INTERVIEW: Christine Stephan, Publisher of German magazine Jazzthetik ( #IWD2017)

Christine Stephan.
Photo credit Thomas Kölsch

CHRISTINE STEPHAN is a German jazz magazine publisher. She started JAZZTHETIK in 1987. This interview with Sebastian celebrates the 30th anniversary:

LondonJazz News: What was your main objective when you started up JAZZTHETIK?

Christine Stephan: The main reason was that I wanted to read a magazine which would have things in it that were of interest to me. That was why I started JAZZTHETIK.

LJN: Did the magazine get established quite quicky, or were the early stages an uphill struggle?

CS: Actually both. On the one hand it was plain sailing, because at the time the only jazz media around in Germany were tired and boring. So JAZZTHETIK with its professional layout, etc, came across well. On the other hand we had the plusses and the minuses that most start-ups: all of the excitement but not enough expertise.

LJN: Who is still left from the original team which started it?

CS: In fact it is only my advertising department – and she will be going into retirement at the end of the year. The Editor from then still works with us occasionally as a reviewer. JAZZTHETIK does have a substantial solid core of “fixed but free” colleagues who have been determining the way the magazine looks, feels and operates, both editorially and from a design perspective. Among the freelancers a large number have stayed loyal to us - but we also have good new people joining us all the time.

LJN: Have there been particular noteworthy successes?

CS: Well one definite success is that, in spite of all the prophecies of doom, the magazine is still there, and that compared to other magazines things go well, and are getting better. I suspect that the same is true for a lot of specialized magazines, but not for publications aimed at the general reader. I ask myself what there is for us to be proud of - apart from having been headstrong. Perhaps there are the opportunities that we have given to a lot of young people to gain first-hand experience of publishing, which has included employing apprentices. I do believe that one has to be flexible when it comes to the product, but on the other hand one should never barter one’s soul.

JAZZTHETIK has always been a bit diva-ish, and they don’t allow themselves to be blown off course.

LJN: What were the toughest moments?

CS: Hm, that’s a tricky one. Yes there have frequently been times in the past 30 years when things got really difficult, but somehow it always turned out right in the end. When I compare the issues of the magazine we are putting out these days with the first ones we did back then, I can only say that things now are far better than they were. There is a proverb that one grows through doing things. And that is as true for magazines as for the people who make them.

LJN: Was it six issues a year from the start?

CS: No. In our first few years we would publish 11 issues a year. Then we moved to a double-issue in the summer and another one in the winter. We’ve been publishing every two months since about 2010.

LJN: Do you feel that jazz in Germany these days is more open to women as performers?

CS: From the time I spend at concerts and festivals what I see is that there are a large number of wonderful and fully fledged women jazz artists. A musician herself would be able to answer the conditions they face better than I can, but I would guess things are not much different in jazz from the way they are in other areas.

LJN: And what about for a woman to become a magazine publisher?

CS: I don’t really understand the question. Do you mean is it easier for a woman to publish a magazine in Germany? I don’t think so, because things here are like they are everywhere. How it would be if I were a man is something I can’t really answer.

Christine Stephan welcoming Evan Parker to the
JAZZTHETIK stand at jazzahead! in 2016


LJN: What will you be doing to celebrate the 30th anniversary?

CS: What we’ll do for the birthday itself I don’t know yet, but JAZZTHETIK will be throwing a birthday party at jazzahead!, the trade fair in Bremen at the end of April. I won’t reveal the details, but all are definitely invited to celebrate with us.

LJN: What are your new projects?

CS: Oh yes, I do have a few plans up my sleeve, and I am having a lot of fun bringing these new things forward. But I prefer not to talk about eggs until they are hatched.

Sebastian writes a regular bi-monthly London Column for JAZZTHETIK magazine. The next issue will have a feature about UK jazz musicians who (like JAZZTHETIK itself) were born in 1987. 

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