A new issue of the Mod magazine is incoming. So with that in mind, Claire Mahoney talks Detail magazine.
Not heard of Detail magazine? It’s a twice-yearly magazine that offers a selection of articles, features and interviews from in and around the world of Mod. Not a fanzine, this is a chunky, glossy magazine for anyone with an interest in Mod.
Claire Mahoney is behind the magazine and has taken some time away from working on the latest issue to answer a few questions about it for Modculture.
First off Claire, tell us something about yourself and your background in relation to Mod?
I’ve got into mod around 1980/81 on hearing Secret Affair’s Glory Boys album. My friend’s older brother and his friends were mods and rode scooters and I loved the music and the look. For me, it was a lot more interesting than the type of pop music that was in the charts at the time. It was all Culture Club and Duran Duran.
I then got heavily into The Jam and went to see them when I was 14 in 1982. That band made a huge impression on me and I have followed Paul Weller ever since. Of course, they split in 1982 and I had by then started to look into the roots of the Mod movement. I had inherited a load of original 45s which included Otis, Wilson Pickett, The Small Faces, The Stones and so it was a voyage of discovery for me from that day.
I moved away from the mod scene when I went to university and got into late 60s stuff – Cream, Love and also Jazz and then in the 90s was heavily into the indie scene and spent much of my time at gigs and writing about them for local newspapers and magazines.
As an obvious follow-on, what’s your experience in terms of journalism?
I started out as a cub reporter on a Liverpool weekly paper in the early 90s and then came back to Cardiff to study magazine journalism at Cardiff Journalism School. I moved to London soon after and have worked in magazines ever since. I got my first launch editor’s job at 30 and have edited specialist business to business magazines ever since – with some freelance feature writing for magazines and newspapers in between.
I went freelance in 2002 and set up my own business with my partner who is a graphic designer in 2008 and we produce magazines for clients in the UK, Middle East and Australia. I don’t do much proper ‘journalism’ these days – my job is more project management – commissioning other writers, picture editing and bringing the whole concept of a publication together. Although I still enjoy writing up interviews.
With that in mind, it probably makes sense to do something that marries those two things together. But what gave you the idea of doing a Mod magazine in print in the current era?
I have been writing material in and around the mod scene for around eight years now. It was just something that came naturally as I become more involved in the Mod scene again when I moved back to Cardiff. I wrote a series of pieces for The New Untouchables website and also have done a number of interviews for Modculture as well as contributing to various scene-related books and speaking at various events.
You get to a stage in your career where you want to produce good work for yourself and have some sort of legacy that you can be proud of. Hence I decided to do the photographic book: Welsh Mod: Our Story which we self-published in 2018. So then it was a case of thinking what’s next? I mulled over the magazine idea for a couple of years and in my mind, it seemed a no-brainer.
How easy is it to self-print a magazine? Is it easier now than it was (say) 10 years ago?
Definitely. The difference is being able to crowd-fund your projects. Before you would have to have a significant amount of money to pay for all the setup costs and printing of a magazine. Print is very expensive but printing magazines is a lot cheaper than books and we managed to cover our costs with the book so felt confident we could do it with a magazine.
When you thought about doing the magazine. did you have a particular demographic in mind? Was it ‘Mod’, ‘Mod scene’ or neither/both of those things?
What inspired me the most was attending events such as The Jam Literary event which Stuart Deabill and Ian Snowball put on. You are there in a room with people that want to discover more about Mod as a culture and look at things a bit more deeply.
Regarding the demographic – yes I had a clear idea of the readership. They were mainly male 45 year-olds with a love of everything to do with Mod culture in the broader sense. So it isn’t a magazine for the ‘scene’ in the same way as fanzines are but instead is a broader more general look at Mod culture and modernism.
What was your thinking behind the funding of Detail and have you a model in place that’s robust enough for the long term?
We had worked out our costs in advance and as long as we could cover our printing and production costs for each issue we knew we could carry on. The success of the publication so far means we can continue to build on this.
How happy were you with the first issue in terms of both content and sales? Without going into specifics, were there things that didn’t quite work in issue one that has a bearing on the content of issue two?
We were blown away by the enthusiasm and feedback for the first issue. It sold out within a month of publication which for a new magazine is quite an achievement. On the whole content-wise, I think the first issue worked really well. People tell me they read it cover to cover so I feel there was enough of a balance of content to keep people interested.
In terms of your role, how much ‘editorial’ has been involved? Have you accepted the articles written for the magazine or have you been a hard taskmaster when it comes to the copy?
I don’t like to think of myself as a hard taskmaster but we do aim to have quite high editorial standards for the magazine so it isn’t a matter of putting in what we are sent. I have a core bank of contributors who are writers anyhow be it for books or magazines and we all talk about what would work for the issue.
But I always welcome new contributions. I kind of see it as a collective of people writing about what they love and Detail providing a format for them to do that in.
Has it been possible to get the writers and interviewees you wanted for the first couple of issues? I know from personal experience that people tend to be ‘wooed’ more by print than online. Would you be happy to take submissions off potential writers?
I think people are excited about print and so far we have done pretty well. There are people of course I would like to feature going forward and I feel confident we will get them on board eventually. We have new writers and younger writers contributing to this issue as I don’t want it to get stale and just be one viewpoint.
Is there anyone you would love to feature in the magazine going forward? Has anyone passed you over in terms of interviews or participation?
I don’t know how to answer this one as I don’t really want to name anyone at this stage. Of course, many people have now read and enjoyed issue one and will be anticipating the second instalment. What can we expect from the new issue? We have some great features in this issue. We have interviews with Zoot Money and Mick Talbot, contributions from Eddie Piller, Andy Morling, David Pottinger among others. It’s like that difficult second album but I think this one might be better than the first one.
Is work already underway for issue three of Detail?
Yes, we have already got several features planned and some in the bag already – obviously with Brighton now happening we will aim to bring the publication date forward so we can have copies at the weekender.
Connected to the above, do you see the magazine as a long-term project or are you not looking beyond the next couple of issues?
That’s the aim yes. This isn’t a flash in the pan. We already have wholesaler deals tied up and are looking to go news-stand eventually. We have a distribution deal already in place should that happen and we hope to increase the frequency of the magazine from next year.
Has the pandemic hindered the magazine in terms of promotion? I guess the clubs being closed can’t really be helping? Or is it all about social media these days?
It doesn’t seem to have no – I think it has been frustrating for Alan and Cris at Suit Yourself not to be able to get out there and promote it as that is what they do. But in many ways, the fact that no-one has been able to go out has helped as people have been looking at other forms of entertainment.
There seems to be a few magazines and fanzines appealing to a Mod market of late. Do you see a renaissance in print media in the way vinyl pushed back in recent years?
Yes, I do and that was the thinking behind the launch. I don’t see the magazine in competition with other print media and I don’t plan to be in competition – we have our own niche and hopefully, we will keep delivering. We can’t compete online either.
Sites such as yours have been serving the market for years and we as a print publication will never be able to be as responsive as the web – which is the beauty of that particular medium.
For me, though print has a special place in peoples’ hearts – it is tangible in a way that a website or blog can never be. Anyone can publish anything online and I know from my own experience as a young journalist – you had to work hard to get to a standard to be published.
There was actually some merit in having a by-line in a newspaper or magazine. Those days have gone but if we can bring quality content and design in a format that people appreciate enough to read and keep buying – then I’m happy.
Lastly, if someone was reading this and wanted to know more about the magazine, where would they go?
Visit www.detailmaguk.com to grab one of the remaining copies of issue two and pre-order issue three.
Huge thanks to Claire for their answers and of course, for producing the magazine itself.