GoldFlakePaint was recently designated as the 22nd most influential indie music website in the world. Tom is the mastermind behind it. We were glad to have him answer a few questions for us.
Why did you start GoldFlakePaint?
I can’t really remember now, I think I just needed something else to do. I was at a bid of a dead-end in … life, I guess. I always knew I wanted to do something within the musical world but never really knew what, and where I grew up there wasn’t a connection to that world. Everything seemed so far away and disconnected. But I used to take photographs at gigs, and then I was asked to review a Frightened Rabbit show that I’d been to and found that I really enjoyed it, even though I hated everything I wrote. Then a friend offered to build a website for me if I wanted to run my own *thing* and we just thought we’d see how far it would go … and five years later it’s still a *thing*.
What’s the story behind the name?
I prefer not to say because I like the mystery of it. It’s very easy to find out if you want to though haha.
You’re very active on Twitter. Do you find it more useful than other social media?
I take all social media with a pinch of salt; it can be a very strange place but it’s also essential for promoting what we do. I like the immediacy of Twitter and it’s also the best procrastination tool out there. It’s pretty invaluable from a blog point of view though, and I’ve made some lovely, lovely real-life friendships through Twitter and some great professional partnerships also. I’m not really sure how blogs survived without social media, to be honest. Also there are endless dog memes.
Sometimes I’m bored with new music I come across. Nothing extraordinary is being released. Do you feel the same?
No, not at all actually. I don’t follow the big releases as much anymore, and I’m bored if I listen to mainstream radio for more than ten minutes but there’s so much brilliant, beautiful music being released at lower levels that I’m never bored at all. Like, I’m constantly overwhelmed by how much magic there is out there just waiting to be found.
You listen to tons of music. Are you not disgusted with music at all?
That’s a strong word! There are far more pertinent things to be disgusted about than music. I get sad about certain aspects of the industry but never by music. I sometimes need to take a little time away from blogging/emails/social media and go for a walk in the rain and listen to some old records but that’s a nice thing to do. I only ever feel extremely privileged to be in the position I’m in, where people send me their music to listen to and to judge, like I know anything at all.
What keeps you motivated?
That thrill of finding and sharing something new that I know is going to shape my life in some little or very big way, and maybe impact on someone else who is nice enough to follow GFP. It really is just that. You can spend a lot of time trying to find something great to write about and not get anywhere, and then all of a sudden something drops in to your lap and you just know, instantly, that this is the one. It’s such a great buzz, I don’t think I’ll ever get bored of it.
Where do you source your music?
There’s no solid answer. All of our content comes from a variety of me searching Bandcamp/Soundcloud, email submissions, and then recommendations from friends/social media. There’s no real trick, it’s just about finding the time to listen and then backing yourself to choose wisely.
Do you also listen to music in your free time?
I don’t really know what free time is anymore, in that I consider the listening side of the blog part of my hobbies as well as *work*. But I listen to music a lot for enjoyment too. I try and buy records that I really love and I enjoy finding the time to sit and listen to them in the real world with a cup of coffee and a window view. I found myself listening to a lot more (non-music) podcasts recently, especially when walking to/from work, on journeys etc. So I do that in my spare time a lot more than music now probably.
In your free time, do you exclusively listen to music featured on your website?
No, not at all; probably the opposite actually. I like to catch up on the records that I didn’t have time to write about on the site. That’s a balance which works quite nicely.
How do you decide what to feature and what not to feature on GoldFlakePaint?
It mostly comes down to time, to be honest. I’ll listen to a lot of little clips of songs/albums and see what sticks with me. Then I’ll listen to those in more depth and see which ones have the biggest impact, and then I’ll try and find time to write about them. It’s really as simple as that. Sometimes it’s immediate; like I’ll hear a track and almost right away I can write a couple of hundred words, other times the song needs a lot more listens to work out and get inside of. It can totally depend on where I am, what I’m doing, my current mood etc. It’s quite exciting to get a sudden thrill and be able to write something about it in the moment, but that doesn’t happen too often. I wish I had more time to write album reviews but they’re just aren’t enough hours in the day sadly.
Do you prefer British music?
