Mustard had the pleasure of speaking with Freelance writer Em Moore! Together we discussed their relationship with music, freelancing, Punknews, their podcast, and so much more!
1. Mustard is grateful to have you join them at Music Shelf. How are you doing today?
Thanks for having me! I’m really excited to be here!
2. Mustard wonders what your relationship with music was growing up. Can you recall any of your favorite moments with music?
I have so many favourite music moments from growing up that it’s hard to pick just one. One of my earliest musical memories is watching my Grandma play piano. She looked so graceful and happy and the music sounded beautiful. Watching her made me want to learn to play. I don’t play very much now but I’m really grateful that I was able to learn and read music. My Dad also played guitar quite a bit and it was always awesome to hear those songs. Where I grew up, driving was essential and on every car trip, the radio was always tuned in to a rock station. I was exposed to so much music this way like The Tragically Hip, Nickleback, Alice in Chains, Ozzy Osbourne, Linkin Park, Nirvana, and Green Day. At the time, we didn’t have internet so I would try to memorize the songs as I heard them. Listening to the radio was always fun and added an extra sense of adventure to the trips. I’ve always loved listening to the radio and that’s what inspired my “Em Moore Tells You What to Listen to” podcast series. I also loved listening to CDs and cassettes with my parents and having mini-dance parties. Some memorable songs from these are “Beautiful Day” by U2, “Holy Diver” by Dio, and “Subdivisions” by Rush. For one of my birthdays I was given an Avril Lavigne CD, I think it was Under My Skin, and that kicked off my own CD collection. Kelly Clarkson was soon added to it followed by AC/DC’s Black Ice, another couple of great gifts. I still love CDs and cassettes and buy them whenever I can. One huge turning point in my musical journey was getting an iPod. For the first time, I could control the music that I listened to and discover new bands. I bought so many iTunes cards and over the years loaded it with music by Green Day, Ramones, Dead Kennedys, Against Me!, Rob Zombie, My Chemical Romance, The Distillers, Alice Bag, Joy Division, NoMeansNo, Culture Shock, Pup, Single Mothers, The Dirty Nil, and Pkew Pkew Pkew just to name a few. Fun fact: I still have it and it still works! Discovering Bandcamp was also amazing. It made it easier to find out about new bands from all over the world as well as more locally. I found out about so many of my favourite bands by using Bandcamp like Cluttered, Boring Girls, Problem Patterns, Bad Waitress, Matty Grace, Spaced, Initiate, Witch Fever, Gender Chores, M(h)aol, Jivebomb, Punitive Damage, NOBRO, Pinkshift, GILT, Baby Got Back Talk, Thotcrime, Suzie True, We Are The Union, G.R.O.S.S., Stop The Presses, UZU, Jetsam, Piss Kitti, Pleasure Venom, Gutser, Tits Up, Crisis Party, and so many more.
3. Is there a song or album that had a significant impact on you?
There are a few! “Boulevard of Broken Dreams” by Green Day is the song that springs to mind immediately. I heard it on the radio on a car trip when I was probably around 5 and everything about it just clicked. By the third time I heard it, I knew all of the lyrics and would sing it all the time. My Dad learned the song on guitar and I would sing along while he played. As I got older, the song’s lyrics resonated more and more. It was the first song where no matter what mood I was in when I listened to it, it helped me feel like myself again. The first show I ever went to was Green Day. They played what was then the Air Canada Centre in Toronto in April 2013. Seeing them play that song live and being part of the chorus of voices singing along absolutely made my year.
As for an album, that would be Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols. I found this album following the loss of two close family members and I was very angry. The music mirrored my emotions perfectly and helped me get through some tough times. Listening to the Sex Pistols also got me interested in the history of punk rock and opened my eyes to some great bands like X-Ray Spex, Dead Kennedys, New York Dolls, and The Damned. It would be fair to say that Nevermind the Bollocks, Here’s The Sex Pistols sent me fully down the punk rock rabbit hole and I credit this album with helping me become fully immersed in all things punk.
4. When did you begin writing? How did this eventually transition towards music journalism?
I’ve always loved to read and started writing down my own stories when I was given a notebook. I wrote so many stories and comic strips and loved doing anything related to creative writing in school. One year, I started a family newspaper at home that ran for a couple of months. I think the desire to be involved in music journalism started when I started reading Rolling Stone and visiting music websites, like Punknews. I saw that I could merge two things I love – writing and music – and decided that’s what I want to do with my life. From that point on, any assignment I wrote for school was either about punk or referenced a song or two somewhere. When I was in university, I volunteered for the campus newspaper and gained a lot of experience with interviews and working in a newsroom. I ended up writing for the business section but I am very grateful to have had that opportunity. My editors were amazing. Not long after that, I saw a callout for reviewers on Punknews and jumped at the chance to write for the site that I’d been reading for years. After about a year of doing reviews, an editorial position opened up. This was more in the vein of what I wanted to be doing and eventually I was made a full editor. I started doing more interviews last year which I absolutely love doing. I love being able to write about music and introduce people to new bands. I want to be able to do much more of that in the future.
