Andrew McMillen

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Andrew McMillen (born c. 1988)[1] is an Australian freelance journalist and author who is based in Brisbane, Australia. Over the course of his career, McMillen's primary focus has been music. He has written for The Australian, The Courier-Mail, Kotaku and IGN.[2][3][4][5]

On 23 July 2014, University of Queensland Press released McMillen's debut book Talking Smack: Honest Conversations About Drugs.

Early life and education

McMillen grew up in the southern Queensland, Australia city of Bundaberg, the son of two teachers.[6] As his father is a librarian-teacher, McMillen was able to access a plentiful amount of reading material and he explained in 2014 that he has been a "big reader" for his entire life. McMillen relocated to the state capital city, Brisbane, in 2006 to commence a communication studies degree at the University of Queensland (UQ).[3]



McMillen participated in an interview for the "Music Business Facts" podcast of Australian musician, lecturer and promoter Rodney Holder in late May 2014, and explained that his interest in music journalism commenced during his second year of university studies, when he was 18 years of age and therefore able to attend live music shows in Brisbane. Following his attendance at concerts, McMillen would read corresponding reviews in the street press and thought that he could do a better job—a particular issue that stood out to McMillen was the incorrect factual information, such as song names, that was published.[3]

Without any prior notification or arrangement, McMillen subsequently sent reviews of live shows to publications such as Australia's Faster Louder website, in which he introduced himself for the first time. Faster Louder agreed to publish his review, thereby starting a two-year-long period of "hobby" reviewing for McMillen, in which he wrote reviews of live performances for either no money (just the free admission) or a small payment. Many of McMillen's reviews from this period appeared in the now-defunct Brisbane street press publication Rave.[3][7]

McMillen then worked at a web design company for a year, but left due to his dissatisfaction with working outside of the creative industries. McMillen described an "extremely difficult" transition that followed his salaried position, as he adjusted to the less rigid conditions of a freelance writer, whereby he learned the importance of discipline and managing distractions. McMillen explained in May 2014 that he felt like a completely different person in comparison to the life he was living when he was establishing himself in 2009.[3]

In 2014, McMillen is in his fifth year of freelance journalism and, following a 2010 decision to expand beyond music, his music writing consists solely of live performance, festival and album reviews for the Australian newspaper. McMillen explained that his decision to diversify his writing content was the result of an intensive period of music writing, in which he was unable to listen to music for personal pleasure and the intensity of the work was not financially rewarding.[3] Other topics that McMillen has written about include mental health, illegal websites (such as the Silk Road online market), education policy and "smart drugs".[2][6]

Team Bondi controversy

McMillen published a controversial article related to the video game industry in June 2011 on the IGN website. Entitled "Why Did L.A. Noire Take Seven Years To Make", the piece describes the difficult development of what was, at the time, the biggest, most expensive video game title ever produced in Australia,[8] undertaken by Sydney developer Team Bondi and its boss Brendan McNamara. Writing that the game development process was "anything but smooth", McMillen worked on an issue that entered the public realm on 23 January 2010 via an anonymous Twitter account that streamed a series of insights into the Team Bondi workplace. As part of an arrangement with IGN, McMillen spoke with McNamara and 11 former Team Bondi employees to write the feature article. Issues such as a high staff turnover rate, extended working hours and unpaid overtime were highlighted in the interviews with the "Bondi Eleven", while McNamara stated: "I'm not in any way upset or disappointed by what I've done".[9][10]

Following the publication of the IGN article, the International Game Developers Association (IDGA) publicly responded in late June, with the chair of the IGDA board of directors, Brian Robbins, stating that Team Bondi would be the subject of an investigation. Robbins described the workplace issues reported by McMillen as "absolutely unacceptable" and invited any former employees or their family members to email information to the IDGA.[11]

McMillen then published a follow-up article on the Games Industry International website in July 2011, in which he explained that his IGN piece had received widespread international coverage and that "fans and the game development community have reacted with contempt for Team Bondi, and for Rockstar Games, who seemingly condoned the Sydney-based studio's incessant whip-cracking." By this time, McMillen had also received contact from other former Team Bondi employees, two of whom provided McMillen with email communications from their time with the company under the condition of anonymity. McMillen published the leaked communications, including content that refutes claims made by McNamara in his IGN interview. McMillen concluded the follow-up article with an exploration of the motivations of the whistleblowers.[8]