I don’t define music in that way, it seems pointless to do so. I just like the music that I like. So, no, I don’t prefer it. There are great bands and terrible bands in every corner of the world, I’m sure.
Has your taste in music changed since you started your website?
I don’t know if my taste has changed, in that respect. I’ve always listened to a wide range of stuff so it’s hard to say. I definitely explore different avenues now that I have a blog, little tributaries I never even knew existed before I began wandering down them. Slovakian tape labels, for example! I’ve definitely become more in tune with what’s going on outside of the mainstream world. I don’t have any idea what songs are played on the main radio stations these days and have zero inclination to find out. I just find the non-mainstream/DIY/whatever world such a more inspiring place to spend my time, and support.
Are there moments when you want to quit?
Not really, not yet. In fact I always want to be doing more with the site, spending more time with it, doing more creative things. That’s what I find the constant struggle: the continuous notion of underachievement. I want to do photography projects and film and podcasts and everything else I can think but, of course, time (and my lack of skill) doesn’t allow for anywhere near that level of commitment.
Do you find time to do anything else?
Haha, it doesn’t always feel like it. I spend less time on it now that I’m working IRL part-time and doing the blogging/writing part-time. It’s a much nicer balance than it was. I used to work elsewhere full time and then sit up until the early hours of the morning writing, but life is more settled now and I can get more done during the days, which frees up my evenings. I watch a lot of films, I like eating food and drinking nice beers or watching dogs in the park with my girlfriend. I started swimming too, which is a novelty. It’s the first sustained exercise I’ve done in GFP’s lifetime, oops.
How are you able to manage the whole thing? Do you have a lot of music minions?
Firstly, I would never call them minions, except for Dave who is the GFP computer whizz, but that would just be to wind him up. I have a small team of writers who dip in and out. I’ve never been good at organizing all of it though so a lot of the time it’s just me doing all the writing, probably 80-90% of the content I guess. Their input is invaluable though, and I’m forever grateful and humbled that people give up their free time to write beautiful words for this silly little website.
How many emails do you get per day?
I dread to think, I stopped trying to stay on top of them all a long time ago. This is probably a quiet day…
What does your girlfriend think about your blog? Does she help you with it?
She doesn’t really read it as our tastes are a bit different but I often get her to proofread some of the long features. She’s too honest though so sometimes I ask other people who are too kind to tell me when I fucked up. She doesn’t like me using semi-colons. I think she likes the site most when she’s featured on it; I sometimes use photos of her, or photos she’s taken, in some of the features. A close up of her thigh is the cover image of the first tape I put out haha. Actually our logo is a photograph she took too, she showed it to me the first day we ever hung out and it’s been our logo ever since. I like that.
What’s your other job?
I’m a part time freelance writer, I currently write for Green Man Festival, The Skinny up here in Scotland and a couple of other publications, and I also work part-time in an interior design shop in Glasgow.
Do people recognize you in real life?
LOL. Sometimes I meet people who have heard of Gold Flake Paint but thankfully, for everyone, my face remains well hidden.
Have you ever wanted to start your own band?
Every single day of my life, haha. Sadly I can’t sing very well, I can’t play guitar very well and I absolute can’t write a song. It just wasn’t meant to be.
What’s the toughest part of running a website like yours?
I think I touched upon it earlier, that constant want to do more and be bigger and reach more people and get more recognition and have more interactions and write more words and cover more bands and meet more people. Everything else – the endless emails, the occasional terrible PR, the bad guys of the industry – can mostly be ignored, but that desire to be bigger and better always sticks with me. I get so jealous when I see other sites doing great things, as much as I love most of them. I’m not sure if it’s a familiar trait among *creative* people (not that I would define myself in that way) but I ALWAYS want to be doing something else. Today I’ll write a novel! Tomorrow I’ll make a short film! This weekend I’ll do a photo exhibition! Next week I’ll compose a film score! I can’t do any of these things and yet I’m forever annoyed that I’m not. It can be pretty tough.
Aside from GoldFlakePaint, what’s your favorite music website?
