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Know Your Zine Author: Cody Melior

Posted by Matthew Moyer on July 24, 2012

Cody Melior is quite probably one of Jacksonville’s most focused zine writers. Landing in Duval County from Seattle, Melior realized that there was no organized pinball community or fandom to speak of, so he decided to create it out of thin air. And he’s been incredibly successful at it; a large group of would-be pinball wizards has coalesced around Melior’s 904 Pinball Zine and Facebook community, sharing tips, tricks, and high scores. Adding to that, Melior became a kind-of Lewis and Clark of Jacksonville pinball, going out and personally mapping the location of every pinball machine in our city, said map then forms the bulk of his foldout zine. 

Now on its second issue, the 904 Pinball Zine is expanding into an all-purpose pinball information hub, incorporating interviews and gaming news. Melior’s enthusiasm is infectious; talking to him you really start to believe that pinball-mania is going to sweep aside more sedentary couch-potato pursuits like television and video games. If only….

What was your first exposure to zines?

The first absolutely interesting & unforgettable zine (most other zines are so forgettable) that I picked up was the Skill Shot pinball zine in Seattle WA. I picked that first issue up at my local pinball bar arcade called Shorty’s in the Belltown area where I lived in early 2008. They have local pinball news in it and a map on the back of where games are on location all around the Seattle region (my personal pinball treasure map).

What was your first exposure to pinball?

The first pinball machine that I played was a 1974 Sky Jump machine which was in my parents’ room in our old house on Rudy Dr W on the Southside. My dad kept this machine from a pinball arcade that he ran in the early 70s in Wyoming. He kept it because he thought it was her favorite game only to find out this year that High Hand was her favorite game from the arcade. The second he kept was traded to my aunt in Lakeland FL for furniture and I played it a lot there when I visited them. My cousin Scott has it currently in out of order condition and won’t sell it to me.

What was it that made you decide to combine these two interests and start your own zine?

When I moved back to Jacksonville from Seattle in 2009 I realized quickly that it would be harder to get my pinball fix. I found a machine here or there but no pinball places. I spent the summer of 2010 in Seattle and picked up more Skill Shot issues, ran around town playing pins again and went to the Northwest Pinball & Arcade Show there. I hit up the Pacific Pinball Museum during a layover in San Francisco on my way to Boston that summer as well. I spent the end of 2010 and start of 2011 looking for machines to play in the 904 area code. I knew that I couldn’t be alone so I started the 904 Pinball Zine Facebook page to see who was out there and people joined almost instantly. A new friend who is what we’d call a collector/operator of pinball machines was asked to put machines to play at a Players By The Sea presentation of The Who’s Tommy (to enjoy during intermission mostly) and that was the final match to light the fire of me getting an issue out ASAP to have to share with people that went to see that event. That issue ended up in many locations in the 904 area code and shipped all over, with 450 copies being distributed.

Have you found that the pinball community in Jacksonville is bigger and more fanatical than you initially thought?

For better or worse or whatever… Jacksonville FL isn’t really a city (like Seattle) but instead is a huge town with a bunch of city stuff in it. No matter how many malls, strip malls, colleges, chain restaurants, or sports teams are here, the mindset and interest set of the average Jacksonvillesonian will be restricted to common bonds like sports, teevee, movies, pop culture, and the desperate consumption of goods and or services. Pinball is nowhere near as accessible as any of these interests or that of couch-warming video games. Arcades are now gone in Jacksonville and most people into Pinball are either collectors like myself, people that quest to play them on location or people that very casually play them (people I meet @ Tinseltown’s game room). I’ve met some very hardcore pinball collectors and players. Those people helped me keep the Facebook page and zine going. Most people have never seen or played the greatest pinball machines that I took for granted in Seattle. I’m doing what I can to promote pinball here and raise awareness rise so that I can then finally know how fanatical the 904 area code can actually become about pinball. It’s a duty that I’m proud to have and carry out.

What kind of response have you been getting from the zine?

