February 2017

Constant Document

Douglas Lance GibsonDouglas Lance GibsonDouglas Lance GibsonDouglas Lance GibsonDouglas Lance GibsonDouglas Lance GibsonDouglas Lance GibsonDouglas Lance GibsonText: Millie Stein Images: Rene Vaile

What does it mean to say something is “good”? In a sense, it’s a subjective judgement: not everyone will agree on the gradations of merit. But in another sense, “good” implies a through-line – a set of qualities that will stand their ground. Universality in the everyday: it’s what makes you respond, along with the rest of the world, to a good thing.

Mountain Fold Music Journal is Douglas Lance Gibson’s version of an homage. As an artifact, the magazine represents a valuable independent contribution to a difficult dialogue. As a product, its superlative quality is a gesture of respect to the work of those exhibited in its pages.

Five issues of Mountain Fold have been released, with six acts interviewed in each. Featured artists range from semi-forgotten to objectively famous. Location is barely dwelt upon save for a mention of birthplace, alongside name and instrument of choice, on a profile page. The format is generous, allowing for long-form interviews of equal length and two pages of curated imagery per artist.

Print media will always be preoccupied with the limitations of time and space. Mountain Fold is still subject to these concerns, but deals with them in a manner that does not appear to require significant compromise. Somehow, the prevailing feeling is not one of concession, but quiet triumph.

It might feel strange to be asked to discuss three year’s work retrospectively, but this is what DLG will have to get used to – for now. Mountain Fold is taking an indefinite hiatus, so it’s as appropriate a time as any to talk about what has been achieved, and what has yet to be.

Perhaps Mountain Fold’s temporary absence will afford space to reflect on why ventures like this are tough, but worth it – and how one person’s effort to support and display the efforts of others has created something so meaningful. Douglas Lance Gibson: Good.


Millie Stein: Why music?

Douglas Lance Gibson: It’s something I’ve always been drawn to. I can remember as a kid just wanting to dance. I still like dancing, but it’s not all about that. I guess what I like about music is the full range of emotions that you get from it. You can find something for every mood. There was this stage when I was working as a builder’s labourer and I’d come home and have a shower and put on Swans, and just stomp around the house naked.

MS: Do you think music is hard to talk about?

DLG: It’s funny – I was looking at this book today, a catalogue of an exhibition by [Comme Des Garçons designer] Rei Kawakubo, and on the front cover there was a photo with a quote that said something like, “I hate trying to explain what I do. What is the point when I am just going to do it anyway?” I don’t feel so spitefully about it, but music is something that I don’t think needs explaining.

MS: The interviews in Mountain Fold seem to acknowledge that sentiment – that music should not be able to be pinned down – while making genuine attempts to approach this ephemeral thing, for the sake of the reader.

DLG: I like to use the music as a starting point in interviews. I love music, but it’s the stuff around it that I find interesting: the things that people do to complement their music making, what they’ve done to arrive at the point they’re at.

MS: Do you relate differently to the person or their music once you know that information?

DLG: You start to see patterns, how things fit together. For instance, you look at a band like Royal Headache. They have [frontman] Shogun, with this incredible soulful voice, but when you see him live, the way he moves, it makes sense that he played Hardcore for a long time. It’s that marriage where past experiences inform what someone’s doing now. I really enjoy talking to people about ‘why?’ It’s like a George Negus ad.

MS: Is the magazine what you thought it would be?

DLG: Yeah, pretty much. It’s actually funny how close it is to what I thought it would be. Well, actually, it’s better. The best thing about Mountain Fold is the friends I’ve made, not just in Australia, but also internationally.

Initially, I had the idea and within half an hour I’d structured it and it hasn’t changed at all. Rob and Sinisa must get annoyed sometimes with how set the format is, but I like it that way because it’s like a constant document. Everything’s treated the same; it’s unbiased. Well, it is biased in the sense that I’m picking bands that I like. There’s a lot of fan-boy stuff going on in there.

MS: That’s what’s cool about it, though. The interviewer often lets themselves be guided by their admiration for the person they’re interviewing.

DLG: I really wanted it to be a positive thing. We don’t have reviews because I don’t see the need to write negatively about an album or a band. It doesn’t make sense to me. It’s not what I’m trying to achieve.

MS: I guess people forget that reviews are supposed to be critical analysis, and tend to use them as an excuse to find fault. It’s possible to be critical without being negative.

DLG: What I try to do is pair people up – whether the interviewer knows or is a friend of the musician or band, or would just be really excited to interview that subject. Obviously there is room in other media for negative discourse because things are not right in the world, but with the state of independent music, especially in Australia, I think it’s better to champion the good than focus on the bad.

MS: Have you always had so much respect for other people’s creative endeavours?

DLG: I’ve always loved going to gigs and openings. I get excited to see people do stuff, especially when they’re friends. That’s one of the great things about Mountain Fold: after befriending the musicians and the artists, you go to one of their shows and you’re just like, “ fuck, this is sick”. When you see somebody doing something great, it makes you want to do the same. Mountain Fold was definitely inspired by seeing people do stuff and do it well.

MS: What was the point at which you realised you needed to take a break?

DLG: I was all geared up for the issue that was meant to come out in mid-January. I had bigger names, both interviewing and being interviewed, than before, and I believed I had sorted out all the advertising. I finally felt that things were starting to work, after a bit of a struggle. Within the space of a week I lost over half the issue in advertising. It’s hard enough finding advertising to start with, let alone the week before Christmas. After that, I realised that I was starting to burn out a bit. Whenever I’d get an email regarding somebody wanting a copy of an issue or something, I’d get anxious about having to go to the post office even though it’s only two hundred meters down the road. I wasn’t being fair to the readership because I was starting to resent the fact that they wanted to read my magazine. I saw straight away how ridiculous that was, and decided that it was best to take some time off.

I’ve recently done some interviews for another magazine and I’d forgotten how much I enjoy talking to people and finding stuff out. I really miss that. It was almost like six features per issue wasn’t enough because there was so much I wanted to cover, but more than six would have been way too much for me. I’d hate to say it’s over. It’s not over, but I need to have a break and then come back. The other thing is that this is not a career for me; it’s not my main job, it’s just an intensive hobby. As I get more serious about my career, I have to start allocating more time to that and less to Mountain Fold, which is a shame but it has to be done.

MS: Are projects like Mountain Fold always difficult to sustain?

DLG: I mean, yeah, they are difficult – but they’re so rewarding. It sounds cliché but I have got so much out of this. Although it is an intensive hobby, it’s also a small business. I’m not the best businessman but it’s given me an insight into that world: dealing with people, learning how to delegate and how to get the best out of everyone. The market that Mountain Fold appeals to is quite small, which does make it tricky to convince advertisers that it’s in their best interest to advertise in the magazine. I’ve developed a thicker skin, because you take it personally at first when people say no, but then you realize that there’s no reason why they should be giving you money so you can do your thing.

MS: The spirit of Mountain Fold is very collaborative, very inclusive. What do you think attracts people to it as a project?

DLG: I guess there’s the intention to do something good. It obviously helps if people are fans of the music or they appreciate the aesthetics of what we’re trying to do, but I’d think what would attract people would be the intention to do something good for someone else.

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