My Life in Music

As mentioned in a previous post, I have written for online indie zine Pennyblackmusic for the better part of a couple of decades. One of my recent projects was a series of interviews about my fellow writers, which concluded with one of my fellow writers interviewing me. As my editor, John Clarkson, put it:

“For the last two years in her ‘A Life in Music’ column Cila Warncke has talked to several of our writers and photographers about how music has affected and influenced them. We were interested in finding out in ‘A Life in Music’ what ignited a bunch of obsessives’ passion for music, and discovered that much of our team had lead lives that were just as fascinating as many of the bands. Now that column is coming to an end, and in the last in the series we have turned the tables on Cila and Nick Dent-Robinson has spoken to her about her ‘Life in Music’.”

This may well be the first time I’ve been interviewed in print so thought I’d share.

Cila Warncke: A Life in Music by Nick Dent-Robinson

Cila Warncke is one of the earliest contributors to Penny Black Music magazine, having started writing for them more than two decades ago. Penny Black founder and editor John Clarkson recalls that Cila’s first interview for the magazine was with Cinerama about their “Disco Volante” album. She was the magazine’s first female writer and, as John Clarkson says, he is proud that Cila paved the way for many more excellent female music writers in Penny Black Music over the coming years – as rock music writing was notorious for being too much of a “boys’ club”.

As a professional journalist, Cila says she was attracted by the scope for originality and independence (and lack of male chauvinism) at PBM – and she has produced a fascinating range of articles over her time there. Although she left Penny Black Music in the early 2000s and worked on the glossy London-based music magazine, ‘Q” she was welcomed back in 2012 and has been a regular contributor since then. She has written about the impact of the pandemic on those working behind the scenes in the world of live music, about the eventual demise of ‘Q’ magazine and she wrote a very thoughtful piece about Marilyn Manson. Plus she has produced excellent articles on so many other diverse topics.

Cila also originated the ‘A Life In Music’ series where she probed fellow contributors to PBM about their musical tastes, background and aspirations. – All done with great tact, sensitivity and diplomacy plus insight – key hallmarks of Cila’s style. That series is now drawing towards its conclusion – but not before we turn the tables and seize the opportunity to ask Cila about her own ‘Life In Music”’

Born in 1980 and raised in a small town in Oregon over on the West side of the USA, in her late teens Cila moved to the East Coast to study English at the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia – an esteemed Ivy League institution. Subsequently she moved to London to undertake further studies at King’s College before becoming a journalist. She thrived in the UK, enjoying all the many cultural opportunities available just after the turn of the millennium as well as the proximity to Europe. She and her fellow-American husband Chris Hall, a production audio technician in the world of live music, have travelled widely and have now made their permanent base in Valencia, Spain. Cila was at her home in Valencia when I started to ask about her ‘Life in Music’.

What are some of her earliest musical memories?

“Well, my parents weren’t musicians and because my mother was an Evangelical Christian, anything that wasn’t a hymn or soft God-rock was not too popular. It was a cool, rebellious thing to listen to anything other than that. My sister and I would listen to local radio, though and so I got some of the sound of late 80s/early 90s rock and pop culture through that. But my brother – who is around 6 years older than I – loved The Smiths, The Cure and some of the other British post-punk/new wave bands. I enjoyed that sound and I recall some of the record sleeves up on my brother’s wall – brilliant images which made a lasting impression.

The first (non-Christian!) record I remember buying when I was 13 or 14 was Sting’s “Fields of Gold…Best of: 1984-94” and my sister (who was 8 years older and much cooler, always) bought me Green Day’s ‘Dookie’ – which I still think is a great record!”

Read the rest of the interview at


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