Philip Sherburne Loves to Write About Records
a.k.a. An interview with one of electronic music's most respected journalists.
Music journalism isn’t a field that lends itself to longevity (especially nowadays), which makes someone like Philip Sherburne an increasingly rare commodity. For more than two decades, he’s been one of electronic music’s most reliable voices, and while other journalists of his vintage often leave the trenches behind, filing infrequently and decamping to senior editorial positions (if they don’t leave the industry altogether), Sherburne keeps on writing. A few months back, he penned his 500th review for Pitchfork—where he’s currently a Contributing Editor—and shows no signs of slowing down. He also co-hosts the weekly Lapsus Radio program, which airs on Spanish national radio, and last year co-founded the Balmat label, which specializes in ambient music and is already earning rave reviews. Incredibly, all of this is happening despite the fact that Sherburne, following many years in the bustling electronic music hubs of Berlin and Barcelona, now makes his home on the small Balearic island of Menorca.
Oddly enough, a number of parallels exist between Philip’s trajectory and my own. Aside from the shared field of employment, we both logged many years in the San Francisco music scene before moving to Barcelona, and while our eventual overlap there only lasted a few years, it is curious that two American electronic music journalists of roughly the same age—who didn’t really know each other—somehow wound up in the same city (that wasn’t Berlin) halfway across the world. (The question “Do you know Philip Sherburne?” has been a constant in my life ever since I moved to Spain in 2015.)
To be completely transparent, Philip has previously edited many of my contributions to Pitchfork, and nowadays we do know each other socially, but even if he was a complete stranger, he’d be someone I’d want to talk to for First Floor. Aside from being one of the few music writers that I (and undoubtedly many others) specifically make a point to read, he’s gotten to where he is without being a firebrand, sticking to the music and largely steering clear whatever hot-button topics are lighting up Twitter on any given day. That’s impressive, and after 20-plus years of navigating the ups and downs of the industry, few people are better positioned to offer some perspective on what life as an electronic music journalist is really like. During a lengthy call last week, he told me a bit about his own professional history, and also shared numerous insights into not only how he approaches his craft, but how that approach has changed over time. We also touched on the current state of electronic music, the economic realities of modern-day music journalism, his thoughts on pop music (and the discourse around it) and whether or not we’ll see a new Philip Sherburne record someday.