5. Mustard has heard about freelancing. Could you share your experience with freelancing? For humans who may be interested in becoming a freelancer what advice would you give them?
I’m pretty new to the world of freelance writing and didn’t start sending out pitches until late last year. I’ve learned a lot by talking to fellow Punknews editor John Gentile about how he goes about writing pitches and freelance writing in general. I hope to have pitches picked up this year and write for more publications.
My advice would be: Send as many emails as you can. Make sure you have the correct email address for the people and publications that you’re trying to contact. Talk to people who have been freelance writers for years and see how they go about it. Tailor your pitch for the person and publication you’re contacting. You know what you’re doing so trust yourself and your abilities. These things take time to get off the ground so be patient and don’t give up.
6. When it comes to writing, do you work better under pressure or with a deadline?
I think I work better when I have a deadline. I find it easier to plan out my time and make sure that I’m doing everything to the best of my ability. I find when I don’t have a set deadline I put way more pressure on myself than I need to which can cause severe writer’s block.
7. Could you share more about your relationship with Punknews? When it comes to doing an interview, do they assign you with an interview or do you reach out?
For sure! I started reading the site when I was about 13 and always wanted to be a part of it. When I was 19, I started writing for the site and became a full editor when I was 20. I have found out about lots of cool bands because of Punknews and it’s awesome that I have the opportunity to introduce more people to bands that I love. My fellow editors John and Sam are awesome and I love working with them. I also started doing the Punknews Podcast when I was around 21 and talking to John, Hallie, and Sam every week is always something I look forward to. One thing that bothers me about Punknews is the way some – not all – of the commenters behave. I am sick of seeing people tear artists and bands down based on nothing but their own prejudices. But other than that, my relationship with Punknews is nothing but positive. For interviews, I usually contact the people who I want to interview directly or through their publicist. I’ve also had some people reach out to me about setting up an interview which is always really cool. In 2022 I interviewed Kathryn of NOBRO, Tyler and Ash of GILT, Matty Grace of Cluttered, Future Girls, and so many other awesome bands, Carolina of Boring Girls, Casey and Core of Tarantula Tapes, Evie, Amanda, and Jen of Tits Up, G’Ra, Rhiana, and Jake of Baby Got Back Talk, Nadia (when she was still with the band) and Alicia of Ganser, Ali and Danny of Stop The Presses, Paul and Myron of Pinkshift, Malady Jane and Dot of Thotcrime, Jim Ward of Sparta, Drew Thomson of Single Mothers, and Sarah Rose of Sarah and the Safe Word. All of them are great people to talk to and make stellar music. I’m so glad that they agreed to sit down with me and let me ask them a lot of questions.
8. This year you had your first ever interview on The Punk Roquette Show. How did it feel to be on the other side of the interview?
It felt so weird! [laughs] I find it hard to talk about myself sometimes so when I was writing my notes for the episode, it was a bit challenging to focus on my answers instead of coming up with questions for Emilie. But it was a really, really cool experience! I’ve been a fan of The Punk Roquette Show for a while and to be on it felt surreal. Emilie is a wonderful host. She asked me great questions and made me feel so comfortable. It was an absolute blast talking with her.
9. A human turns onto your podcast “Em Moore Tells You What to Listen to.” for the first time. Which episode do you think they turned into?
I think probably the November edition. That’s the one where I feel like I got the mixing more or less down and you can hear me more clearly. But I don’t think you can go wrong with any of them. There are awesome songs on all of the episodes.
10. Your first live show since 2019 was Peter Hook and The Light in 2022. How was the show? Did the concert experience change since your last show? Do you have any concert tips?
Oh my gosh, that show was outstanding! I’m a huge Joy Divison fan and seeing them play Unknown Pleasures and Disorder in full was amazing. The energy that Peter Hook and The Light have is off the charts. The show was about three hours long and there were maybe three ten-minute breaks. The band sounded fucking phenomenal. I can’t say enough about the show, I’ve been talking about it since it happened. I went with my Dad and he loved the show too, especially their opening set of New Order material. I wrote a review of the show for Punknews and the band shared it which absolutely made my day.
