My Mentor: Conor McNicholas on Steve Sutherland

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The Independent Online

I was really green when I took over the NME in 2002, and without Steve Sutherland I would have crashed and burned. I first met him at the launch of 11 years ago. I was working on an internet magazine and a press release came through about the launch. I thought: "It's rock'*'roll, it's going to be a good bash, and you never know what might happen."

My intention was not to meet rock stars but NME people. Bolstered with Dutch courage, I introduced myself to Steve and we just kind of got on.

It was almost a year later when I next saw him, when Pulp were playing Finsbury Park. The NME was suffering a hangover from Britpop – the world had moved to dance music and the magazine hadn't followed it swiftly enough. Steve was looking for dance music heads and asked me to do a couple of weeks on the newsdesk, and gave me a list of questions about where the NME was going.

I was keen, but it was like pulling teeth. By the time I left, I said to myself I would never darken the NME's doors again.

A few years later, I was offered the editorship of Muzik and went back to IPC. Steve had left NME, and eight months later they asked me whether I'd be interested in applying for the editorship – they needed someone who was passionate about magazines, not just music.

Steve really looked after me in the first six months. There wasn't a single situation he hadn't been through himself, and he is really strong in a crisis. The NME is so visible; if you get it wrong, a lot of people know about it. He taught me how to have conversations with artists and learn about the brand. To this day, if you've got a cover or a feature and run it past Steve, he's always going to add value to it.

He was in my office last week arguing about the Radiohead album. Although we don't socialise a lot because we both have kids and work very different hours, he is someone who, even if I were to move on in future, I know will always be a very good friend.

Conor McNicholas edits NME; Steve Sutherland is editorial director, special projects at IPC