Robots and Electronic Brains

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Robots and Electronic Brains is a music zine published by Jimmy Possession based in Cambridge, UK. Online content dates back to 1996 and print issues are published sporadically. Robots celebrated its 10th anniversary in 2006.

The editor of Robots and Electronic Brains wrote this piece about music writing, zine writing, and something of what his zine means to him:

"I am not Lester Bangs. Much as I love reading him there’s no way I can live like him or even write like him. Or even aspire to write like him. I just live like me and write like me. And aspire to write like me. Which, I suppose, means that in the most fundamental way, I’m doing my best to be like him. Bangs was rock’n’roll. True. When I try to write like Bangs, write rock’n’roll, I look like your boss being The Boss at forced-bonhomie staff karaoke outings. Beyooorrnn in tha Yu Esss Ayyyyy. Too True.

So I’ve got to be me. It didn’t take long to find out I can’t be Lester Bangs. Just a few attempts 10 or 12 years ago now. I couldn’t write like anybody at the NME either. Or the Melody Maker, or even Sounds. I could never seem to fit visceral or vicarious into my reviews. And I almost always seemed to have written everything I wanted to say long before anything by any of them would have finished. I found that I liked what I’d written much better than what I was reading. I found that what I’d written told me something about what I really thought of the record, what it meant to me, what it made me feel when I was listening to it. It kind of distilled the record down. The reviews I was reading in the papers seemed to hide the record under a pile of pretentious post-ironic priapic personality.

I started trying to write after I started reading zines. Organ is the daddy. Most of the rest were shit. Both were inspirational. Organ because the reviews in Organ were straight from the heart and as just long as they needed to be. No obfuscation. If the record was fucking great hardcore, that was the review. If it was the sound of Osibisa down a manhole, that was the review. If it was the best pronk record since the one two pages before, which had been the best pronk record in the world up to that point, that was the review. It was enthusiam for the music direct out of Sean’s head and onto the page. The other zines were inspirational because they showed me that I could do it too.

And we were off: Be true to myself. Say what the music is. Don’t be shit. So I wrote what I felt for as long as I felt it and then stopped. That was the review. I tried hard (too hard) not to let my personality get in the way of the music. There was no editorial in the zine and the first few interviews were all done with a robot interview machine I made out of a Magic Robot game, to keep everything focussed on the bands. At the end of the interview, they’d add a question to the board for the next band. I just showed them how to use the board and worked the tape recorder.

It might not have been rock’n’roll but it was all about the music, all about the bands and it was true. I just wrote what I felt. And that’s where reality deviated from intention. I never wrote about me and the band this.. or on the guestlist that.. or trashed in the back of the van with.. or sooo many free records from.. or met Steve Lamacq and told him how much I love.. or sorry the zine’s late but my Dad couldn’t get into work to do the photocopying for me.. or was talking to so-and-so at the afterparty. I never bigged myself up or tried to mythologise or pretend I was something I wasn’t. But. Yes, but..

But I was writing about me. All the time. Every single review. It was stupid to think I was doing anything else. Appreciation of music is subjective. I wanted to write about it subjectively. I wanted to write what I felt. I wanted to write what was true for me. And I did. And that meant it was all about me. When a record reminded me of this chap I used to be in the Scouts with, I said so. When a record took me to Weston-super-Mare, I said so. When a record took me back to flipping burgers at Burger King on Corporation Street, or pushing trolleys at Makro, I said so. When records let me escape from my day job, I tell you because it’s true. When I make those gags, when I enjoy those plays on words, when I repeat myself or write in parallels or go off somewhere imaginary, that’s all me. That’s what the records do to me. That’s the true me and, little by little, intended or not, like it or no, Robots has been and is me by proxy

It’s taken me a while to come to terms with that."

Robots and Electronic Brains includes interviews, reviews, opinions and other music related features. The editor also hosts a radio show and a podcast.

External links