The Past, Present & Future of All Things Loud, With Editor Jack Parker

At the end of December, All Things Loud will mark a very special milestone: our fifth anniversary. In order to make this half a century of existence extra special, we’ve put together a full months worth of content, 31 days of exclusive interviews, columns, competitions, sessions and other fun bits and pieces. Today (1 December) we kick off this exciting period by means of a kick off interview with All Things Loud founder and editor Jack Parker. He tells Steven Morgan all about the origins of the website, the intertwining aspects of his personal life and what the future has in store.

How did All Things Loud get started?
That was a long time ago. I was at school with Ruben (Van Der Horst). I was 16 or 17 and had been writing for a site from the UK which I had found on Facebook. I contributed a few articles to it, mainly rock and metal, and I had good contact with the guy who ran it too. He studied law and he decided to give it up because he was too busy, so I took it over. That shut down and then over the course of a few months, this was born. I remember the exact day when the All Things Loud name came about. It was at a chip shop on the corner of my school, with Ruben. We were just talking about an idea I had, how it would look and then one of us came up with the name and were like “That’s actually pretty cool, let’s do that”. Standing there having some chips on a street corner near the beach.

Was there an ethos behind the name? Did you want to predominantly focus on rock or just all music as long as it was loud?
I don’t think there was a focus for the name, it just emerged. I think it was probably Ruben who suggested it and it just stuck. We didn’t really have a brief on what we wanted to cover because from the start it was already a mix of heavy metal and psychedelic rock. From the very start we covered Temples and Of Mice And Men on the same day, so the contrast couldn’t be bigger. Slipknot and Breton, very different styles of music; it was always very broad. The loud part was because it was amplified music, regardless of what it is, it’s loud when you put it on. It’s just a nice name.

Yeah, it’s funny how it has the connotations with rock, but in reality, all music sounds better louder.
People ask me, “are you a metal site?” and I’m like, “no, the focus is guitar music”. That’s a broader sense of the word and what I’d describe it as. Guitar based music.

Tell me more about the UK based site you used to write for, what was it called?
The name was very simple, it was “Alternative Reviews something”. I was in the school library on the Enter Shikari timeline back when Facebook still had walls and someone had posted on there that they were looking for writers. I loved writing and I loved Enter Shikari so I thought “I’ll do this”. When you’d see that site, you’d see metal bands like Iron Maiden covered and then something about Alt-J would show up written by me. I was kind of ruining the metal vibe, haha. Bands like Spector and Haim as well. It really brings you back, Spectre and Alt-J; they were huge back then, but not so much now.

Bands which made really huge statements on their debut album and then struggled to sustain it afterwards.
I think Alt-J are the only ones who have really sustained it.

What’s an average day in your life like? What does it mean to run All Things Loud?
Today I did nothing, I went to the shops. A general day, now that I’ve moved back home. I started doing this as freelance work, but it primarily consists of me just running the website.

What do you mean by freelance work?
So aside from All Things Loud I also do photography, I do marketing, but it’s all tied into the site in some way. My day consists of waking up after 10 and then working from, say, the moment I get up till 2am. It sounds lazy to get out of bed at 10, but in all honesty I tend to already wake at 8 and do emailing from my phone. I do that on and off pretty much the entire day, my laptop is always on me. It’s a lot of emailing, checking a Google Doc to track everything. That’s my second home basically, everything’s in that document. I mainly sit behind the desk at home (or on the sofa) emailing or writing. I take a short break in the afternoon and then just continue doing it all again. It’s continuous. I’ll just sit behind my laptop and see what comes up. My days aren’t structured.

I guess you get some excitement when you get to do things with bands.
Yeah, I guess so. I try to limit myself to two or three shows a week nowadays. There used to be a period where I would do seven in a row when I lived away from home and I could afford that, but now I just pick and choose the shows which I think are best. I tend to try and go for three days on and then four days at home. On and off, basically. I try and keep that structure to it but at the same time there isn’t really much of a structure other than sitting there whittling down a to-do list.

Do you cover things all over the Netherlands?
What, me personally?

Yeah, you.
I try and stick to Amsterdam, Utrecht and Tilburg. I think Tilburg is the furthest I’ll go for a show, everything is too far away. That’s why there’s a team of people across the whole country.