Silicon Knights controversy

The video game website Kotaku published an article by McMillen in October 2012, entitled "What Went Wrong With Silicon Knights' X-Men: Destiny?" In the article, McMillen provides details of the actions of Denis Dyack, who is the founder of the now-defunct Canada-based video game developer Silicon Knights.[12] Using information provided by anonymous sources, McMillen's story covers allegations that Dyack mistreated employees and embezzled funds; although, McMillen informs readers at the outset that his story only covers certain perspectives and is not a thorough account. McMillen sought out responses from Dyack but none of the members of Silicon Knights' management team responded to his request for comment.[13][14]

Dyack eventually responded in May 2013, following the closure of the Silicon Knights company, using the YouTube video-sharing platform to broadcast a recording in which he directly addressed McMillen's article, explaining that the allegations were affecting both him and his colleagues at the time. In the 30-minute video, Dyack admitted to mistakes that he made during the development of X-Men: Destiny, but denies the allegations in McMillen's article. The GameNGuide website concluded in its assessment of the video: "Even if Dyack is telling the truth about mismanaging funds, Silicon Knights still closed its doors this month meaning that business wasn't being properly handled in some capacity."[12][13][15]


McMillen's debut book Talking Smack: Honest Conversations About Drugs was published by University of Queensland Press on 23 July 2014. The project was motivated by McMillen's interest in starting an “honest, clear-headed discussion” about drugs.[2] Also influenced by personal experiences, such as cannabis experimentation as a teenager and purchasing MDMA for a story on the Silk Road online market, McMillen further explained in early July 2014:

Every substance is worthy of honest, clear-headed discussion, free of the judgment, sensationalism and demonisation that tends to control such stories ... "Talking Smack" has its roots in this open-minded approach to what is usually a divisive, taboo topic.[2]

After creating a list of over 100 Australian musicians, McMillen eventually secured interviews with 14 artists that form the content of the book. McMillen's interview with Phil Jamieson, of northern New South Wales band Grinspoon, was the first that the author engaged in for the book and resulted in a profound experience:

Phil Jamieson was instrumental in moving the book from theory into reality ... He was the first to agree to be involved, and helped immensely by humouring me with a short phone interview in September 2012 … That casual, 20-minute chat with Phil certainly set the tone for the next year of my life, which was spent talking, writing and thinking about drugs. It was fantastic.[2]

Prior to the publication of the book, McMillen participated in an interview with the Faster Louder website, in which he addressed six myths regarding "drug taking in the music community": 1. Drugs is not a popular discussion topic for artists. 2. Addiction is not inevitable for anyone who tries drugs. ("... these types of stories are by far the most common among the wider Australian community of drug users.") 3. Musicians can abstain from drug use. ("The point is that abstaining from drugs and choosing to abuse them are at both ends of a spectrum.") 4. There is a reason why "Sex, drugs and rock’n’roll" is a cliché ("It’s an empty and meaningless phrase in 2014, though, and I think many modern artists would sadly agree that it signifies a dead – or dying – era.") 5. If you don’t respect drugs, they won’t respect you ("Paul Kelly told me that. I believe him.") 6. Cannabis use is not essential to write high-quality hip-hop music. ("If you’re spending too much time in your head and not putting your ideas down on paper, or on record, there’s a high risk of becoming a “gonna” rather than a doer.")[2]

The list of musicians that McMillen interviewed includes: Steve Kilbey (The Church), Tina Arena, Jon Toogood (Shihad), Bertie Blackman and Lindy Morrison (The Go-Betweens). During the interviews, McMillen discussed topics such as experimentation, the use of drugs for creativity and the nature of Australian attitudes toward drug use in the 21st century. Melbourne, Australia designer Josh Durham created the book's cover artwork.[6]

McMillen appeared on Australian television's The Morning Show, a breakfast program broadcast by the Seven Network, on 22 July 2014. Hosts Kylie Gillies and Luke Jacobz—Jacobz filled in for Larry Emdur—spoke to the writer about his book and the topic of drugs.[16] The following week, on 27 July, McMillen hosted a panel discussion at Australia's Splendour in the Grass music festival, which featured Australian musician Scott Owen, of The Living End, and Australian comedian Greg Fleet, among others. The panel members discussed "their own experiences with alcohol, illicit, prescription and legal drugs, rehab and sobriety".[17]