On the Facebook group we have members from here to Seattle, from here to Sweden and in many different states. We’re the only pinball zine on the east coast of America (only one of 2 in the world being made?). I gave a copy of the 1st issue to the CEO of Stern Pinball and the CEO of Jersey Jack Pinball (a new company working on their first machine, Wizard of Oz, currently) when I met them at the Southern Pinball Festival in late 2011. They both accepted my invitation to interview them in the future. Many people seem to know about the zine, the issues go fast in most locations that I put them and people are happy that it exists. The pinball community existed here before the zine but it is now more connected online with the group and has helped more people join us, network, and contribute to the community.

What work goes into putting an issue of 904 Pinball Zine together? You’re incorporating interviews into and other features into the zine now?

Going into the 2nd issue the process was 1/4 patience, 1/4 an interview with a well known pinball designer, and 1/2 having the layout completed. I do the layout, most of the map, and local pinball activities before the interview. This process is occurring for the 3rd issue currently as well. The 3rd issue is based on the new and already in town at Latitude AC/DC pinball machine. In the future I may put out issues in-between ones with big interviews to focus more on local pinball matters and interview people not as well known yet many times just as interesting in the pinball scene as those who are huge world.

Since I did my first interview with pinball game designer George Gomez (who did the Lord of the Rings, Sopranos & the relatively new Transformers games) for the 2nd issue, the cycle is based on new games coming out and having an interview with someone known in pinball. Local news is added like plugs of one of the 3 pinball related conventions that happens in the state annually at this point & results from them. Lastly once the interview is done and convention news is added I make sure that the map is as up-to-date as possible. No matter what I do the map is outdated not long after the issue is put into print. So I don’t print hundreds at once, but instead I print them as I put them out and when machines change on location they are then changed on the map portion of the zine.

Favorite pinball machine to play in Jacksonville? Most challenging pinball machine?

AC/DC is hands down my favorite machine to play in the wild (term for playing pinball machines on location) in the 904 area code. Spider-Man used to be my favorite (hence him being on the cover of the first issue) but that machine was replaced with a Transformers machine. AC/DC & Spider-Man were designed by Steve Ritchie, who is also the designer of the first pinball machine that I ever bought, which was Terminator 2 last year. Transformers is no freaking doubt the most difficult and unforgiving machine in town. I walk up to the game and see an average last score of around 3 Million. For a few weeks I had the highest score @ 70 Million points until local pinball great ROZ knocked out 96 Million point (1st) & 99 Million point (Grand Champion) games leaving me @ 3rd behind a default grand champion score of 75 Million.

What’s next for 904 Pinball Zine?

The term full spectrum dominance comes to mind. The 904 Pinball Zine also has a youtube channel which has more interviews not in the printed zine, footage from pinball conventions, footage of pinball arcades in other regions and high scores from machines around the area code so people know who/what they’re up against next time they go out. A 904 Pinball Zine shirt is currently being designed. We’ve made a lot of ground in a year’s time and this is really just the beginning. We currently have 62 machines on location in what is the largest area code of America landwise. Considering that the Seattle area has over 2 times that amount of machines on location, pinball in the 904 area code has got a long way to go before it is anywhere near the status of being an overly saturated entertainment option and until pinball is known here as well as it is in Seattle.

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Know Your Zine Author: Plastic Crimewave

Posted by Matthew Moyer on July 29, 2011

Galactic Zoo Dossier, a tripped-out compendium of comics and psychedelic music, with every issue hand-lettered and hand-drawn, is currently my favorite zine. It’s the brainchild of Chicago fixture Steve Krakow, aka Plastic Crimewave, who also is keeping himself busy running a record label, playing in multiple bands, and doing the weekly comic strip “The Secret History Of Chicago Music.” And though it doesn’t hew to the classic photocopies aesthetic, you’ve gotta love a zine that includes a portrait of Christopher Lee in Dracula regalia on the last page – just because.

What was your first exposure to zines?

I guess when I was a teenager I was into comic-book related zines, and some underground comics. I started picking up some music zines in college.

How long have you been writing Galactic Zoo Dossier? What made you decide to create this zine?

I started GZD in 1995, just wanting to combine my love of comics and music, which many zines didn’t seem to do. I had a hook-up at a copy shop, and a job where I could draw during downtime, which was key. I also had a sample I had been trying to shop around of an underground comic “Third Eye Comics,” which there were no takers for, so I repurposed a lot of the contents for the first issue.