(c) Jan Mulders
Jack shooting Future Islands at Best Kept Secret Festival (c) Jan Mulders

It’s not just the Netherlands that site writers cover though, right?
We’ve got people who do interviews here, and there’s a writer in the UK, but in terms of the Netherlands it’s just you and me who write. I’m pretty content with that because it’s good content over too much content, it’s quality over quantity.

When you’re picking the things you want to cover do you go for things that are prolific, personal, or?
Relevant. When I fill out that list I mentioned earlier with all the shows we want to cover, I’ll whittle it down by relevance or whether it’s just a great band who I think would be interesting to cover. For example, November was packed with shows and so I’d look and there’d be five or six shows a day. Today for example there’s Donny Benét, Decemberists, Car Seat Headrest, but I went for Donny because he is the most relevant right now. He’s an enigma. Car Seat Headrest is good, but we all know that already. In these cases I’d go for something that’s not as big, but still fun.

Is it about promoting new music then, or artists that are on their way up?
It’s everything! We give attention to the big bands, the Muse’s, the Kasabian’s and the Rolling Stones’, but I also want to place a lot of emphasis on small bands, the young ones. The little punk bands from the south of England or a psychedelic group from San Diego, or something like that. Hypothetically I would pick Sports Team over Fleetwood Mac because Fleetwood Mac are established. I try to avoid established bands in the sense of writing about them too much because you know them already. In a sense they don’t need as much of a push as someone new and exciting. I like to highlight stuff that people don’t really know. That’s just my personal opinion about writing, though. Everyone will say “what the fuck are you writing about?”. I think 90% of the website team doesn’t know who the hell our album and song of the year choices are this year, but then again it’s also a nice point of discovery.

That’s interesting, I find that the places people discover new music now are so varied and often passive, like Spotify playlists.
In a way I think Instagram is also really relevant now. You can embed single songs or releases from Spotify into an Instagram story. There’s also Instagram Music, even though that isn’t available worldwide just yet. I have had instances where I’ve discovered a great band through an Instagram story as opposed to a Release Radar or Discover Weekly. I use Spotify and make playlists all the time. I’m not sure how everyone else does it, but I’m pretty sure Spotify dominates. With Instagram being hyper-popularised, you notice that people will go to the songs they hear in the background of videos and track them down. I can’t speak for everyone here, but that’s how I see it.

Wow, I don’t even really look at Instagram story because I’ve never looked at an Instagram story and thought “Well that was a good use of time”.
I tend to use Instagram stories as a way of sending things to other people who might find it funny or get a kick out of it. Stupid memes, for example. I also use them as a temporary gallery of shots from a show, and then I’ll also do Facebook albums later on. I tend to put up to ten images in the story and then I’ll put the rest on Facebook. There’s just more people who see it on Instagram. Tenfold in comparison, almost.

An incredibly old phone recording of the first – and last – ATL Acoustic Guitar Challenge, recorded at Glastonbury Festival in 2014. (c) Ruben van der Horst

No, I think it’s me who’s the one who’s out of touch here. Speaking of photography, you seem to be everywhere shooting bands. How did you get into photography in the first place?
At first it was out of necessity. The site had just started, we only had a couple of people here and there, but nobody wanted to or could take pictures. It went on and on and I realised someone had to do it. I thought, “you know what, I’m going to ask a friend if I can borrow their camera. I’ll do it” and it just kind of stuck. I started with a bang average Fujifilm camera which my mum coincidentally discovered in the basement this afternoon. I knew nothing about cameras, all I did was pick it up and click away, which probably wasn’t the best thing to do when you’re shooting in the Melkweg amongst all of these professionals. There was no detachable lens on it and it was really poor image quality but I was like, “yeah, I’m doing it!”. Then I moved to Rotterdam and made the switch to an Olympus camera, which was the worst decision I ever made. It looks like a digital camera, but it’s not. Six months later I bought my first proper camera, a Canon 70D. I don’t even know how I managed all of Lowlands on a Fujifilm. I shot Kendrick Lamar on a crap Fujifilm camera, but those shots are never going to see the light of day. I’ve got one of him that’s composed pretty well, but it’s really grainy and I sadly can’t do anything about it. Now, you’d probably have to sell a limb to shoot Kendrick up close like in 2015. Eventually I made the switch to my current Canon (the 6D), and that’s when the door opened. I figured it out, I learnt about the camera and how everything works. It took me a good year and a half to actually learn how cameras work, which sounds really bad.

