title “S-x Drugs and Rock’n’Roll.”

Collapse Board does not pay contributors. It has absolutely no money. Its main feature is an aggregation of 14 international music blogs, including Everett’s own, some columns and feature interviews and reviews. The latest, by Scott Creney of Sleigh Bells, starts:

As rock, it could give a f-ck. What more could you ask for? Depth? Meaning? Emotions? What world are you f-cking people living in? Haven’t you been paying attention? Truth doesn’t exist. Language is a virus. And viral is the new Top 40.”

The site also features a song of the day. Yesterday, it was Jimmy Little and his interpretation of the Go-Betweens Cattle and Cane.

There is a bit of a Brisbane vibe to Collapse Board, but it is mostly international — a collection of the music journalism that True knows about and likes. It is an exotic plant in Brisbane. It’s good to see it there.

Collapse Board claims to have above 200,000 page views each month, and says its advertising rates are “outrageously competitive”. However, it carries no advertising, and when asked if he hopes to monetise the site, True responds with a wild laugh.

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