Six years in Detroit

Ten years ago, I visited Detroit for the first time. Four years later, I moved here permanently from England.

It’s been a hell of a journey. In ’99, I kicked off my writing career with Kerrang! magazine, moving on to Metal Hammer and Classic Rock a few years later. Getting thrown in with the UK nationals at such an early stage and having the opportunity to learn from great writers like Ray Zell, Morat, Dan Silver, Sian Lllewellyn, Scott Rowley, Geoff Barton, Ian Fortnam and Paul Rees, among many others, provided me with the best possible schooling. It was through Classic Rock that I came to Detroit in December 2003.

Times Beach Records, a Royal Oak-based label, had some money to spend and Gold Cash Gold, featuring members of Charm Farm, had just put out its debut album. Across the Atlantic, Impressive PR was pushing the album hard, true to its name. The label OK-d flying a UK journalist over for the weekend, and CR gave the green-light to a Gold Cash Gold “new band” feature. The group’s Black Crowes-y blues rock swagger made it perfect fodder for that mag.

So I got here, stepped foot out of the plane, felt at home. It was that simple. I made friends that weekend that I still hold dear today. I fell in love with the city, and the local music scene.

I knew that Alice Cooper, the MC5, the Stooges, Bob Seger, Ted Nugent, Eminem, the White Stripes, the Motown roster and Kid Rock were all from Detroit (for better and worse). I knew about the techno music history, I knew about Detroit Rock City. But as a music journalist, I was hungry for a local music scene that was thriving in the then and now. I had no desire to live in a museum.

In 2006, I wrote a book about the MC5 and returned to Detroit for a week to research it. That biography came out in 2007 and, later that year, I returned to Detroit again to research a book about the Stooges. That second book trip, I was here for two weeks. By the end of that, I knew that I wanted to live here. I put everything I own (minus a couple of suitcases full of clothes and CDs) into storage, celebrated New Year with my family, and flew to Detroit in January 2008. I swiftly got myself a work visa which later became a green card, and I’ve lived here ever since. I’m not going anywhere.

I’m married to a Detroit girl now, and my son was born here just over two years ago. I’m rooted, and I love it. It’s usually around this time of year, when the snow is thick, the cold hurts our faces, the Lions’ season is over and the driving is treacherous, that people will ask me why the hell I moved here from England. That usually leaves me confused – I don’t understand why all Brits aren’t doing it.

It all comes back to the local music scene. I live for it, and I’m proud to be the Music Editor for the Metro Times, a job that allows me to write and edit pieces about local music all day. In ’08, when I arrived here, Bill Holdship was Music Editor. We met for lunch and, because he was familiar with my work at Classic Rock, he brought me in as a freelancer immediately. I remember looking at Bill and thinking, “That dude literally has the best job in the world – he gets up in the morning, gets to his desk, and can think about Detroit music all day (and night, oftentimes).”

I was right. I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else. There was a shaky spell last year when the paper was put up for sale, but under new ownership things are better than ever. I’m proud of our music section, and things are only going to get better as the new owners, Euclid Media, have untied our hands and our stable of freelancers and staff writers is growing.

The music in Detroit is second to none, and we’ll be covering all of it. The punk, the metal, the jazz, the blues, the R&B, the hip-hop, the folk, the classic rock, the indie and alt-rock, the electronic and the acoustic, classical – my writers and I will be covering all of it.

It’s been a hell of a journey so far, and I’m honored to be where I am. Of course, dear readers, I’m here to serve you. If there’s something you think I’m missing, let me know. Thank you.

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