I don’t know, people study entire degree disciplines on this.
To be honest, I never followed a single class or online tutorial. I winged it. I just looked at the picture and asked myself if I was doing it right. At one point I asked a guy standing next to me, “are these settings OK?” and he changed some things for me and then it slowly grew. I think by the time I upgraded to the Canon 6D last summer I finally reached a stage in photography where I felt like I knew what I was doing. It took about two and a half years. I figured it out eventually, and now I like to think I know what I’m doing.

So all self-taught and motivated about content for the site?
It was out of necessity, and it was self-taught. Self-motivated too, for sure. I didn’t follow a lecture, I didn’t follow a class. I didn’t study photography or follow it in the slightest until I picked a camera up. I studied communications, totally different. It was really just what looked and felt right.

Have you ever done any other kinds of professional photography or is it just live music?
When I studied in Rotterdam, my roommate and I did sports coverage for the university magazine. He would write about the matches and I would shoot them. We did a lot of football, a lot of hockey, some basketball, some volleyball; even some ice skating once. Not much more than that, though. I still did it for a while after graduating in 2017, but now that I’m not a student anymore they don’t really need me. Which is a shame, because it was always fun to broaden horizons and make a little bit of money doing it. If they ever need me again, I would definitely do it. I also took portraits of the sportsmen and women who we’d interview. It was fun, but it was different. I never got to test out my new equipment though because obviously I’ve graduated since then. I’m redundant in that sense. My sister is a freelance makeup artist, so sometimes I assist her with her shoots but that’s as far as it goes in terms of what I do.

You’ve expanded the site to start marketing bands recently too haven’t you?
Yeah, the marketing arm is separate from the actual site, but it falls under the same name. It started out with Natasja de Vries, who was the first person to join the site back in 2015. She studied something to do with business, graduating this year. We decided to try and expand our horizons and see what we can do. We’re doing marketing now for about three bands, the first one being Airways, who you might know from touring with Nothing But Thieves. They’re also touring with Razorlight next month. We did a test period with a Dutch band called Fronstreet, and right now we’ve just started working on a full album campaign with Screw Houston. There’s a couple others in discussion at the moment. It’s not really hit the ground running, but that wasn’t the plan either. We’re so busy with other stuff that we’re gradually starting to collaborate with bands. Slowly but surely, and we’re hoping to make 2019 a big year where this really comes into its own.

King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, a band Jack's seen and shot 11 times. (c) Jack Parker
King Gizzard & the Lizard Wizard, a band Jack’s seen and shot 11 times across Europe. (c) Jack Parker

Do you put much thought into the bands that you want to work with, knowing that you only have limited time and resources?
In a way, but then again we try to be as open minded as possible. We’re open to any and all types of artists, and so we just let them come to us and then see what we can and can’t offer. It’s all very new, but it’s exciting. In a way, attaching it to the All Things Loud name intends to help in giving it a bit of ‘brand recognition’, as opposed to emerging as a whole new entity.

You’ve seen so many bands live now. Are there any gigs in particular from the last five years, or even the last year that stick out in your mind as memorable?
In the last five years? There’s too many! My mum always says this to me too, she says “every time you go to a show, you say it’s good” but that’s because I pick and choose. I intentionally won’t see some bands simply because I’ve heard they’re not great live, regardless of how popular they are. At least in the last two years, I’ve seen King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard multiple times and that always stands out. I think I’ve seen them 11 times now. Last week I saw David Byrne. That was incredible. I brought my mum with me as well, she was a huge Talking Heads fan back in the day. That show will always stick with me; it was innovative, it was indescribable how high of a quality he still operates at, even at the age of 66. Last year I saw LCD Soundsystem at the Paradiso, and that was a real highlight. I thought the energy at that show was brilliantly intense. The show that really did it for me in 2017, though, was Bon Iver. I saw him in Utrecht in a really picturesque room (TivoliVredenburg’s Grote Zaal). I didn’t shoot it or anything, I was just there. It was probably one of the best shows I’ve seen in the last five years.

