My gay beef with Dazed And Confused

Congratulations to Owen Myers (^^) the new contributing music editor for prophetic culture bible and factory line of cool - Dazed And Confused. Owen has previously written for Attitude and contributes regularly to PopJustice. He has also written about musicy things at Dazed itself for some time now, beneath timeless deputy editor Tim Noakes who has previously kept the music section close to himself like a well-groomed bonsai for years.

Hopefully this move at Dazed might mean an increase in coverage for the kind of pop stars that I personally like, the kind that Owen has written about for other publications. In other words, a stronger focus on gay culture and the Warholian world of pop for pop's sake that PopJustice so avidly feeds on.

Or am I being narrow-minded and assumptious? There's a bag of stuff Owen's written for other publications like NME that I've not been on the ball with. My coffee table library is a pretty limited canon. Gay Times, Boyz, Teen Vogue, Tatler, that kind of gloss and whatever came in last night's canvas goodie bag (right now "Port" magazine).

So I first looked at Dazed in 2004 when this girl Sophy who I skived chapel with thought I would like it and she gave me one of her old copies along with this jumpy macho mixtape she'd made me (Futureheads/Spoon/Beck/HotHotHeat - !) I felt like she was testing me. What does Jack eat up? The fash mag or the het cassette? Well both initially, but moany old Beck soon fell into the grey matter beneath Meatloaf and Travis in my brain's adolescent landfill site (now has a Mariah mansion built on top of it). Dazed, however, stayed.

I remember the first Dazed issue that I bought myself was from WHSmiths at the train station and had a black and white image of Bjork on the front with her face reproduced atop of itself like a giant fruit sticker. It was this one, and came with a free mini-track preview of Medulla:

That day was actually the break up for half term and I was going to stay with my friend in West London. His mum spotted the mag next to my school satchel on the kitchen table. "What's this?" she said flicking through it, leaving it open a bit awkwardly on a skimpy menswear editorial "Is it a gay magazine?" she enquired softly, re-arranging some items in the fruit bowl with an ever so subtle flare of her nostrils. My friend changed the subject politely and we moved into the living room to play computer games.

With hindsight, she was using Dazed as a fork to encourage me to come out. I was spending a lot of time with her son and so understandably she was interested in whether I was gay or not (and had most probably picked up on it already). Whether she genuinely thought Dazed was a gay magazine I'll never know, but they were quite a sporty newsy straight-forward family, so possibly.

Dazed wasn't a gay magazine but it did offer some kind of escape for me into a gay world. It had racy editorials, acknowledged the existence of gay talent and had Bjork on the bloody cover.

"It's a fashion, music and lifestyle magazine" I would mumble to anyone in Rutland who asked, but for me those things came together to create a patch of grass upon which my gay mind could lie down and rest.

They play an important part in the gay community, magazines like Dazed, and I'm sure other gay kids pick these magazines up and take delight in secretly relishing what few scraps of exposed rib cage and close-ups of stubble they can find.

Of coruse the internet was cranked up and pumping back in 2004, and there were tonnes of gay websites, but somehow I wasn't so interested in gay porn then, I wanted things like Dazed. I wanted the slow leafy fall down the rabbit hole.

With actual gay magazines and gay porn they're more of a product that you sit back and take in. But magazines like Dazed encourage you to think and create. That initial patch of grass that I could lie on, the mental space that Dazed gave me, I then learnt to rip up, dig over, and turn into a new space where ideas could grow.

Then came the lead up to patricide, the adolescent stage of readership in which Dazed used to piss me off. As much as I'd love to pretend I cared about latest news from the rural Japanese graffiti scene, there was nothing so fucking annoying as spending £4 on a new issue of Dazed and there wasn't one faintly cute boy I could blue-tack to the inside of my wardrobe doors. Nothing but page after page of upset looking women on stools covered in self-raising flour and acres of frazzled auburn hair.

This was the nearest Dazed came to being what I needed it to be:

And it was probably one of the least Dazed issues of Dazed they made. I still have the cardboard box this particular issue came in.