What kind of work goes into an issue of Galactic Zoo Dossier? Was the hand-lettering and hand-drawing something you knew you wanted to keep up with from the beginning?

I was priming myself to draw normal superhero comics in high school, so I learned how to letter and lay out panels and all that, but I became disenchanted with the idea of drawing other people’s stories (and big muscle-men) not to mention stuff I hated to draw like cars and buildings. It’s really just easier for me to hand-letter/lay-out, I really am still an idiot on computers. It does take about two years to complete an issue, but mainly because I’m constantly working on other projects that pay the bills more immediately, like posters, album covers, and I play in a few bands that tour, DJ, etc.

The last issue of GZD featured everyone from the Beach Boys to Yahowa 13 to the Gods – I can’t imagine any of the big rock magazines having such wide-ranging coverage.

Well, they used to–! Mags like Crawdaddy, Back Door Man, Mojo Navigator, Psyche Scene, Bomp!, even Creem and the old school days of Rolling Stone were pretty eclectic. Ugly Things and Shindig! are keeping the torch going currently.

The comics collages in that issue were pretty amazing too. Where do you find all of that stuff?

I have about 30,000 comics, and I’m always perusing cheap bins for more! I read a LOT of comics.

What is the most surreal interview/encounter you’ve ever had as a result of doing GZD?

Hmmm…hard to pick one.. I guess my first big interview with Simeon of the Silver Apples when hardly any info was available about them maybe? They appeared to be New Yorkers via another planet, but in fact he was a funny good o’l boy from Alabama! Reclusive acid-folk legend Clive Palmer (originally from the Incredible String Band) was surreal too, never thought the Cornwall bohemian would make it to Chicago! I couldn’t believe it was happening.

Tell me about the Secret History of Chicago Music comic. Where else might we find your work?

The SHoCM “info-strip” (as I call it for lack of a better word) sort of grew out of GZD. I found myself covering Chicago acts a lot (yeah I have some town pride, I admit it) and thought it could make a good local feature in the paper, maybe formatted a bit more like R.Crumb’s “Heroes of the Blues” trading cards. After an editor or 2 didn’t get it, one finally bit, and now it has run every other week for 7 years. I will cover all from blues to jazz, folk to garage rock, etc. I do a band portrait and research their history, often interviewing actual band members. We also do a radio show segment every time the strip runs where we play the music and try to have the artists on, and fans call in.

I also do a regular strip for the Roctober zine, and work for the mag Signal To Noise, and I used to have regular stuff in Arthur and Stop Smiling if you can track down back issues. As stated earlier a lot of posters, album covers, and even an occasional mural.

You keep very busy on a lot of side projects – a band, djing, running a label – would you run them down for us?

Well technically I have 5 bands right now– Aa…the rundown:

Plastic Crimewave Sound–acid punk band going for 10 years now (yeesh), we have 5 LPs, collaborative lps w/Oneida and Michael Yonkers, 3 45s, and a lot of compilation appearances, we’ve toured w/Acid Mothers Temple, Oneida, Comets on Fire, Marble Sheep, etc, and opened for a lot of my heroes like Sky Saxon, Ya Ho Wha 13, Love, Zolar X, Trad Gras Och Stenar, etc.

Moonrises–newish “avant-prog” trio with my gal Ms. Libby on keyboards and free-jazzy drummer Ben Billington, we’ve toured a bit and are working on getting an LP we recorded out.

Solar Fox–space ambient duo, Ms. Libby also on keys and me on guitar, we have a cassette out on Medusa tapes in Toronto.

Scum Ra–another duo of keys and guitar with Kathy of Spires That In The Sunset Rise–sorta goth/noise, cassette on Catholic tapes due soon.

Gleaming–(formerly DRMWPN) large ensemble of largely-acoustic drone, with jazzers like Michael Zerrang and Josh Abrams, Jim Becker of Califone, etc. We have one LP out, and some limited UK CDRs/cassettes. Sometimes I play solo too, or conduct the Plastic Crimewave Vision Celestial Guitarkestras, which have featured up to 70 guitarists.