Oh wow, was that on the 22, A Million tour?
Yeah. A Muse show is always great to watch as well. Production-wise they always push boundaries. I like music that pushes boundaries or sounds weird or different. I’ll be seeing them in Nijmegen next summer too, I can’t wait.

What was particularly striking about the Bon Iver show?
Just the intimacy. He played almost the entirety of 22, A Million, and it was beautiful. Usually Dutch crowds have a tendency to talk during performances, something a friend of mine has dubbed the Dutch Disease. At Bon Iver, though, absolutely no-one talked. It was a room of 2,000 people completely silent. You could hear a pin drop. Just Justin Vernon’s voice and the silence emanating between songs. It was beautiful. 22, A Million itself is a great record. The way he pulls off the songs live with a two-piece band was immaculate and stunning. I was in so much awe the entire night that I forgot to even drink anything, I was too entranced to carry myself across to the bar.

I find that venues can make such a difference to the live experience. I’d rather see a band I quite like in the perfect setting than one I love in a shitty place. Are there any particular venues that you particularly love?
In Holland, at least, the venue I prefer most is the Melkweg, but that may be because the stuff they put on there is always really complimentary to the venue. They wouldn’t put a band in there that wouldn’t fit, which you see all too often. It used to be a milk factory, and from the outside it’s a very dilapidated, old building. I love the Paradiso too, of course, and it’s always nice to go to an arena live the AFAS Live or Ziggo Dome. It just doesn’t give you the same feeling that the Paradiso or the Melkweg does, though. It doesn’t feel as human. You could be sitting in the roof of an arena watching U2 or you could be up close and personal watching IDLES and even though I love U2, 10 out of 10 times I will go for the IDLES.

I know it’s a cheesy and difficult question, but what are your favourite bands or the bands that mean the most to you right now?
Muse are always going to be my number one favourite band. They have been ever since I discovered them. They were the first band I discovered when I was 13 so they’ve always stuck. The new album is still impressive, albeit different. In the last two years, I’ve figured my favourite bands are thus Muse, King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard, The Growlers, Enter Shikari, Arcade Fire, Kasabian, Editors and Radiohead. They’re the bands I would always see without fail. Even if it means revolving a whole festival trip to Germany around the fact that Radiohead are headlining. That was a fun night. It was on the A Moon Shaped Pool tour, and I’d been shooting at Lollapalooza Berlin all weekend. I didn’t get to shoot Radiohead, so I spent the show wandering around in search of a good view when I met a British metalhead who’d been dragged to Lollapalooza by his mates, experiencing Radiohead for the first time. We had a few drinks and he was surprisingly into it by the time they played Paranoid Android.

I’m impressed you can bring these bands to mind so easily, I find that a very difficult question to answer.
I was just cutting out bands in my mind as well, like shall I mention them or not? I was thinking Alt-J or My Chemical Romance’s post-emo days but no, I cut them both out.

Fair enough, that’s the kind of ruthless editing you’ve got to do.
Yeah, I still love bands like My Chemical Romance, the Danger Days era was not too dramatically emo, I did think that was nice. It was very colourful. Alt-J obviously had a really strong debut. Bands like Green Day and Coldplay even, formative years kind of stuff.

One last question: what’s in store for the future of All Things Loud?
A lot, hopefully. Right now the aim is to keep it going as it is, there’s a nice rhythm going on, the day-in-day-out stuff, shows all the time, we’ve got a great team of people. The team is constantly evolving, but I think it’s now at a point where we’re a couple more fresh new faces away from an incredible group with immense dedication across the board. On a personal note I also want to push the marketing and photography forward, and to push the freelance side as well. Just keeping a strong connection with our network across Europe and the US, maintaining strong links with people who I’ve enjoyed working with the last few years. They know who they are, that’s for sure. Maybe try and break America a lot more in terms of coverage and build up a base there. We’ve got a couple of people there scattered across the country – Indianapolis and LA – but nothing really substantial. I think in terms of where we are right now, expanding is key. In terms of readership, it’s quite high right now, but it can always be higher and grow to another level. Onwards and upwards, as they say.

The All Things Loud anniversary months kick off today, and features contributions from the likes of Frank Turner, Silverstein, White Lies, Calpurnia, Pale Waves, Anti Flag, Parkway Drive, Enter Shikari and many more.