I was going through a hardcore consumer gay culture phase by now. I tidn't want to toy with the margins and flirt with the forefront. I wanted good solid gay mainstream content. It wasn't that Dazed was the wrong magazine, it was that I was now the wrong reader for it.

There was a time when I used to joke that you could pick up Dazed and not know anyone in it, then three months later if you went back to that same issue you'd know everyone in it - because Dazed was a who's-going-to-be-who list of everything cool. But then the magazine seemed to hit a hard rock, the internet was deciding who was and who wasn't and magazines had to play catch up. I felt like Dazed was going three ways - A) More mainstream, putting obvious stars on its cover, B) more obscure, writing about things that nobody could possibly have heard of, and C) upping the high fashion. The brands were getting bigger and bigger while my personal finances were non-existent. And was I imagining it or had gay content been all but entirely axed?

So I stopped buying Dazed in 2008, partly because I needed desperately to hold onto money too if I was to make a secure move down to London. And when you're saving money glossy magazines are first out of that Tesco Expressco shopping basket.

By the time my financial situation picked up I had moved onto bonafide gay magazines and fully immersed myself into gay culture. I was a much more binary person. I wanted my porn to be porn and my shopping to be shopping. I'd found fulltime employment in digital media and publicity so when I came home I wanted a departure from it - chiefly wine, hot baths and men who talked about coastal erosion.

But then comes the full circle. I think I'm ready to read Dazed again. It's still monthly while its strongest rivals have turned bi-monthly or slipped off the mag rack completely, it has a stronger emphasis on digital and has evolved in other ways since I first picked it up eight years ago.

Now that a gay media personality has joined the Dazed team permanently and Owen is running the music side, perhaps this is a good time for someone like me - a thoroughbred block-colour homosexual, to give the mag a second blast.

Roll on the Galliano Jedward shoot.

- - - - - - - - - -

My other tribulation with Dazed:

In 2008, I wrote an angry letter to Tim Noakes at Dazed after seeing his underwhelmed review of Kelis' Greatest Hits collection.

I was a student at Leeds at the time and spent most of the day spinning in a wheelie chair in the student newspaper office, trying to source free pizza in exchange for quarter-page advertising and trying to strike a balance between filling my section with the best writers (these two fantastically intelligent girls) while giving away my +1s to hot eager fresher boys. It was a moral dilemma and one that taught me a valuable lesson - there will always be more boys, whereas good copy and writers who respect deadlines must be clung to like parachute instructors.

So one day I was in a camp, gushy, acidic mood. I wrote a letter to Walkers Crisps complaining that Walkers Sensations hadn't given me any kind of sensation (I received a £2 voucher), and then I wrote an angry letter to Tim Noakes, deputy editor of Dazed.

To humiliate my 19-year-old self forever, he published the letter on his blog here:

Tim was kind enough to reply to my letter though.

I remember the exciting morning that I came into the student newspaper office to find a metallic bubble-wrap jiffy bag with a retail price of at least £1.49 in Paperchase. Inside was a letter from Tim, somewhat baffled but kind all the same, explaining that he actually liked Kelis and his review was one of disappointment as a result of her potential, not because he felt she was an incompetent popstar.

He included too a back issue of Dazed with Kelis on the cover, one that I wasn't aware of since it had come out when years before when I was still a subscriber to White Dwarf.

The most embarrassing part of my annoying girlish letter to Tim has to be my dollish signature at the end. But it's fantastic that Tim took the time to write back to me. When you're a student little pieces of contact like that with real people in the media make a real difference.

I remember emailing Hadley Freeman as a teenager too, telling her how much I liked her writing style and asking her why the Guardian had listed her as deputy-fashion editor the previous weekend, had she been promoted? I then went a step further and asked for work experience with her (!?!!!?!)

Hadley kindly emailed back saying "Work experience? You mean following me between the bedroom and the coffee machine? And jeez - I thought only my mum paid attention to bylines!" But even a short coquettish reply like that gave me some insight into life as a writer: 1) You work alone, 2) Your parents won't go away, and 3) Peaders don't care about title and position, they just want to be either educated, enlightened or (my section) mildly entertained.

Anyway, I've forgotten what I'm writing about. Here's a song by Kelis:


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