I do DJ a few times a month, and have done so everywhere from LA, NY, to Japan. Usually do all 45s of 60s/70s funk, psych, garage, punk, bubblegum, glam, mod, hard rock, soul, etc

I run the label Galactic Zoo Disk with Drag City manufacturing/distributing, all reissues of obscure 60s-70s stuff from loner punk (JT IV), to full-tilt psych (Spur), and private pressed synth madness (George Edwards Group) to odd folk (Ed Askew, Michael Yonkers).

I also curate the Million Tongues festivals, we’ve had folks like Bert Jansch, Terry Reid, Michael Yonkers, Tony Conrad, Mark Fry, Simon Finn, etc.

What sort of feedback and reactions do you get from your audience and peers?

Oh, everything from pats on the back and fan mail to people thinking i’m a drug-damaged lunatic or not understanding a single thing i’m into.

What zines are you enjoying right now?

I’ve been liking stuff by Leslie Stein and Avi Spivak.

What are you listening to right now?

Oh gosh, way too much as always… Prog like East of Eden and T2, folk like Keith Christmas and Wizz Jones, Asian psych like Shin Hyun Jung and the Jacks, revisiting UK psych like Kaleidoscope and Please, song-poem genius Rodd Keith, and old timey stuff like Carter Family and Dock Boggs. I also dug out a college-era Beach Boys tape comp I made and have been loving it all over again.

What are some of the projects you have coming up soon?

Very excited to have drawn my first linear comic book in like 15 years, which is a collaboration with Japan’s Acid Mothers Temple–its sorta biographical, and is going to be an old-school comic-book and 45 record set, like I loved as a kid. It’s taking ages, but will be worth it. Knee deep in a new GZD (#9) too, which will hopefully be ready by the end of the year… hopefully! Plastic Crimewave Sound is working on an album too, and I’m about to leave for my first European tour, playing a festival in Dorset, and also Twickenham, Paris, Netherlands, etc.. I will also be interviewing UK legends like Arthur Brown, Peter Daltrey of Kaleidoscope, Edgar Broughton, Judy Dyble (Fairport Convention) and folk lord Martin Carthy!

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Know Your Zine Author: Aaron Lake Smith

Posted by Matthew Moyer on July 14, 2011

Aaron Lake SmithNewsstand junkies among you might recognize the byline “Aaron Lake Smith” from his pieces in Time or Newsweek Magazine, but the discerning zine-o-phile lives and dies by Smith’s more personal outlet, the fearsomely well-written Big Hands. In the pages of Big Hands, he blends the personal and the political in punchy, autobiographical vignettes that make for compulsive reading. You can find many issues of Big Hands in our collection, as well as his one-off Unemployment zine.

Search JAXCAT for Aaron Lake Smith’s zines.

What was your first exposure to zines?

The first zines I came into contact with were the Crimethinc publications that were littered like ticker tape around North Carolina in the late 90s and early 2000s. Evasion, Dropping Out, Inside Front–all of these publications had a massive distribution. They had this propaganda newspaper called Harbinger, and I remember reading somewhere that they printed a million copies. 1,000,000 copies. That’s what The New York Times prints today.

As for more literary, personal zines I was affected by a zine called Ride On that was basically a Cometbus rip-off written by a kid from the suburbs of Philly. Jim will probably be embarrassed that I mention it, but Ride On had a nakedness of spirit and a strong command of prose that you didn’t see in other zines. It was more like a Bruce Chatwin book and less like Evasion. It revealed the other possibilities for the pamphlet medium.

How long have you been writing Big Hands? What made you decide to create this zine?

I made the first issue in Fall of 2005. I had a part-time job and very little else going on, so I borrowed a friend’s college ID and would sneak into the university computer lab late at night to write. Kept writing, then did some editing, then gave out the zine. It got a good response and I feel like I had said something that hadn’t been said yet, so I kept making them.

What kind of work and time goes into an issue of Big Hands? When do you know that an issue is done – as far as being fully written?

