Tributes to James McLaren

Tuesday 7 August 2012, 15:56

Joe Goodden Joe Goodden Senior web producer, BBC Wales

Rhodri Talfan Davies, Director, BBC Wales:

"James was a talented assistant producer who joined BBC Wales six years ago. Most recently he worked on the successful launch of the new BBC Wales homepage and many of you will know him through his inspiring commitment to and support for Welsh music. His regular blogs on Welsh music for our online services showed a real love for his subject, an encyclopaedic knowledge, and a deep commitment to support new talent.

"I know that his lively personality, his inimitable sense of humour and his prodigious talents will be sadly missed by all those who worked with him.

"Our thoughts are with his family, colleagues and friends at this difficult time."

Ed Richmond, Producer, BBC Radio Wales:

"My enduring memory of James will be his unshakeable passion for the music that he loved. His enthusiasm was truly infectious, always ready to tell you about a new act or an obscure track. I’ve lost count of the number of bands that he introduced me to.

"I remember once confessing to him in passing my lack of knowledge of post-hardcore punk (a pet subject for him); the next day he’d compiled two CDs worth of music for me to listen to.

"Unlike many in the media James didn’t only write about music but waded in and was actively involved in supporting and even releasing some of it. There are so many artists in Wales for whom James was more than just a writer, he was a friend, a fan and a source of constant encouragement.

"The music industry is filled with unsung heroes; people without whom it just wouldn’t function and James was one of those people. Welsh music has lost a fervent champion and a he will be sorely missed by all of us who had the privilege to know and work with him."

Iain Tweedale, Head of Interactive Services,

"James was a key member of the team here at BBC Wales where he was an excellent journalist with an unlimited knowledge of music in Wales. He was at the forefront of our recently re-launched online service for BBC Wales and he had a bright future with us. He was a passionate man who cared about his work, his family and friends. He would get cross – mainly with himself – when things didn’t go quite to plan, but he always had a glint in his eye which made him so likeable and will make him so sadly missed by everyone here both as a colleague and as a friend."

Adam Walton, presenter, BBC Radio Wales:

"I met James McLaren when he started working for Welsh Music Foundation at the tail-end of the last millennium. He was responsible for much of the content in that organisation's Honk (becoming Sound Nation) publications. I designed the WMF's initial website and James had to struggle with the idiosyncrasies of my design. He rarely sounded frustrated and never got angry with me. He was a man of no little patience. He was the first person I knew with an iMac computer. Those initial times I met him, I was very jealous of that fact. He only rubbed my nose into his technical superiority on a couple of occasions - always with mischievous humour.

"James wrote passionately for Honk! and Sound Nation. The publications were intended to be an objective overview of Welsh music, but such was James' passion for music, he frequently made the mistake of writing what he felt. I loved that about him, even though our tastes in music didn't always converge.

"James was one of the first to recognise, support and celebrate the wave of Valleys rock music. He wrote about Lostprophets, Funeral For A Friend, The Blackout, Bullet For My Valentine and Kids In Glass Houses before most other people had heard of them. He had a much better instinct for what could be successful than I have.

"Such was his love for music, James helped found a label to release the debut album from one of his favourite bands, Midasuno. Again, the fact that he was prepared to - as the colloquialism goes - 'put his money where his mouth is' underlined his love for music and the people who made that music.

"I think he was suspicious of jingoism. He - like I - is an Englishman who happened to find himself supporting Welsh music. Perhaps his nationality gave him the objectivity to not get swept up by an artist, an album or a track simply because of its geographical source. He loved music, he wrote clearly and authoritatively, and those qualifications enabled him to be a great supporter of music that happened to come from Wales.

"James was also a fine photographer. When I bought my first 'proper' camera, I would spend many happy minutes browsing through his Flickr photostream for ideas and inspiration. I always felt a little ashamed of the gig photos I would send him for the BBC Wales Music blogs, aware that he was much better at it than me. He never complained - if he did, he would have done so with a quick, abrasive humour that was refreshingly free of sycophancy or over reverence, but never nasty.

"James' (personal) Tweets, Facebook statuses and banter were a source of insight and amusement. Last week we had a difference of opinion over Rush. I suggested that they were a band only drummers liked, James proved - beyond most reasonable doubt - that that was not the case. He didn't pretend to prefer music a la mode over what he truly loved. That is too rare a quality in music journalism.