I wish I had more time to read blogs myself but that would probably be counter-productive to my own site. The Grey Estates is wonderful, I’m so in awe of Lauren and what she’s doing with that site. I’m endlessly blown away by Portals too, everything they do and say is so perfectly on-point. Then there’s Emmy at Don’t Need No Melody who is the greatest treasure hunter in the world. She doesn’t write too much but she is always the first on the scene, to the point that if I find a new band on Facebook and she doesn’t already like them then I usually decide they’re not worth listening to. Also a big shout-out to When The Gramophone Rings who are progressing so much, day after day. They’re the best bunch o’ lads and while our tastes aren’t always aligned they’re definitely fighting the good fight and it’s so great to see them doing well.
Favorite audio format?
I love beautiful 180 gram double LPs with lovely booklets and photographs, I love cassette tapes and I love Bandcamp.
Are you also a music collector?
Not as much as I used to be but I still buy a lot of tapes and vinyl. It’s nice to support labels and artists in that way, and form a more thorough connection than just these crazy internet wires that I still don’t understand. I very much like having physical objects on display though, it gives me great pleasure. So I guess I am a collector, yes.
Do you listen to older music? Any favorites?
Yeah, of course! I still love a lot of the records that I grew up alongside, it’s nice to put on a record from a decade ago and try and remember where you were and what you were doing. I have a really weird trait in that I have incredibly specific memories about listening to a certain track on my headphones, like I remember the exact piece of concrete I was on when I first heard a Cat Power song (‘Names’) and which part of the song was playing at that exact moment and stuff like that. Which is odd because my memory is pretty terrible otherwise. It also means I’m terribly nostalgic when it comes to music, or at least that I attach too much nostalgia to songs and records. I’m about to go on an American road trip with my best buddy in the world and I’m most looking forward to listening to all the old records we used to listen to when we were imagining ourselves driving across the States. Mostly Springsteen, shirts off, volume all the way up …
What is your most memorable moment from the history of GoldFlakePaint?
There are a couple of things that I’ll always cherish. The first ever live show I did, surrounded by friends, in a new town I’d moved to, was really lovely even though hardly anyone came, also seeing a room full of people dancing to Babe at the five-year-celebration festival we just did this year was really special too. I think if I had to choose one singular moment though, it would be the time that I was sitting on the top deck of a bus in Bristol in the rain and I checked my phone only to find out that Howard Wolfson, then deputy mayor of fucking New York City, had written some of the most beautiful things anyone had ever said about my funny little blog. It was such a bizarre feeling, and really … powerful … seeing someone so far removed from my actual life writing about me for a huge site like The Daily Beast. And it was so out of the blue, like I’d never had any connection with him at all. I can still remember his quote verbatim: “I am absolutely convinced that one day I will find the single greatest piece of music on this site and this site alone.” HAHAHAHAHAH! FUCK! It still means the world to me, not really because of what he said, just that it made the whole world seem a little more magical in some way. I don’t know. I had actual little tears in my eyes that day, on my own, on a busy bus, in the middle of Bristol. Thanks for that, Howard.
Why did you choose to focus on music?
It’s the only thing that has ever stuck with me. It would be football or music and you lose your passion for football the older you get. Apparently.
What was your favorite band when you were a child?
I was a huge Michael Jackson fan growing up, me and my little sister would watch Moonwalker so much that my mum had to ban her from doing so, haha. I was also a huge Oasis fan when I was like 12, or something. I remember buying a poster magazine from my local shop and covering my whole wall in pictures of Noel and Liam. Mostly I just listened to the Now compilations though. Backstreet Boys 4 life.
What important advice would you give to people running music blogs/websites?
I’m not really sure. I think you can only really do this if your heart’s in it, and you just have to follow that and hope you can stay afloat. Just stay true to yourself in all aspects.
Name three of your favorite Scottish bands.
Ever or now? That’s a tough one. I was always so obsessed with Scottish music even when I lived in another country and I’d never even visited here. Idlewild were one of my first obsessions and I’d be a far lesser person if it wasn’t for Frightened Rabbit and The Twilight Sad. If you want some new acts to check out then Kathryn Joseph is essential, the aforementioned Babe are also wonderful, and I’m excited to hear more from Martha Ffion who just signed to Turnstile and makes lovely, lovely songs.
Questions by Filip Zemcik from Z Tapes
Answers by Tom Johnson from GoldFlakePaint