Blog: Brett Callwood

Music writer Brett Callwood hopped the briny deep to follow rockers like the Dirt Bombs and Insane Clown Posse (who got big play in his native England) to Detroit in 2008. This week Brett, author of MC5: Sonically Speaking, the first full biography of the harbingers of punk rock, plumbs the local music scene and its old school influences.

Post 3: Across the Big Blue Sea

MC5: Sonically Speaking was released in the UK early in 2007. The reviews were almost exclusively positive and, more importantly, the guys in the band – Wayne Kramer, Michael Davis, Dennis Thompson and also manager John Sinclair – liked it.

I swiftly followed up with my second book in the UK, a biography of the Stooges called A Journey Through the Michigan Underworld. That's a story for another time, but the research for that book did lead me back to Detroit for another round of interviews in September 2007. This time I stayed for two weeks (in a spare room belonging to Gold Cash Gold / Charm Farm guitarist Steve Zuccaro – see, everything comes full circle). I met more people, I saw more games (the Lions and the Tigers on that trip, I believe, and they both won) and I saw more local bands. That trip coincided with the first People's Arts Festival at the Russell Industrial Center, a fabulous event right from the get-go. I remember seeing Alien Inquisition, Audra Kubat and Jill Jack, and meeting the artists Mark Arminski and Carl Lundgren, plus photographer Leni Sinclair. It was a great day. During that fortnight, I also saw Broadzilla, Overloaded, the Hadituptoheres, Freer, Ko & the Knockouts and Bulldog. I was truly hooked by Detroit and the music scene.

So hooked, in fact, that within weeks I had decided to pack up in England and move to Detroit. Looking back, it seems startlingly naïve but at the time it was the easiest decision to make. Metro Detroit was my home and I needed to be there.

And so it was that at the start of January 2008, I put the majority of my belongings into storage, I packed two suitcases with the base necessities and I flew to Detroit, before making my way to a room in a shared house in Madison Heights that I had found on Craigslist. That night, I remember lying in that bed and breathing deep, because I was home at last.

Within weeks, my work visa was sorted, and I was able to start looking for work. (Not many people come to Michigan to look for work, but I did). The national magazines Metal Edge, Alternative Press, and Modern Drummer were quick to offer up some sporadic freelance work, and for that I'm eternally grateful. But the meat of my journey began when I started writing for the Metro Times and Metromix, and covering the local music scene. I was doing what I loved, in the place I love.