Telum Talks To… Martin Vengadesan, Associate Editor at Malaysiakini

Telum Talks To… Martin Vengadesan, Associate Editor at Malaysiakini

Author of three published books, Martin Vengadesan is an Associate Editor at Malaysiakini. He worked as a Music and Features Journalist from 1996 to 2010 and had recently launched a book titled ‘101 Albums You Need To Hear Before I Die’.

How did your transition from being a music Journalist to a political News Editor happen? What challenges did you face during this transition?
The environment was very different when I began work as a Cadet Reporter back in 1996. Firstly, niche magazines were very popular and things like Wikipedia, social media and digital music didn't exist.

I became a Journalist covering music by chance, after struggling as a full-time musician. I was fortunate enough to be given a chance at The Star to turn my passion for music and trivia into the base for a journalism career.

As time went on, however, the industry changed, and I had to evolve too. The critical transition happened in 2010 when I went from doing print features to running content for The Star’s iPad app. Suddenly I had to call on my interest in politics and history and learn new skills. 

I think learning new technology is probably the biggest challenge of switching to news. But you have to adapt or be left behind. I also had some baptisms of fire manning the main site for Star Online for the 2013 and 2018 elections. 

In fact, the very first week that I was the senior person helming Star Online (boss was out of the country), was the week that MH370 disappeared! So you have to learn fast.

Can you walk us through your process of developing interview questions for musicians? How did you determine which information to include and which to leave out previously?
You need to do background work on their music discography as well as read up on past articles. It helps to be very familiar with their work.

Very early on in my career I annoyed Phil Collins by asking a difficult question at the beginning of an interview and I learnt that you have to save that for the end or the whole interview won’t go well!

What qualities do you believe are essential for a music journalist to possess in order to be successful?
A passion for music and writing. Always be open-minded about different genres and eras of music. I do have an interest from Baroque to heavy metal, classic jazz to psychedelic rock. Although am not really fond of boybands, country and hip-hop.

With the launch of your new book '101 Albums You Need To Hear Before I Die', what impact do you hope to make in the music industry, and what message do you want to convey to readers?
Well things have really changed, and it’s a fast-paced world. When I was growing up we listened to songs multiple times to learn the words, kept scrapbooks of articles and saved our pocket money to buy the cassettes. It’s not the same any more, but I still believe the passion for music lies in the hearts of most of us.

What is the current state of music journalism in Malaysia, and how do you predict it will evolve in the future given its relatively niche in the market?
Again, things have changed. In an earlier era, Malaysia was a more popular concert destination and people were spending much more on original music.

Now there is a decline in the number of people who specialise in arts / entertainment journalism, but it doesn’t mean that the interest is gone. We have to find ways to keep reaching out and supporting creative fields by encouraging new generations of artists, musicians and journalists.

What's your most memorable interview so far?
Whew, that’s quite a question! Carlos Santana, Ian Anderson of Jethro Tull and Steve Harris of Iron Maiden are three that come to mind. Santana spoke in such a surreal way and I won’t forget hanging out of a minibus within minutes of the interview ending.

Non-music-related highlights include Imran Khan and Karpal Singh who also went through an earlier book of mine called Malaysian Murders & Mysteries. And also the former Communist leader Chin Peng, but he was elderly and kept falling asleep when I met him in 2009!
Martin's third book, 101 Albums You Need To Hear Before I Die

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