"To his credit, he would never have used the phrase 'a la mode'. For the last three years, one of James' responsibilities has been to edit my verbose music blogs. He always improved what he edited. He managed to do so without cracking my eggshell ego. I had great respect for him. I can't believe I'm writing about such a generous and capable man in the past tense.

"I will miss him. I will miss him greatly.

"My heartfelt condolences to his family and friends. Awful, awful news."

Steve Austins, Editor, BBC Radio Wales:

"There were few greater champions of Welsh music than James. He was often heard waxing lyrical about his passion on Radio Wales programmes like Jamie and Louise and Bethan Elfyn. He was also a huge supporter of our annual Radio Wales Music Days, both through his writing and also through filming our live sessions."

Welsh Music Foundation:

"We at Welsh Music Foundation are shocked and saddened to hear of the death of James McLaren.

"James was one of the original WMF team - creating, editing and managing our monthly newsletter 'Sound Nation'. His passion poured out of every issue, and with his energy, skill and enthusiasm he quickly became a popular figure in the Welsh music industry.

"When he moved on to work for BBC Wales he continued to promote the music in Wales that he cared so much for. He remained a close friend of WMF, working with us on many projects, most memorably a wonderful Q&A with The Blackout in their hometown at last year's Merthyr Rock festival. In that session James' knowledge and passion for the subject, coupled with his camaraderie with the band, and his desire to excite all those watching, was an inspiration for all. It's a memory we will treasure of a man who we will miss enormously.

"Our thoughts are with his family and friends."

Mike Lewis, Lostprophets:

"We're all deeply saddened to hear about James. He's been a close friend of ours for many years and will be a huge loss. A great supporter of welsh music both new and old, his passion will be greatly missed. A sad loss and our thoughts go out to his family."

Aled, Kids In Glass Houses:

"We do not know, nor ever expect to meet, anyone who has a bad word to say about James. He was an engaging journalist and champion of all genres of music. His work as the editor of Honk (later Sound Nation), provided us with a substantial portion of our musical education as teenagers and significantly shaped our lives thereafter. He was nothing but an incredible friend and source of support to us as a band. He lived to see the scene around him flourish, far too humble to ever acknowledge just how momentous a part he played in its success. His impact on the Welsh musical landscape is immeasurable.

"Above all else, James was a genuine, kind-hearted and funny man. We feel glad to have had the pleasure of spending time in his company and to have worked with someone with such a beguiling and infectious passion for his life and his work. One of the good guys.

"We could never thank you enough. We will miss you sorely, James."

Matthew Davies-Kreye, Funeral For A Friend:

"I remember the conversations we used to have whenever we used to catch up, always trying to out do each other with our knowledge of 80s and 90s hardcore bands. I had a lot of time and respect for James, he knew his stuff and when he talked to you, if the tape recorder was on or not, he always made things feel easy. Not many journalists have that quality.

"He was always respectful and never pushy because he was a music fan, and that was plainly obvious from meeting him for the first time all those years ago. He supported the band from day one and was always out and about supporting the scene. It's heartbreaking to think that I won't be able to discuss my favourite Dischord Records with him anymore.

"It just doesn't feel real. My heart and thoughts go out to his family at this difficult time. Rest in peace James, you will be sorely missed."


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    Comment number 1.

    I first met James when he was working on Sound Nation, he offered me the chance to write a few reviews, and even more surprisingly got them published! He genuinely believed in my ability to turn an interest in music into a career, and gave me the confidence to try to develop any talent I possessed.

    I will particularly remember spending a lot of time with James at In The City in 2005 as we constantly bumped into each other trying to see every Welsh band performing. He was wonderful company; insightful, passionate and funny. A couple of years ago we briefly overlapped at the BBC and would catch-up when we could. I wish I'd seen James more recently.

    James was a lovely guy - incredibly hard-working and dedicated to fighting the cause for Welsh music at every opportunity. Thoughts are with everyone who knew him, he will be so missed.

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    Comment number 2.

