An Interview With Eugene Butcher
EDITOR IN CHIEF OF
VIVE LE ROCK/ BIG CHEESE PUBLISHING
“Big festivals – they’re just expensive and soulless”
Eugene Butcher is a New Zealand bred punk rocker who has lived all over the world and been in a host of his own bands. He now rubs shoulders with his heroes running two successful punk rock magazines from England. His magazine distribution spans England, Europe and the USA over 17,000 copies an issue and if that wasn’t enough, he gets pissed with members of Cockney Rejects and UK Subs on the weekends. We salute you Eugene!
I fought my way into the Vive Le Rock headquarters to find out more about the Magazine mogul…
How old were you when you got into music and what kind of things was it that took you?
About 13-14, I just got into rock music like Thin Lizzy – stuff like that and then some English kid got us into punk music at school. Probably about 16, then I got into all the punk stuff like that.
Were your friends playing instruments at the time?
We got into that a bit later probably 18/19 started forming a band. And we did covers m write a few originals and took it from there really.
Can you name any people that you played with that have gone on to be in successful bands?
A lot of them in New Zealand, yeh they went on to become the biggest band in New Zealand, The Exponents. There was two of the guys in my band that went on to be in them and they’re like the biggest band for the last 30 years. Otherwise no!
What happened between that and Vive Le Rock, did you want to be a journalist or did you want to be a rock star?
No, I was working in advertising when I first moved to London for City Limits Magazine and then I quit and played in small bands and messed about and I then got pouched to work – to do advertising for another magazine, skateboarding type magazine, did that for a bit then moved on to another magazine and then I started at what is now called Big Cheese for somebody else but it was called Hey Tony Magazine and I did that for about 5 issues. But it wasn’t going very well so I got all the advertisers and did a coo and set up my own magazine, which was Big Cheese in 1996. That’s the first cover up there (points to cover on office wall).
What was the whole concept behind Big Cheese?
It was a mixed lifestyle type thing – skating, art work, girls, cars, music!
So what was the point where you decided to have two magazines?
I set up a website called Vive Le Punk which was just a fun thing to do because we covered a lot of punk stuff already as you can see from early Big Cheese issues. But the market was changing to be honest so I set up something that was a bit more specialised, did it for a while and you know – had a good few thousand people on the website and thought we should do this as a little magazine that’s a quarterly and we did it, it sort of went ok and we went bimonthly and now we’ve gone 9 times a year. It seems to be going reasonably well.
What do you think it is about Vive Le Rock that makes it so successful against competitors?
We haven’t got any competitors. That’s why it’s successful. No that’s seriously why its going ok because its found a little niche in the market. There’s no one really covering the stuff we do. A little bit in Mojo and a little bit in Classic Rock but generally not that much.
What’s the hardest part about doing it all?
Keeping it going financially.
And what’s the best part?
Getting pissed with Charlie Harper! No meeting some of the interesting people who have got stories to tell and interesting lives. You know a lot of the newer bands haven’t really done that much and they don’t get a chance to because they split up or get dropped these days but these people have 30 odd years of experience and brilliant stories to tell and great life stories you know, not just music.
So when you look back to the ’70s and ’80s of Punk do you think that bigger bands will remerge like that again or do you think that era of super bands is over?
Yeah, it’s over. No one gets a chance to do it, do they? No ones getting a chance of a long career its all so instant gratification. The kids just want to see the artwork, hear the mp3 today and they’ll probably not even bother buying the album you know. Its all over. But when we used to buy albums we would pour over the artwork and listen to it and read the sleeve notes and really look forward to it and play one side of the album, then the other side, it was a real special deal! Now you sort of got so much media which is flooded with you you’re like ‘err its just another song. Nothing special really with anything anymore.
Do you still buy vinyl?
No. Because I’ve got loads of vinyl but I haven’t got anywhere to put it so I stopped buying it because it takes up too much space!
So looking back on everything that’s happened, are you proud of what you’ve done with your life?
Paula: Or are you gutted?!
Eugene: Im gutted! I’m gutted I’ve wasted my life on such a fucking thing! I’ve just lost £5000 this month from an Amarican distributor going bust! It’s been great!
– No it’s alright yeah. I’m happy to find my own path and enjoy doing what I’m doing really it’s nice working with a good team of people and its enjoyable, its tough but its enjoyable. And there’s always a chance that we might get bigger, there’s always things coming up and new challenges you know. You can’t just sit on your laurels.
Do you get bored of going to the same festivals every year?
Yeh I haven’t been to Download for 2 years now. It’s just wondering around in a big field watching a band on a screen you know? Some of the smaller festivals are better.
Paula: Yeah I used to go Reading Festival, 7 years in a row. But now it’s just a crap atmosphere, trudging around for miles. You miss stuff…
Eugene: Its just like being in a big arena isn’t it? It’s like being in a big football ground. It’s not that great.
You go somewhere like – well Guilfest is nice because you can wonder around leisurely can’t ya? Some of the other ones I’ve been to like in Cornwall they’re really nice, like nice gardens. I think it’s the way forward with the small ones you know, people want that. Not more of these big festivals they’re just expensive and soulless!
Eugene: So that’s that, put it on your blog and I’ll be watching!
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