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RIP Dom Phillips: The devoted editor documented ‘90s dance music in fine details

David Davies, a fellow former editor of Mixmag, pays tribute to the influence of legendary journalist Dom Phillips

  • David Davies
  • 20 June 2022

I wish I wasn't writing this and Dom Phillips was still with us. There will be many in dance music who will have followed the story of his recent murder in the Amazon with distress and shock.

Dom was editor of Mixmag for much of the '90s before moving to Brazil as a freelance news reporter for The Guardian, Washington Post and others. There will be many tributes to his work in Brazil but it's also important to recognise his contribution to dance music too.

Looking back, the '90s was a wildly creative time for dance music with new genres exploding, artists breaking through from all corners and music bursting out from Chicago and New York and boomeranging through the UK, Germany, Holland, Italy, Belgium, everywhere, and morphing and evolving in an ever-changing maelstrom of new sounds and styles. Anything could come from anyone anywhere. As editor, Dom made sure Mixmag charted all of that. He was equally focused on the never-ending dramas of clubland, charting the rise of superclubs and particularly the emergence of superstar DJs, which he went on to cover more deeply in his first book, Superstar DJs Here We Go! The Rise and Fall of the Superstar DJ.

But the journalist we now see more obviously in Dom's work protecting Brazil's Indigenous communities was just as strong in his time as editor of Mixmag. There was the front cover story of a riot in Trafalgar Square as police fought against the underground rave scene. There were features exposing gang activity, others highlighting racist door policies, undercover drug stories and much more. Dom's Mixmag was on the side of the reader, their reality was the one he was most interested in. It took two years to pull off but it was Mixmag that properly investigated: How drugs affect your driving. On a disused airfield with real life volunteers.

There was also a lot of fun. The cover with a cow in a field for reasons I can no longer remember. My favourite feature headline of all time — Would You Let This Horse Into Your Club? with two unlucky Mixmag staffers stuffed inside a pantomime horse. He took media beyond the London bubble: pushing a persistent underlying insistence that the best clubs in the world were in the North of England. With so much music to describe things got strange at times, with a couple of weeks when a particularly banging Belgian techno sound required "pants on the head and pencils up the nose".

There are a million stories and I am sure many reading this will have their own — there are hundreds and thousands of DJs, club promoters, record labels, artists and, most of all, clubbers and music lovers who crossed paths with Dom in this time. He was one of us, on our side, just another punter on the dancefloor or listening to a great new tune. And his Mixmag captured that, becoming a huge success in the process.

In so many ways, Dom's life and work touched us all. Let's salute him and may he rest in peace.

A fundraiser has been set up to aid the families of Dom Phillips and Bruno Pereira. Donate here

David Davies is Mixmag's former Editor and Managing Director

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