Under the Radar with Dylan Jones
The Editor-in-Chief of British GQ, GQ Style and GQ.com takes time out of his busy schedule to chat with us about his penchant for wearing blue suits and not believing in guilty pleasures…
What made you want to work in the magazine industry?
When I was an impressionable teenager and getting into music, fashion, film and all sorts of counter-cultural things, magazines to me were as exciting as David Bowie or Roxy Music. It started off with a magazine called Goal, which was a football magazine, then it was a magazine called Popswop, which was probably a forerunner of Smash Hits, then NME, The Face and i-D. I grew up through magazines and then I always wanted to work in them.
Can you chart your journey from when you started out to your current position?
I went to the Chelsea College of Art and Design and then Central Saint Martin's School of Art, specialising in photography. I was a pretty terrible photographer and my heart wasn't really in it, so I spent my days running nightclubs and going to nightclubs. I knew that I wanted to do something, but I wasn't prepared to do something that I wasn't prepared to do.
Then miraculously I got a call from a friend of mine called Mark Bayley, who was taking some pictures for i-D magazine and he needed someone to interview these people. I interviewed about 20 people for Mark as a favour. Then I got a call about 10 days later from Terry Jones, the Editor of the magazine, offering me a job – literally like that.
He had to call someone else, because I didn't have a telephone and so I got this third or fourth-hand message, went to work for Terry, absolutely fell in love with him, the magazine, the process and everything about it. He sort of invented me, he gave me a career and I owe pretty much everything – apart from my hard work and tenacity – to him. If I hadn't had that break, I don't know where I would have been.
Do you have a go-to work outfit?
I get up in the morning, I put on a blue suit and I walk to work. It takes me half an hour. That's it – it's no more interesting than that.
What do you turn to when you’re on deadline – tea/coffee/snacks?
At the moment, I'm on a health kick and I'm not eating dairy. I'm not drinking caffeine. I'm not drinking alcohol. After about a week of being quite bad-tempered, I'm fine actually. These days you're on deadline all the time. It makes for a very intoxicating environment.
What/where is your happy place?
Some Editors say that you can either edit or you can write – you can't do both, but I've always been adamant that you can do both. Writing is a passion of mine, so I try to have a project on the go. My recent project has been a book on David Bowie [David Bowie: A Life] and I'm in the process of doing some publicity for that and thinking about what the next project will be. It's not relaxation, but my separate place, my third space if you like, is writing.
What’s the most unusual situation you’ve found yourself in because of your job?
I'm not telling you that!
What about the second or third most unusual?
No way, not in a million years.
What would people be surprised to know about your job?
We've always been a very commercially-driven operation and I've drilled it into my team that they need to think commercially. For the future of brands, magazines and all media, having a close and collaborative relationship with your commercial partners is imperative.
Walk me through your typical day.
I'm usually at work by 8:30. If I have a breakfast meeting, I have it in the Beaumont Hotel, which is equidistant between work and home. Then it's a mixture of internal and external meetings, a business lunch, a lot of activity involved in the website, planning Facebook Live sessions and extra content, filming videos and then planning future events – whether we're doing our Car Awards, Food & Drink Awards, Grooming Awards or Men of the Year Awards. I still think that an Editor should see every word that our brand produces.
These days, people are contactable all of the time. If you work in this environment, you should be. If someone contacts me, it doesn't matter where I am in the world – if I'm awake, they will get a response – if it warrants a response. I don't understand this "I'm on annual leave" thing. It's like, "Well, you're working, so I need a response. What's the response?" But it’s fun, you shouldn't look upon it as an onerous task – I love my job.
In the evening, there'll be an event to go to, sometimes more than one. We've got a very good, dedicated team who have it drilled into them that they need to engage with the industry, but people should enjoy that. It's a fantastic environment. Who wouldn't want to work at Condé Nast? It's great.
If you didn’t have to sleep, how would you use the remaining hours in the day?
What is the last photo you took on your phone (at time of interview)?
It's a picture of Richard Young [right] and Dave Benett [left], who are the two principal photographers at pretty much every event we do.
I took various pictures over Fashion Week and I think the trick with Instagram is to try and make it as lively and as entertaining as possible. Instagram is very narcissistic, so I spend a lot of time making sure that my Instagram feed isn't too narcissistic.
What’s your guilty pleasure?
I don't believe in guilty pleasures. I think that you either like something or you don't. In the summer, I could tell that Love Island was getting a lot of traction, principally because my teenage daughters were interested in it and I came into the office and I said, "Are we doing anything on Love Island?" I got a lot of sniffy looks. It's great, trashy television. In the same way that we can watch The Crown or we can watch House of Cards, we can also watch Love Island. It might not be something that is part of our core demographic, our core constituency, but everyone has an opinion on it, so we should have an opinion on it.
Whose phone number do you wish you had?
I’d like Donald Trump's personal phone number to ask him when he's going to do his next interview with us. He gave us an interview a very long time ago, but since he's been in the hot seat, we haven't done one.
What would people be surprised to know about you?
I used to be a film extra. I was in two films. I was in a very bad vampire movie with David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve called The Hunger and my job was to walk up and down some stairs in a gay nightclub in London called Heaven while "Bela Lugosi's Dead" by Bauhaus played at a deafening volume. That was the first time I ever met David Bowie. I knew him for many, many years and I interviewed him many times. His interviews formed the substantial amount of material in the biography I've just written about him.
I also shot down Roger Moore's plane in Octopussy.
What would be in your Room 101?
A couple of old girlfriends.
Introvert or extrovert?
Optimist or pessimist?
Film or television?
Television is more entertaining than film at the moment.
Sweet or savoury?
Morning person or night owl?
Tea or coffee?
At the moment, neither.
Emojis – cool or cringey? Which emoji do you use the most/is your favourite?
Both. I don’t use emojis a lot, but my favourite one is the Aladdin Sane lightning bolt.