On 21 August 2014, McMillen spoke with Australian writer John Birmingham for a book launch event at Brisbane, Australia's Avid Reader Bookshop, in the inner-city suburb of West End.[4] The Mick Harvey interview from McMillen's debut book is featured on Birmingham's personal website, Cheeseburger Gothic.[18][19]

David Messer of the Sydney Morning Herald called the work "a brave and important book" and praises McMillen for being "careful to provide a balance of experiences, including non-drug takers." [20]


McMillen explained his interviewing technique in a 2011 interview for the Conversations With Bianca website:

For me a big part of it for me is being present in the moment. You’ve got your list of questions in front of you that you want to get through but you should be willing to go with what they want to say and change in direction if need be ... I think that comes down to being versatile and being able to change it up on the spot.[5]

McMillen advised aspiring musicians in a May 2014 interview that the production of excellent work is really important for gaining the attention of music journalists, stating that he seeks out "quality and excellence" in his personal life. He also revealed that he is at a stage of his career in which he only accepts work that he is wholeheartedly interested in and does not accept work simply because the payment is considerable.

McMillen identified Neil Strauss's book The Game: Penetrating the Secret Society of Pickup Artists as a significant influence and explained that he interviewed Strauss in 2009, two years after finishing the book, and was inspired by the experience.[3]

Charity work

In 2012, McMillen participated in the "World's Greatest Shave" event for the Leukemia Foundation of Australia.[21]


  1. Andrew McMillen (April 2013). "AndrewMcMillen at SOYA". Retrieved 14 April 2014. 
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 2.3 2.4 2.5 Darren Levin (3 July 2014). "6 myths about drug taking in the music community". Faster Louder Pty Ltd.,%20Splendour%20timetables. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  3. 3.0 3.1 3.2 3.3 3.4 3.5 3.6 Rodney Holder (27 May 2014). "Andrew McMillen- Music Journalist". Music Business Facts. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  4. 4.0 4.1 "Andrew McMillen In-conversation With John Birmingham – Details". Avid Reader. 6 July 2014. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  5. 5.0 5.1 Bianca Valentino (24 October 2011). "Andrew McMillen on Freelance Journalism in Australia, Writing & Interviewing". Conversations With Bianca. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  6. 6.0 6.1 6.2 Andrew McMillen (2014). "About". Andrew McMillen. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  7. Tom Mann (26 June 2012). "Brisbane's Rave Magazine shuts down". Faster Louder Pty Ltd. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  8. 8.0 8.1 Andrew McMillen (5 July 2011). "The Emails Behind The Whistle Blowing at Team Bondi". Gamer Network. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  9. Andrew McMillen (24 June 2011). "WHY DID L.A. NOIRE TAKE SEVEN YEARS TO MAKE?". Ziff Davis. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  10. Rob Crossley (28 June 2011). "Industry outrage at 'brutal' Team Bondi crunch". Intent Media. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  11. 12.0 12.1 Ural Garrett (22 May 2013). "What We Learned Watching Denis Dyack's Video". Game & Guide. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  12. 13.0 13.1 Steve Farrelly (29 October 2012). "Silicon Knights Strips to Five or so Employees, Former Members Open Up on Poor X-Men: Destiny Development and Eternal Darkness 2". AusGamers™ Pty Ltd. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  13. Andrew McMillen (26 October 2012). "What Went Wrong With Silicon Knights' X-Men: Destiny?". Kotaku. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  14. Mike Futter (19 May 2013). "Denis Dyack Denies Allegations, Admits He 'Made A Lot of Mistakes'". Game Stop Network. Retrieved 6 July 2014. 
  15. "Talking smack" (Video upload). Yahoo!7. 22 July 2014. Retrieved 27 July 2014. 
  16. "Splendour in the Grass 2014 Forum panel: 'Loaded: Honest Conversations About Drugs'" (Audio upload). SoundCloud. 7 August 2014. Retrieved 14 August 2014. 
  17. Andrew McMillen (22 August 2014). "'Mick Harvey ' Extract from Talking Smack: Honest Conversations about Drugs, by Andrew McMillen" (Book extract). John Birmingham. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  18. "'Talking Smack: Honest Conversations About Drugs' book launch at Avid Reader, 21 August 2014" (Video upload). Google Inc. 21 August 2014. Retrieved 28 August 2014. 
  19. David Messer (August 15, 2014). "How drugs help some musicians to make music". Sydney Morning Herald. Retrieved 2015-03-07. 

Further reading

External links