I left school in 1989 with A-levels in English and History and a lot of musical ability on the guitar, as well as some abilities on other instruments, but no instrumental grades. Music was my passion, but didn't seem to be an academic option, so I did a BA (Hons) in Communication Studies at Sunderland Polytechnic (later University), gaining upper second class honours in 1992.
Through the rest of the 1990s, I played in numerous indie and punk bands, touring across the UK, Europe and North America and performing on many albums, singles and Radio 1 Peel sessions. I also co-ran an independent record label, the Slampt Underground Organisation, from my flat in Newcastle upon Tyne from 1992 to 2000, selling tens of thousands of units across a catalogue of 60 releases. Bands launched by Slampt include Kenickie (featuring a young Lauren Laverne) and the Yummy Fur (featuring future members of Franz Ferdinand) among many others.
After closing the label in 2000, I trained as a school teacher in 2001-2. Initially working in Primary Schools, I became a Secondary School Music teacher in 2003, working as Head of Department from 2007 until 2012. During the same period, I undertook an MA in Music at Newcastle University (passing with Distinction in 2005) and a PhD at the same institution (passing in 2011 with a thesis on punk as a tradition which asks, among other research questions, whether punk can be seen as a folk music of sorts).
In 2012, I took up an Early Career Fellowship at Oxford Brookes University before becoming Senior Lecturer in Popular Music at Manchester Metropolitan University 2013-2021. During these postdoctoral years, I developed research around DJ decks, contemporary urban musics (hip hop, EDM, techno, grime, house and so forth) and learner-centred education. In addition to several journal articles and book chapters related to this theme, I published a monograph on this topic through Routledge in 2017; partly based around my own years of school teaching and the successful re-engagement of highly disaffected boys using DJ decks, which had been a key feature of my classroom practice in an inner-city school in an area facing overwhelming socio-economic deprivation.
Since publishing that research, I have continued working on the need for greater educational respect for the various forms of contemporary urban music and the related forms of music-making (DJing, MCing/rapping, beat-making and so forth).
In 2021, I am Principal Investigator for the AHRC-funded Contemporary Urban Music for Inclusion Network (or CUMiN for short), with Professor Pam Burnard (Cambridge University) as Co-Investigator. I have working partnerships with Musical Futures, Ableton, Future DJs, Ruff Sqwad Arts Foundation, DJ School UK and others, and seek to use my research in the future to support wider opportunities in Music Education, such that all those who are passionate about music can access and enjoy music in schools and gain suitable music qualifications.
My main research interest at present is Music Education. More specifically, I am interested in the possibility for wider inclusion in music education through greater engagement with contemporary urban musics (hip hop, EDM, grime, house, techno and so forth) and the use of music technology (from Ableton Push to DJ Decks) as a performance tool for use in mainstream educational contexts (eg GCSE Music qualifications).
I have also published substantial work on punk, post-punk, indie and related music, which remain a strong research interest for me.
I have worked closely with Musical Futures, Ableton and music teachers in ten schools across the UK for the 'Tech Champions' project.