Tributes to James McLaren

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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