    It's customary to speak kindly of the recently-departed, but in the case of James McLaren, it's already the most natural thing in the world. He was, simply, a truly lovely, handsome, hilarious, charming man as well as being an excellent and talented journalist who did as much, if not more to promote the cause of Welsh music than anyone else I can think of. I worked with James on countless occasions over the years, writing a ranty shock-jock column for him at Honk and Sound Nation, and contributing content (invariably Manics-related) to the BBC Wales music website on which he worked. But, as well as a colleague, I also thought of him as a friend, and I rarely spent any length of time in Cardiff without meeting James for a pint, whether it was in his younger years hanging around in Metros with his spiky mini-dreads and goatee, our conversation drowned out by horrible nu-metal, or in the Rummer in his more mature years, patiently refusing to rise to the bait when I told him Pearl Jam were rubbish. Seeing his name trending on Twitter today, I couldn't help imagining how he'd have laughed about that, being a modest sort. But it also occurred to me that the one "good" thing to come out of this awful news has been seeing so many people voicing their love and appreciation for all his hard work, and realising that his efforts didn't go unnoticed. Just a brilliant, brilliant bloke. We've really lost one of the good guys today. R.I.P, James McLaren. (Simon Price, Independent On Sunday rock & pop critic and Manics biographer.)

  • rate this

    Comment number 3.

    MAny years ago James hired me to shoot a front cover for Sound Nation; I ran into him everywhere since, and was always please to see him; that was the thing about James, everyone was always pleased to see him. I remember him telling me his favorite word was Sesquipedalian, which means to use unnecessarily long words, It always makes me smile to think of it. He was a great guy, he will be sorely missed.

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    Comment number 4.

    In in the late 1990s I spent many Thursday nights working alongside James in the Gair Rhydd office until the sun came up, fuelled by pizza and far too much Red Bull, editing pages and covering ourselves in spray-mount. It has been over a decade since I’ve worked with James directly, but I remember him as someone who cared about his work, understanding that there was more to a student newspaper than blagging some free gig tickets and writing a couple of hundred words. His dedication and enthusiasm were evident even in those early days; one of my happiest memories of our time at Gair Rhydd are the days we spent with a couple of others producing a spoof version of the paper just before Easter because there was no issue due that week. Given free rein, James’ creativity and wit shone through. It was never a surprise to me that his subsequent career combined his love of both music and journalism. James’ passion for the things he loved was ever present in his writing, in person and in his social media posts, where his wry observations and humorous comments will be sorely missed. As a fellow motor-sport fan, he always turned up on Twitter for F1 weekends in far-flung parts providing an entertaining commentary which helped to see me through many pre-dawn race starts. RIP James, my early morning friend.

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    Comment number 5.

    James was one of those characters that managed to get on with anyone he spoke to. I worked with him for about 2 years at BBC Wales New Media. Turning up to the Christmas party in top hat and tails was James all over. Smooth, cool, confident, and a genuine lovely person

    James, you will be missed. Nothing about what has happened is fair, just, or understandable.

    Keep smiling mate, it's what you do best.

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    Comment number 6.

    Completely devastated. It doesnt seem real! I owe so much to him for everything he did for me and my music so far... I hope he knows how how much his support meant to me and helped me..His belief in me and my music was invaluable.

    I've written a tribute for the legend he was on my website here

    It aint as good as the peice you wrote about me James..but nothing ever will be..

  • rate this

    Comment number 7.

    Very sad news. A really nice bloke. Thoughts are with his family & friends at this tragic time.

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    Comment number 8.

    Early mornings out in the dark with the dogs, you in your wellies, a bit grumpy but always with that famous twinkle in your eye, chucking sticks for Ella and Juno, putting them through their agility moves at the old tree stump. We'll all miss you so very much, James.

  • rate this

    Comment number 9.

    I first met james when he was an awkward, gangly 15 year old with long hair and an oversized black jumper that he wore all the time. He used to come into the record shop in Evesham where I worked and buy any old crap cd single that was in the bargain bin. A short while later he got a saturday job there and after a few weeks of working together we found we had the same sick sense of humour and so began a friendship that has spanned over 20 years, I had the pleasure of introducing him to punk, hardcore, post hardcore etc etc and steering him away from some of his earlier dodgy tastes (yes he owned THAT Crash Test Dummies single, god knows why). I will miss James more than I can say, he was a lovely bloke, a good laugh, handsome git, intelligent sod and total grammar nazi at times.

    All this has stirred up many a happy memory including an argument we once had over a line of dialogue in the John Candy film "The Great Outdoors." James said sudo skunk and I still agree with the film, neo skunk. If you have seen the film you probably know the scene im talking about.

    Its incredible to see the tributes for James, he truly made an impact on peoples lives and I am honoured to count him as a friend.

    But, for some reason, the lingering image of James for me these past few days is still as that long haired 15 year old sifting through the piles of cheap cd singles at Complete Discery in Evesham.

    PS Sorry for any spelling mistakes James, I can see you wagging your finger and shaking your head with shame at me.

    I will miss you.


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