Career spotlight – music journalism

Claire Hughes is chief features writer for DJ magazine, author, kick-ass DJ and a mum. How on earth does she do it all? NGDJ finds out.

How did you first get into music journalism?
I started writing a column for a free London paper about my weekend clubbing antics when I was fresh out of University. From there I started doing club reviews and music features on a freelance basis then got a job at a music magazine.

What skills do you need as a writer to be able to be a critic of music?
You need to have an opinion and know how to get it across in words. Loving what you write about helps!

Have you ever felt a pressure being able to make or break careers at the tip of your pen?

I think readers are a lot more discerning than that but, yes, you have to tread carefully. I’d rather not review an album I don’t like, for example.

Whom, to you,  has been the most important dance music artist over the last ten years?
I think M.I.A has been really groundbreaking just because her take on the whole world music genre is fresh, original, contemporary and sounds great and she’s a leader not a follower.

You’ve travelled all over the world interviewing people, what’s your favourite anecdote?
When I was pregnant with my first son I travelled to upstate New York to a maximum security prison called Attica to interview former Club Kid and US party promoter Michael Alig who was (and still is) serving life for murdering his drug dealer flat mate. It was a very intense experience and a very frank and difficult interview to conduct especially because there were gun toting prison officers in the room while I was doing the interview. But the funniest magazine-linked story I can remember was when I was at a Christmas party for Attitude magazine and during a live set from the Pet Shop boys a comedy conga started up containing Elton John, Cilla Black, George Michael and Paul O’Grady. It was one of those sublime, surreal and utterly hilarious moments that I’ll never forget.

You researched and wrote your book ‘Waking Up In Chicago’ when you were pregnant, how did you manage that?
I was lucky enough to have lots of energy when I was pregnant. No morning sickness, no tiredness. Also staying off booze and eating healthy – all the things you do when you’re preggers – made me feel strong. I just remember being simultaneously excited about becoming a mother for the first time and having my first book deal so I seemed to have this rocket fuel reserve of energy. That was a very happy time in my life.

How have you been able to balance motherhood and your career?
It’s not easy; especially because I recently separated from my husband. But being a mother inspires me in so many ways and makes me more focussed on my career as a means of providing for my children and staying happy and fulfilled.

The DJ Mag Top 100 didn’t feature any women, why do you think this is so?
I think Lisa Lashes was the only woman who made it into the Top 100 poll last year; which is a shame. I think that there are a lot more high profile male DJs out there that get the votes but hopefully this will change over time. DJs such as Magda, Hannah Holland, Isis and Heather are all good and deserve to get some props.

Could the media industries, alongside the music industry, be more enouraging to up-and-coming female DJs?
I think the media and music industry are very welcoming to female DJs. I think the issue is more about girls just getting out there and having a go.

What advice would you give to young women wanting to break into not just DJing but the music industry as a whole?
If you know your music, love it, have energy, determination and a thick skin you need to just keep reachin’!

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