It’s different for every issue. I’m always writing. But regrettably, my creative cycle involves spending several months languishing–reading books, watching movies, drinking and walking around–and then waking up one morning and with a good Protestant lashing saying, “That’s enough!” and getting to work. Once started, the zine practically writes itself. Then, rather than getting to work on the next issue, I celebrate or take a trip and then the fallowing and harvesting cycle starts itself all over again. There’s a lax supervisor inside me and a slavedriver inside me– When this slavedriver makes an appearance, I write seriously and don’t stop until he says its done.

How has your writing in Big Hands shaped or honed your writing style? In Big Hands you intermingle blunt honesty and self-deprecating humor very easily.

Every sentence matters. Each issue of Big Hands is like one of those old Swiss clocks–all the parts are delicately wrought and need to be positioned in the machine with the utmost of care. It’s like surgery, everything needs to be done carefully. The zine is a small thing made of small moving parts–kind of like Robert Walser’s microscripts. It’s not a novel–there’s no long flowing paragraphs or excessive character descriptions or chapter-long ramblings on the problems of the regional Russian Zemstvos like in Tolstoy.

Tell me about writing the Unemployment zine.

When I have a full-time job, I put my energy into having the fulltime job and living my life in the world. It’s difficult for me to have a disciplined yoga-like writing practice–you know, the ballerina gets up at six AM every morning and practices for two hours. Practice makes perfect! Small tiny steps forward. Doesn’t really work for me. The zines are made in one great push, usually when I have nothing else going on in my life. So when I had no job and no “real life” the natural thing to do was to make Unemployment.

You’ve written for everyone from Newsweek to Arthur on a broad swath of subject matter – how do you approach writing a piece for a bigger magazine/publication?

I approach writing essays, journalism and criticism the same way I approach writing a zine. The only difference is there’s an outside deadline, not the deadline I’m putting on myself. Writing for pay is the same–you psych yourself up, pace around the living room, drink a lot of coffee, and then sit down and make it happen. But you have to keep in mind that there’s a wider audience and that your language has to be more inclusive. You’re not writing for your little niche that understands all these cultural references.

Big Hands v.5. 1/2What sort of feedback and reactions do you get from your audience and peers? How did people react to the Chumbawumba issue, for instance?

I get a lot of letters, snail-mail, but now also plenty of random e-mails. I get the feeling that my audience is kind of like Morrissey’s audience, but obviously much much smaller–lost and lonely misfits who don’t fit into any scene or category but feel dissatisfied with all their various options for living-in-the-world.

People really liked the Chumbawamba zine. I’m first and foremost a fan. I hope it served as an entry point for people who didn’t know the Chumbawamba anarchist backstory and only knew them from “Tubthumper”.

Do you see a point in the near future where you will shift the majority of your independently produced writings from print to the web?

Sure. But I’m not too keen on just tossing them up on a Tumblr blog.
The medium affects the way people read a piece of writing. So it’s preferable to have the writing framed nicely, the way you frame a painting, so that it gets read with care, and not just skimmed over quickly.

What zines are you enjoying right now?

I don’t read many zines, I read books. More and more zines today read like Deepak Chopra books–they should be classified in the Self-Help section. I like zines that smell like literature, criticism, and polemic. Brandt Schmidt’s zine Shiny Things On The Ground. I always pick up Cometbus whenever there’s a new issue.

What are some of the projects you have coming up soon? Where else will we be seeing your work soon?

I’m currently up house-sitting in rural Vermont working on a new writing project. It’s mutating–maybe it’s a zine, maybe it’s a book. Also look for more articles to come out soon.

Visit Aaron Lake Smith’s blog.

Search JAXCAT for Aaron Lake Smith’s zines.

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Know Your Zine Author: Anne Elizabeth Moore

Posted by Matthew Moyer on December 9, 2010

It’s pretty much impossible to sum up Anne Elizabeth Moore’s work in the zine field (and beyond) in a couple of pithy sentences. She’s written for everyone from Punk Planet to the Onion, written books, produced a seemingly neverending stream of zines, blogs regularly, and is currently working in Cambodia with young women on various zine and self-publishing projects. Copies of Punk Planet, These United States of Annerica, Detective Stories, Winter 2009 Unlympic Games, and Cambodian Grrrl are all available in our zine collection.

