Adam Crookes: Pop Culture & My Magazine

It’s not just about knowing what is popular, it’s also about understanding why.

CROOKES Magazine is now almost three years old and it continues to morph and change its form to keep up with pop culture.

For me, it’s not just about knowing what is popular, it’s also about understanding why. If there is a television show that I don’t like – that doesn’t mean I can just ignore it and pretend its not relevant. I guess it’s just about taking notice – if someone is listening to Travis Scott’s new album, I want to understand why.

I wouldn’t naturally be a Post Malone or Troye Sivan fan – but that doesn’t mean that I don’t listen to their music. I do. They’re two incredibly influential artists right now. But unlike a fan, I focus on understanding what makes them popular whilst I’m listening. At the moment, I’m really interested in what Drake is doing. As an artist, he is managing to turn each of his releases into a cultural event – tapping into the zeitgeist of any moment.

The fringes of pop culture are also just as interesting. When Marvel’s ‘Black Panther’ hit cinemas last February, another film called ‘Phantom Thread’ also began screening. The 1950s-set period drama from Paul Thomas Anderson centered around an Oscar-nominated final performance by Daniel Day-Lewis as a obsessive and controlling fashion designer. I was blown away by the film.

Then a month later, whilst Spielberg’s ‘Ready Player One’ swept the box office – I saw Lynne Ramsay’s gritty-thriller ‘You Were Never Really Here’ starring the chameleon-like Joaquin Phoenix. I honestly think Joaquin Phoenix is the best actor working today.

In late-March, I saw Alex Garland’s new film ‘Annihilation’ on Netflix. By the third act of the sci-fi thriller, I was feeling pretty uneasy. I couldn’t turn it off because I was watching it with other people – so I stuck with it. As the credits began to roll, I was completely freaked out – it felt like a mini-existential crisis.

Sometimes I’ll completely disagree with what is considered popular in culture. In May, British rock band Arctic Monkeys – fronted by masterful lyricist Alex Turner – released their fifth studio album ‘Tranquility Base Hotel & Casino’. The release marked a drastic departure from the pulsing baselines of their acclaimed fourth album ‘AM’, swapped with piano-driven lounge music. Contrary to the general consensus among die-hard fans, I found the album bloody impressive. It was exactly what I was looking for in that moment, even though I wasn’t expecting it to sound like it did or be what it was. Though unfortunately for the Monkeys, this sudden change wasn’t what everyone was looking for. Unlike its predecessor, the album can’t really be considered a hit – when taking into account its reception. People don’t really like change. Especially when an artist makes art that resonates with people in a unique way. That’s what Arctic Monkeys did with ‘AM’ – there has never been another record like it, they tapped into the zeitgeist of the moment.

Andy Warhol – who pioneered the Pop Art movement of the 1950s once said: “In the future, everyone will be famous for fifteen minutes”. It’s a quote that I’ve been thinking about a lot lately. We’re in the future, so what does he mean? I started looking into the ideology of the Pop Art movement. The artists wanted to make art for the masses, having felt that earlier art was elitist. Commercial items and cultural icons were often incorporated into the pieces. Back then, this artwork could be seen by thousands if it were included in an exhibition. But now with social media, anyone can post their own art online and have it potentially seen by thousands, maybe even millions. Pop Art is about making art for the masses – so in 2018, this includes Instagram posts, Snapchat stories, memes and GIFs. Also, Warhol opted to use printing techniques that were used for mass production with his art. Similarly, applications like Photoshop or Instagram and Snapchat are being used to mass produce art right now.

In a way, maybe CROOKES Magazine could be considered as Pop Art – the covers are designed to be seen and shared by the masses. That’s ultimately what the magazine is for, what any magazine is for.

When it started to snow across England back in February, I began working on an art project – a collection of work that I’ll put on the magazine website, almost like a mini-online exhibition. I dug out my family’s old VHS camcorder, that had been untouched for almost twenty years. It’s pretty special. You can almost create a timeless look to the imagery – with what your shooting neither looking old or new. From the stuff that I’ve been creating so far, its fair to say that I like abstract work. The idea that an image can be interpreted in dozens of ways, without being at all conclusive.

I want even the most die-hard fan to learn something new about their idol in the magazine.

Since the beginning, I’ve always felt that CROOKES Magazine and pop culture are heavily aligned. From the styles of photography to the questions that are asked in interviews. In the interviews, I want even the most die-hard fan to learn something new about their idol when they’re reading the article. You never want an interview to be too serious either, it’s got to be fun and have a few bizarre questions in there. One of my favourite questions to ask is “what’s the strangest food combo you’ve ever had?” – I remember Emmett Scanlan saying “egg and rice krispies” and Jack Maynard saying “chips dipped in chocolate milkshakes”. With the photoshoots, I want fans to see their star in a completely new light – literally. What’s the point in commissioning a photoshoot that presents the star in the same way they’ve always been seen in? And why ask a ton of questions that they’ve already been asked before?

At the end of the day, the sole purpose of talent being featured in the magazine is to promote their new work – whether that be a film, a TV show, a new song or all three. As long as the feature helps to promote the new release, it can be presented in a lot of different forms. I’ve been playing around with a few different ideas and testing a few different things. One idea I tried out recently was a Print Edition with Cameron Boyce – ultimately I’ve decided to not pursue making any further Print Editions because I feel there’s no growth in print at this time.

I’ve always been prepared to fight for every reader that I get.

In the same way that vinyl records have been revived, I think in a few decades time we’ll be seeing a return in print magazines. Print magazines are still selling – but any editor in the printing game knows that the clock is ticking. The people running these print magazines are far from stuck in a bubble though – they’re bulking up their online presence whilst sapping the remaining dollars left from the newsstands. CROOKES Magazine could be doing this, but I’d rather get the website in a really strong position to contend with each outlet as they head to online one-by-one. I’m going to be spending a lot of time soon researching why exactly vinyl has made a comeback (beyond the obvious reasons of nostalgia), so that I can see how this translates to the return of print. That’s a whole other article.

I always try to make sure that the variety of talent featured in the magazine is as wide as possible. If a new season ‘Riverdale’ or ‘Stranger Things’ is about to start airing – why don’t we have one of the actors talking to us? Even if they’re not a ‘lead’, I’ve learnt to never underestimate the power of a show’s fanbase. One share on social media from a TV show ‘fan account’ can light the spark to hundreds of readers – that happens a lot.

If I see someone listening to an artist on their Spotify, I’m going to try and get that artist featured in the magazine. I’ve always been prepared to fight for every reader that I get, and so I should. I have to give people as many reasons as possible to visit this website – and simply giving them the address isn’t enough. That may be enough if I want them to visit once, but I aim to be able to get my readers to visit at least once a week to see what’s new.

Adam Crookes

THE BIG READS

Interview: Mark Gatiss – The Prolific Character Reinventor

Interview: Ralph Ineson on the freedoms of motion capture and his role in ‘Ready Player One’

Interview: The Magnetism of Billy Magnussen – ‘Black Mirror’ & ‘Game Night’

Interview: Jess Glynne – The Return Of A Chart-Topping Powerhouse

Interview: Tom Odell – The Songwriter Finding Home Again