I normally don’t blog my Facebook posts , but fuck it – this is too important to be limited by my own daft self-imposed rules
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Social media is a strange beast. You connect with people sometimes on a superficial level, sometimes barely at all despite being Facebook friends. Others become almost part of your daily routine. I’m one of many who didn’t meet Neil Kulkarni in person but whose posts and music journalism have been a source of inspiration for many years.
We had quite a few interactions and shared the occasional DM (including a very heartfelt thanks to my wife and her NHS colleagues during the pandemic), and hearing of his untimely death earlier this week really shook me. Few writers wrote so freely and fearlessly. He wasn’t here to hang out backstage, taking selfies with the rock ‘n’ roll greats, Neil was all about passion and expressing his love for music. The passion for the music he loved was equally demonstrated in the music he disliked, and he hated what he saw as the triumph of mediocrity. And when he let loose, he didn’t just eviscerate albums, he drowned them in a lake of kerosene and then took a flamethrower to them. His takedowns of bands like the lamentable Kula Shaker, Peace, Shed fucking Seven, and The Enemy were brutal, but absolutely bang on. As was his love bands like Throwing Muses, a band I loved when I was young, kind of lost touch with and then revisited predominantly because of his enthusiasm. If he loved a band, he’d explain it in a way few can.
A lot of music journalism these days is offensive in its blandness, its joylessness, and nothing more than insipid PR fluffing for a freebie and a little pat on the head. Neil was all about words, music, and that word again, passion, a passion that burnt itself onto every page. He was one of the greats and he will be sorely missed.
With the news that Kula Shaker are about to release another album, I was genuinely looking forward to reading Neil’s opinion. Because that’s what great music journalism does, you can’t wait to read what their take is. Whether you agree or not is a moot point , you’d always learn something and be hugely entertained by Neil’s writing. It had rhythm, energy and fire.
His advice on being a music journalist for Drowned In Sound is hilarious, scathing and hugely illuminating , and his unbridled brilliance always leapt from the page:
‘Realize where you stand. Not in relation to the record but in relation to the record business. You’re something less than the shit crapped out by the maggot that feasts on the shit crapped out by the rabid dog that is the music biz — if at any point you start thinking that what you are doing ‘matters’ in a business sense, you’re fucked.’
I’m not qualified to talk about his personal life, but I know from his writings how devastated he was by his wife’s death and he wrote movingly about how he grappled with the grief and raising his two daughters who he clearly adored. A fundraiser started by his friend and colleague, the excellent David Stubbs has been set up to support the family.
Social media often gets a bad rap, but the outpouring of love for Neil and his work has certainly demonstrated “the very best of humanity”
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