Monday, April 29, 2013

Grumpy With Mark Gambino

Grumpy With Mark Gambino

By Lee Bemrose 

Say hello to Mark Gambino. A random contributor to a magazine I once worked for when I felt like a fraud with no qualifications... primarily because I was a fraud with no qualifications. But I did seem to have a knack for spotting good writers. Lord knows whe had some terrible contributors, but one of the joys of that job was sorting through the  endless hopefuls and finding those few that really stood out.

What I liked most in potential contributors were the people that weren't afraid to do something different. That outside the square thing? That slightly not-what-I-was-expecting thing? If they did that, retained integrity to the topic and managed to make me smile, they were in.

In keeping with that ethos, here is an interview that didn't take place. Mark sent me a hastily written bio which answered all my questions before I asked them, therefore making the entire task of actually asking questions somewhat redundant. So what you have here is a series of imagined questions to real answers to unasked questions.

Read on. It's a rollercoaster of a ride.


Would you say the way you have been living your life has been very fulfilling?
Like many smart people, I’ve been able to comfortably get by in life by not doing very much. I realised recently that this is not a very fulfilling way to live. Since then I’ve focussed on following my passions and working my arse off, to very inspiring results. But where did it all begin?

That's a really great question, Mark. I was just about to ask you that very same thing. So tell us – where did your creative life begin?
My creative life began around 2001, after picking up a free street mag called Drink. It was about Melbourne bar culture. I thought I could write for it, so I pitched the editor. 

But wait on just a minute... did you have any real idea of how this writing business worked? Had you studied journalism?
At this point, having studied performing arts at university, I didn’t know how this writing business worked. But I could ACT like a writer.

I like your style. So you pitched to the editor of a booze mag. What happened?
She gave me a shot, and I began writing bar reviews. For free.

And then what happened?
I then picked up a Sydney dance music mag called 3D World.

Ah. 3D World. I think I've heard of it. What happened there? I hear they worked their staff and their freelancers like Trojans.
I pitched the managing ed, who passed me onto the editor - a guy called Grumpy - whereupon we started a nice conversation about Withnail and I. A friendship was born. I honed my craft working on this mag, writing everything from social commentary to a short-lived section of Melbourne bar reviews. I was given more credit than I deserved, but I worked like a Trojan for it.

Then what happened?
Then shit got real.

Oh no. I once saw that on a bumper sticker on the back of a ute... “Then Shit Got Real.” But you are a creative type. Can't imagine you driving a ute around.
I pitched a local fashion magazine (in Melbourne) and picked up some freelance work. It was then that I bought my first digital camera, and started taking photos to go with the articles I wrote. The publisher loved that they got two jobs for the price of one from me, and brought me on board to write, edit, shoot and distribute (I drove a fucking ute around and hand delivered the first issue)of a new sports magazine, Cinq. The irony is, I knew nothing about sport. In fact, I hated it. With a passion. You could say, when the subject of sport came up, I was passionate. It was certainly the best of times.

What else were you doing around this time?
During this time I also worked on General Pants’ Our People magazine. A thinly veiled marketing tool designed to pump what little money kids had out of their pockets and into the coffers or a corporate entity masquerading as a ‘youth brand.’ They weren’t the first. They certainly won’t be the last. See also: Monster Children.

How long did this gig last?
This lasted until the team employed to sell advertising in Cinq couldn’t, and I was turfed into the world of freelancing.

Do you have any stories about rollercoasters? I like stories about rollercoasters?
Years passed and I rode the rollercoaster of freelance writing.

I also like stories of scandalous love, pimps and prostitutes. Got any of those to share with us?
I worked part-time, then fulltime, at Borders. Fell in love with a married woman. Moved into a suburb where prostitutes would regularly fight with their pimps outside my window (“Why did you have to shoot him?!”).

How good would you say life was at that time?
Life was good.

And then?
Then came the call again: a fulltime job managing a team of people to produce web content on a ridiculous budget, to be sold to big companies for a ridiculous price. Out of fear of being litigated by one very large organisation that bought from us, I shall omit the finer details. Suffice it to say, I witnessed the worst in some people while in this job. It made me question my craft. I’ve seen things you people wouldn’t believe. Attack ships on fire off the shoulder of Orion…

But I digress. 

That did sound like a bit of a digression of Haueresque proportions. Anyway. So what did you do? And do you have any more rollercoaster stories?
I quit. I dove into freelance life, and once again the rollercoaster began.

Oh no. Were things different this time?
This time, I was armed with a camera. And a shitload of experience shooting some of the world’s top music acts; interviewing some of the world’s most inspiring musicians and actors; and armed to the teeth with industry contacts.

And how is the rollercoaster of freelance work treating you these days?
My freelance ‘business’ has grown since that day - albeit with many growing pains - and now allows me to work anywhere in the world. As long as I have an internet connection, I’m always working.

 And rather than finish off with a final question, I'm going to predict that you are about to conclude with a statement I can relate to and which makes me doff my cap to you.
I've felt like a bit of a fraud most of my writing life. I may not have studied writing or journalism (I'm now a member of the Australian Journalist's Association - ZOMG!), but I have now made a career of it.
I've spoken on creative panels, giving advice to people way more educated than myself. I've quit jobs most people would step over my cold corpse to do. Most of the time I find all this hard to reconcile.

Cap doffed.Go here for more of Mark's work.

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