Tell me about your first exposure to zines.

Like all super young fanzine kids, I thought I invented making my own books through the discovery of my earlier invention, folding multiple pieces of paper together. It wasn’t until I was in my mid-20s and making or had already made the first AnneZine that I ever saw a zine anyone else had made. It was this weird feeling of half-betrayal, half-total recognition: Oh my god, that thing I invented was also simultaneously invented by someone else, and I both love it and hate it! But it was sort of a secret thing I did for a while. I remember I was working at the Progressive magazine in the mid-1990s, and they were talking about or did run an article on fanzine culture, and they got a bunch of stuff wrong. This was right when, like, Warner Brothers and Urban Outfitters were getting into making zines, and there’d been major newspaper pieces about them and the fake Dishwasher Pete was going on Letterman and stuff. And I didn’t say anything because I was like, fuck. Real zinesters aren’t gonna care they’ve been misrepresented. They got their own media to run corrections in. A little while later when it did come out at work that I did this zine, It became this huge thing, as if, I was this secretly famous person who was all into democracy and stuff, right in their very midst! It was weird, because this was the Progressive, you know? A slightly larger independent publishing project with about the same number of contributors as the average AnneZine. But paid.

How long have you been writing and creating zines?

There are probably 100 interviews with me out there where I say that I started when I was 15, but just a couple months ago I got a box of some of my old stuff sent to me–early journals and scrapooks and stuff–and my very first zine was in it, and I totally made it when I was 11. It was a comic about a fly who had a catchphrase that was “darn!”, and it was very Garfieldesque in terms of it not being funny in the way it’s intended to be funny, and also because it was about an animal filled with pathos. I had lunch with Lynda Barry the other day and we were talking about our very first zines or little books–she mentions hers in Picture This!–and she made me tell her all about it. It was called something awesome like Buzzing Around! or Flyin’ High! or Buggin’ Out!. I can’t remember and it fell off my desk so maybe it’s lost now forever, but it was really incredibly dumb. I also had a comedy sketch that went with it, a whole routine that I tried to get people to listen to during lunch break at school, have a little comedy club? But I couldn’t get the other girls to do comedy with me. And no way was I going to hang out with boys, because of the cooties. Anyway, Lynda laughed really hard, which I am grateful for. Later, she threatened to go back in time and kick the ass of my ex-boyfriend. So, what was the question? Why is Lynda Barry the best human on earth?

A lot of readers will be familiar with your name from Punk Planet, but would you give us a quick overview of some of the other titles you have masterminded or contributed to over the years?

Well, if the Punk Planet readers out there–or any independent culture fans, really–haven’t read Unmarketable: Brandalism, Copyfighting, Mocketing, and the Erosion of Integrity (New Press), then there is a problem. I mean, even Pamela Anderson’s read that. But the Best American Comics series that I started was pretty popular, and I wrote a youth media literacy book called Hey Kidz Buy This Book: A Radical Primer on Corporate and Governmental Propaganda and Artistic Activism for Short People, and edited several comics anthologies for Fantagraphics. I’ve also contributed to The Onion, Bitch, and about every independent magazine that popped up between 1994 and 2007. I founded Matte magazine, which was a very good magazine, although square. We ran an article entirely in shorthand once. Zinesters will recognize my fanzines Pie, long-running series AnneZine, Operation Pocket Full of Wishes, Detective Stories, or the Manifesti of Radical Literature. But the thing most people don’t know I edited was the fake New York Times of September, 2008 that the Yes Men falsely claim credit for. There’s other stuff, too. Stuff you’ve seen or read or heard about. I’m pretty prolific.

How did you end up getting the opportunity to teach and mentor in Cambodia?

Shortly after we stopped publishing Punk Planet in 2007, and once Unmarketable came out, I started looking into accidental systems of oppression: situations in which, despite claims of freedom of expression and democracy, some participants do not have access to the tools they need to communicate with each other and better their lives.

