Dom Smith of Soundsphere magazine opens up about, music, motivation and mental health
In our latest Industry Spotlight chat, we talk to Dom Smith of Soundsphere magazine about what inspires him, his advice for the next generation of journalists and more.
What inspires you? Man, a lot of stuff! I mean, I'm inspired by my family a lot. My mum is the reason I'm walking now - I've got Cerebral Palsy - and my dad is a businessman, so I'd like to think that I get my drive from him.
Then, I've got mates, right - super-creative people that are just the most fun to be around. Jay Sillence and Mike Cooper at Inkblot Films. Then I've got my bands that I play drums for, SEEP AWAY and THE THING. SA is like this fast, heavy punk band, and TT is like, a stoner-doom noise collective, so they represent very different sides to my personality, I guess.
Outside of music and work stuff, I'm a massive gamer, I'm big into cyberpunk imagery and art. I'm always looking up that kind of stuff. I want to travel more, as that's always a challenge for me, but something I enjoy very much.
What made you want to start up Soundsphere magazine? When we started up, around 2008 after I graduated from University of Central Lancashire in Preston, I moved to London for a few months looking for internships, and working for free basically. Now, I have a number of good connections from that time, and I'm really happy that I got to do it, but I was always wondering, because I'm from up North - why is nobody from these bigger publications going out to cover stuff at The Adelphi in Hull or, I don't know Live Rooms in Chester, or 53 Degrees in Preston. There's countless other examples, and the simple reason is that, well....you don't have to go outside of Camden to cover a show, do you really?
So, when I came back up to Yorkshire, and my incredible hometown of Hull, I decided to create the bones of what would become Soundsphere magazine. I was really heavily interested in goth and industrial music at the time, and I still am to a degree - so the blog at the time - everything is still available at www.soundspheremag.com - was very centred around those genres. I think we wanted to be edgy and dark! I do honestly think we achieved that too.
Anyway, so the blog got started - the website was built after I met an incredibly talented web designer at a nightclub in Leeds, shout-out to Kieran Schlechter, and after a few months back at home, I moved to York, and approached my first university York St John for funding to turn this dark and heavy blog into a print music magazine.
Now, when I was at uni in Preston, Soundsphere came to me, it was an idea that I had at the end of my Masters Degree. It was gonna be this kind of hybrid between what was Nuts magazine, and Rock Sound. So, I built this prototype, and submitted it as my coursework, and then came away with my MA. It some cool music interviews in it, as well as chats with emerging fashion brands and such. I was proud!
I took that prototype in to YSJ and did this weird, Dragon's Den-style pitch to get around 1000 pounds, managed to get it and then set to work on this print magazine. I found an incredible designer (Jamie Mahon), and built issue one which had a lot of content already from the website, and some new interviews - particular highlights were chats with Placebo, Gary Numan, Combichrist, and Rammstein! Looking back though, it was so, so very goth!
We then went on to do a couple more print issues, with Enter Shikari, Skindred, Frank Turner, Patrick Stump (Fall Out Boy), Pendulum and loads more artists in 'em. We had a lot of support from emerging young writers, and some fantastic creative people, a lot who've gone on to great careers in the industry. It was incredible time, and I'm really grateful for it.
What's been happening since then? As we don't do the print thing anymore, now we do a lot of work with schools, colleges and universities, we want to champion and support young people in areas that don't always have access to the music industry - so we do journalism workshops in places like Hull, Sheffield, Doncaster and the like. The aim now is for me to use my skills to inspire the next wave of great journalists, who might not have the money, or be as fortunate as I was to do internships down in London at the start of my career. I also consult on music PR for Warren Records in Hull, and a bunch of other places. I've freelanced for Metro, Hull City of Culture 2017, The Quietus, WhatCulture and a load of other publications, writing around my other interests - wrestling, disability and travel. Basically, I've never got time to sleep! Being a freelance journalist is definitely a lifestyle choice!
What's been a career highlight? Being able to meet and interview some of my heroes. I'm so lucky to have spoken to members of my favourite bands, Brandon Boyd from Incubus was a highlight, Stef Olsdal from Placebo, Gary Numan, Pat Wilson from Weezer. We hosted a rock/metal stage at a festival once! There have been so many! I think nowadays, it's much more about inspiring young people and creating a legacy for the brand itself. So many people are doing music blogs, but I wanted to work with the next generation, and hopefully leave some useful knowledge behind that could benefit others who are looking to make a dent in the media, arts and entertainment industry, outside of London. I mean, I live in York and I'm from Hull, so if I can do it - and I'm a complete idiot - anyone can.
Basically, I've figured out that in my life, I'm pretty much only good at the helping people, so I'm gonna try and do that as best I can!
What's a big challenge for you? I think like a lot of people at the moment, mental health is a big thing. There's a lot of competition in the industry, you always have to strive to be better - I think that we as a society need to try and remember always that we don't need to compete with other people. We are doing what we can with our own lives, and such. It's very important to stay focused on things that make you happy. Don't worry about what other people are doing - you'll have opportunities and chances that other people won't, after all. There is always gonna be somebody doing better, but then, there's a lot of people who are going through life with way more challenges, that's something I need to remember.
In summary, don't compete with others, just enjoy your life and live it the best way you can, that in itself will make you valuable to other people, as they will see your strength. Stay creative. Stay busy. I think also, see people as much as possible, interact with people on some level, even if you are a nervous person, like me, people need you, and you're gonna need people - so try not to get too locked inside your own head. I certainly have that problem as a freelancer, I work from home quite a lot, and that can be challenging. I'm definitely at my best around other people.
What advice would you give to any young people out there trying to make a name for themselves? I think just determination. Be good at what you do. That's paramount, but also don't be a dickhead. You've really got to have the skills, but also be nice to people. You can be good at what you do, but a terrible person and you won't get anywhere, but if you're okay at what you do, and willing to learn to get better, then people will give you their time and energy, for sure.
So yeah, learn your craft and don't be a dick!