This experience was definitely different. I wore a mask throughout the show and tried to keep my distance from others. The distance part was hard because I was on the floor and while a moshpit didn’t develop, there were lots of people dancing and getting close. Even though the mask got really hot and sweaty it was well worth wearing it. If you can wear a mask to shows, please wear a mask. I also didn’t get drenched in beer at this show which in my book is always a win. [laughs]
I have so many concert tips! The first one by far is to eat and drink enough before the show. Make sure you eat food that will sit well with you and drink lots of water. You will be moving and sweating so much more than you think you will so get those fluids in early! Second concert tip: wear something that is comfortable and light. You will get incredibly hot, especially if the venue doesn’t have air conditioning and if you’re on the floor. The Peter Hook show was at the Danforth Music Hall in Toronto. I love the venue but it is one of the hottest places I’ve ever been. I went to a Gerard Way solo show there one time and wore three shirts. Do not do this. Ever. It is a mistake. You will overheat. Tip number three: if you are going to a show with someone have a meeting place decided upon before you go into the venue. If you are on the floor, chances are pretty good that you are going to get separated at some point. This is also handy if you need to get some air, space, or water. Tip number four: be nice to the people around you! If someone falls down, help them up. If someone needs to get off the floor or out of the pit, clear a path and help them. If someone drops something, help and stay out of the way. Everyone is there to have a good time and enjoy a band/artist that they love, don’t be a jerk for no reason. And finally, tip number five: have fun! Sing along, dance, find a nice place to stand. If anything feels like too much at any point, take a breather. Your comfort and safety always come first. Bonus tip: always double-knot your shoelaces. It will save you so much time and you won’t have to worry about them coming undone during your favourite song.
11. You also saw My Chemical Romance. Do teenagers scare the living shit out of you? Do you have a favorite MCR album?
I scared the living shit out of myself when I was a teenager. [laughs] I still can’t believe that I saw them! It was years in the making and that is another show that I haven’t stopped talking about since it happened. That’s a tough one because they’re all so good! Three Cheers For Sweet Revenge and Danger Days are tied for my top spot. Both of them have been there through the good times and the bad times. Two of my favourite songs are “It’s Not A Fashion Statement, It’s A Fucking Deathwish” (off Three Cheers) and “Save Yourself, I’ll Hold Them Back” (off Danger Days). MCR played both of those songs at the show I went to and after “Fashion Statement”, I broke into full-on sobs. It meant so much to hear them live and join in singing along with so many people.
12. In 2022 you interviewed 14 artists for Punknews. How do you prepare for an interview?
Lots of research! If I’m interviewing a band or an artist, I listen to their newest album or EP, or single first and then try to listen to the majority of what they put out previously. If I’m interviewing someone who does a radio show or podcast or runs a label or writes then I listen or read to as much of their work as I can. I search for interviews that they’ve done and read or listen to them to make sure that I don’t ask the same questions. This also gives me a lot of insight into who they are and how they like to answer questions. If they tend to provide shorter answers then I make sure I have lots of reserve questions. I also check their social media, if they have it. I write down as many notes as I can and do two or three drafts of questions. The first draft usually has upwards of twenty questions so I have to pare it down. I make sure that I know as much as I possibly can about the band or artist or person I’m interviewing so I can tailor my questions and so I am prepared to ask any follow-up questions. I conduct the majority of my interviews over Zoom so in the five minutes before it starts I’m always very worried that something is going to go wrong with the link. [laughs] I also check to make sure that if the interview runs long everyone is ok with starting a new Zoom call. If not, then I shuffle around my questions. I’m extremely proud of all of the interviews that I did in 2022 and really glad that they worked out.
13. What are some of your goals for 2023?
I think the first one is definitely to write more. I want to do more interviews, features, and start writing fiction again. I also just started volunteering at Domionionated so I’m really looking forward to writing more about Canadian music. I’m in the process of building my media empire so this year I want to get that off the ground and start putting out some cool stuff. Traveling, going to shows, spending more time with friends and family, and taking better care of myself are also high priorities for 2023.
14. Have you had any takers about your roller derby comedy troupe? What would your comedy troupe name be?
Not yet! Anyone can join and hopefully someone who knows how to rollerskate will join and teach me how. It looks like so much fun and there would be endless opportunities for sketches. I’ve been thinking about the name a lot and I’ve settled on The Side-Splitters.
15. Where can readers check out your writing and podcast?
You can check out any of my writing or podcast episodes at my linktree, on Punknews, or find them in the highlights section of my Instagram page.
Here are the links for Punknews, my linktree, Instagram, and the Punk Roquette Show: