I am waiting outside former Music Journalist and Solent’s Popular Music Journalism Course Leader Martin James’ office for our 11:30 interview. Half an hour goes by and after shooting my head up from my phone every time I heard footsteps, eventually the face I was waiting for arrives. A flustered Martin comes flying around the corner, in his usual smart-casual attire of jeans dressed up with a tweed blazer. “Sorry my meeting completely overran, come on in.”
James chucks down his bags beside him as he tilts back in his chair. It’s clear the 53 year old Professor has had a long morning. We are in his third of the office, it screams: “passionate music journalist”. James had worked on the editorial teams of some of the biggest magazines on the market plus also having written several published and critically acclaimed books, including biographies of The Prodigy and Dave Grohl. His corner of the room is cluttered with a colourful array of books and music posters, plus a few random star wars figures on the wall just to add to the chaos.
James grew up in Marlow, a town in the South-East of England. His father was a religious man, “He was going to go into the church as a lay preacher, so hats off to him for not forcing religion down our throats.”
I spot a few proud-parent photographs amongst the music prints on the wall. James tells me he had to quit his job as a freelance journalist when his second child Felix was born. “Music takes up your life, and I know a few people who have managed to balance it quite well, but I’m a bit obsessive”.
Is there anything about Martin James that isn’t already on the internet? “What a horrible question!” he says. “Iggy Pop pissed on me, Goldie punched me, but they’re things people know.” Eventually he tells me his real ambition was to be a fashion designer. “It was the post-punk new romantic time, with people like Boy George and Steve Strange, my best friend used to design all their clothes and I got really interested in fashion at that stage.”
Whilst trying to compete with the chatter of two other lectures with whom he shares an office, he tells me the most embarrassing story of his career. “I’m a feminist, but there’s something quite embarrassing at my own identity when I’m happily sitting in a strip joint with Cypress Hill, Ant and Dec and various other music industry people.”
He seems surprised when I ask him about his worse experience of his career. With a big sigh he says “Eminem.” Then suddenly he gets a call. Are Eminem’s ears burning? He had interviewed Eminem for his first ever UK interview. “I said to him, you don’t like women very much do you? Or is it your character Slim Shady as a misogynist?’ “And he stormed off, ranting about how much he hated the UK.”
For a man whose life has revolved around music since the age of 12 when he and a friend formed a Dr Feel Good covers band. Does he ever get sick of talking about music?
“I still love music, it’s driven me since I was tiny and it still drives me now. Drives me insane sometimes.”