by Gil Carroll
Here at Stylus Magazine, we’re proud to be celebrating 25 years of music coverage in Winnipeg. Over this quarter century, Stylus has seen editors, artists, and volunteer writers come and go, as well as changes in direction, tone and aesthetic. What were once wicked band photos gracing the cover page now are local, oftentimes abstract or subtly morbid original artwork, a change that came around in the mid 90s.
Alongside the growing dominance of the Internet, as CD stores went bankrupt, Anarchist bookstores/restaurants/headshops shuttered their doors, and music venues lost/obtained licences, the advertisements between the pages of interviews and album reviews changed, and so did the music being talked about. Regardless of these naturally developing changes, the primary goals and functions of our mag have stayed consistent. At the forefront, Stylus has always worked to support local music as much as possible by promoting Winnipeg bands and live shows, providing coverage of bands not usually covered in the mainstream media, and to act as a vehicle for the work of new writers.
Since the initial volume of Stylus Magazine was published in October, 1989 under editor Karla Hilton, the mag has acted as a guide to the programming and alternative music scene found at the University of Winnipeg’s community radio station CKUW 95.9 FM. Every issue to this day has featured the stations program guide as well as the station’s top played albums. (In October, 1989, CKUW’s #1 album was the Tragically Hip’s Up To Here. The Top 25 also included LPs from the Beastie Boys, The Jesus Lizard, and 54/40.) 25 years of publication is a huge landmark for the magazine, which over these years has served as a way for students and young writers to dip their feet into the writing world, allowing them to get their name on a byline, writing about matters that are important to them, all initiated by the love of music.
Past editors have gone on to do big things in Manitoba and beyond. Stylus was able to speak to two of our past editors. Sarah Michaelson now runs her own DJ Academy in Winnipeg that allows “women identifying people” to try their hands at being a DJ. And Bartley Kives is now a well known “reporter-at-large” for the Winnipeg Free Press, having first joined the Free Press team as a music critic.
Sarah Michaelson : I was most involved at Stylus between 2002-2007. I loved the regular columns we featured over the years — some short-lived, some lasting beyond my own career at the mag. “Charlie Hustle’s Mighty 45s” featured a history on the little 7-inch record. Probably the very favourite for MANY readers was “The Pompous Old Fart,” an articulate and grumpy review of new albums we forced him to listen to, like a Sarah McLachlan remix album, which he described as “stultifyingly dull.” It was always a joy to edit that one.
Bartley Kives: In 1991, when I started a two-year stint as a Stylus editor, there were no college radio stations on the air in Winnipeg (besides CKUW) and what we now regard as the Internet didn’t really exist. Commercial radio, meanwhile, played a steady diet of truly horrible dreck. Stylus played a small but important role in shining a spotlight on music that actually interested people at the University of Winnipeg and the broader music scene. The people who worked for the magazine – an anarchic, funny and creative collection of likable misanthropes – felt like there was a mission to uphold.
A mission to uphold indeed. With the support of the University of Winnipeg Student Association, Stylus writers have a duty to provide honest and open opinions of new music. Music fans in Winnipeg already know that the Weakerthans were great, but in discovering new, virtually unheard of local bands of (mostly) every genre, Stylus is the place to turn. The relationship with CKUW remains paramount and a clear connection between the writers and the show hosts exists, after all, both are volunteer work initiated by a passion for music and the understanding that local music is art and needs to be heard.
While focusing on Winnipeg artists and bands, Stylus continues to be a fixture (if a small one) on the national influence all across Canada, covering Canadian touring acts and recording artists. You can find the mag in over 30 Winnipeg shops, cafe’s, libraries etc. Stylus is one of very few free print music magazines still kicking it on the local, and even national, scene. We’d like to consider this landmark of 25 years is as an accomplishment, considering the mounting difficulties and costs of producing a free printed magazine in the instant world of The Internet.
It is impossible to tell what the next 25 years has in store here at Stylus Magazine. Musical trends emerge and quickly die and the Internet continues its tight fisted reign over media, but with some help from our friends (and a little luck) Stylus will still be here asking why.
Speaking of the Instant World of the Internet, check us out online at stylusmagazine.ca.