Grab a quick-fire 60 seconds with music magazine maestro and current Editor of The Word Mark Ellen. The former Editor of titles including Smash Hits, Q and MOJO (and Tony Blair's ex-bassist) talks riding the "unrideable mule", Valentine's Day rows with country-rock singing stars and how only those interested in it 'all' have a chance at getting the top job.
How did you become an Editor?
When I first went into the NME office, aged 24, I remember being fascinated by everything around me - not just the writers but the people drawing up pictures, designing pages, writing captions and headlines, working up flatplans. It all seemed magical. And I realised that only the people who were interested in 'all' of it had a chance of ever becoming an Editor. So I felt I was on the right path.
Your first job?
Shelf-stacker in the International Stores in Fleet, Hampshire, when I was 14. Other jobs included chip chef at Kentucky Fried Chicken (had to wear a bootlace bowtie), Father Christmas at Debenham’s in Guildford (had my own grotto in the toy department for five weeks, plus a Christmas Fairy who took your 35p at the door), and ringmaster’s assistant at Hoffman Brothers’ Circus in 1976 (had to encourage audience participation at the end of the act by riding the “unrideable mule”).
Your most interesting interview?
The country-rock star Lucinda Williams. We got on like a house on fire and went out for dinner (in Silverlake, California). We’re both so old we'd forgotten it was Valentine's Day and could only get a table at a restaurant full of couples sharing pink heart-shaped menus and a complimentary bottle of “blush”. She said: ‘pretend we’re married!’ – which became fairly convincing when we had an almighty row about the art of songwriting. A waiter came by later and asked me if I’d like to buy her any roses and she sent him off with a flea in his ear.
Other jobs included ringmaster’s assistant at Hoffman Brothers’ Circus, [I] had to encourage audience participation at the end of the act by riding the “unrideable mule”
Your fantasy front cover?
“At home with Morrissey - for a month!”
Best example of reader loyalty or involvement?
Word readers who've met on our fantastically vibrant website organise regular parties in pubs all over the UK. And, very sweetly, they ask the Word staff and writers along for a drink.
What advice would you give to aspiring Editors?
Your job is to select the most interesting stories in the landscape, think of the most interesting angle and execute that in the most interesting way imaginable. It’s not about individuals – the right team is everything. Be interested in everything and try, broadly, to radiate enthusiasm. Work hard on developing your own writers. Put your desk next to the art director’s - if it doesn't look any good, no-one will read it.