So I became fascinated with Cambodia, where “democracy” is defined as the freedom to say positive things about the government, and journalists are regularly beaten up or worse for, you know, printing verified facts, and where one of the biggest papers in the country was sold in 2008 to a conglomerate based in Myanmar. Burma. An actual military dictatorship. Eventually, I was invited to come live in a dormitory in Phnom Penh for 32 young women students who were just entering school for the first time because they’d sort of been forgotten about when the educational system was rebuilt in the 1990s. When I was offered the residency, I thought: Oh-ho! This thing that I’ve devoted most of my time to since I was 11, promoting media access via print self-publishing, that isn’t working right now in the States due to what I’d call economic censorship–corporate forces pushing out non-corporate media, particularly that which speaks against corporate forces–I’m gonna see how that flies with the cute and the Cambodian.

The concept of self-publishing is not new in Cambodia : the lack of publishers often makes it the only publishing option. But because of the rampant self-censorship and very real government supression, and because visual artists are discouraged from drawing from a very early age, few examples of self-publishing actually exist. Yet as a group of 33, the dorm residents and I created close to 50 zines on topics as diverse as rice production and agriculture in contemporary society, women’s issues, spirituality, health care in the countryside, and Cambodia’s unique and disturbing genocidal history.

I couldn’t believe how well it went over. For a country where there are only three literary publishers, where freedom of expression is regularly oppressed, where we had to invent the very notion of distribution, and where the average monthly income is $60 per month–well, I thought it would be a harder sell than it was. I thought explaining why this was useful and worth spending time and a few pennies on for photocopies would be difficult. But in fact, most of the girls had just been waiting for the chance to express their opinions about the economic hardship of their country, highlight its beauty, outline their hopes for its future. So we found a way to do it safely–in English, through small social networks we invented ourselves–and wrote and drew to our hearts’ content. Perhaps the strangest part was, there was no malice in our work. It was all pure, hopeful, and enthusiastic. It is a country without irony.


What kind of work went into creating and printing Cambodian Grrrl?

Oh, like regular book publishing work. I’ve done all levels of production, from self-publishing on-the-fly to working with fancypants publishers to running a press, so when I want something to look pro, I make it look pro. When I want it to look scrappy, I make it look scrappy. And obviously, when I want it to look like the New York Times . . .

I wanted this to be comprehensible in both places. I wanted it to be clearly American and referencing that underground culture I came up in, but also acceptable in Cambodia, where if I had photocopied it and really given it that riot grrrl edge, I would have run the risk of insulting the people I was writing about, I mean, they don’t have any reference point for underground culture. Giving something that scrappy look there just means you weren’t trying very hard and don’t care. In Cambodia it’s important to care.

I thought it was interesting that you included parts of the Riot Grrrl manifesto at the end of Cambodian Grrrl. What gave you the inspiration to do that?

Well, that’s sort of my background. That was a document I stumbled across when zinemaking was a major part of my social life, and I worked on a radio show in the mid-1990s called Girl Germs and traded fanzines with–well, all those people. So that’s a living breathing document that has real, functional value in my life, like the International Declaration of Human Rights does for young Khmer women.

One of the things that we did–and Cambodian Grrrl is part of a series of books I’ll be doing from this work, one of them addresses this project specifically– was collaborate on a revision of the traditional Khmer text known as Girl Law, which circumscribes proper roles for women in Cambodian culture. It has all sorts of provisions on not making noise when you move, never looking boys in the eye, and accepting the beating your husband gives you. So our version, New Girl Law, is a letter-pressed, hand-bound book that calls for basic human rights, gender equity, the eradication of corruption, and funding for cultural production. It is a re-envisioning of a potential future for the country. It was co-written by all 33 of us in Phnom Penh, and then printed at AS220′s Community Print Shop in Providence, Rhode Island. For a while I was touring with it, using it to foster international discussions of women’s position in human rights and social justice frameworks, including among groups of economically disadvantaged creative young women in Providence and San Antonio, TX.

This work’s been shown in Chicago exhibitions Holle Cambodia (at ThreeWalls gallery), Dismantling the Corporate State and Other Amusements (at Columbia College Center for Book and Paper Arts), and for Women’s History month at the Chicago Public Library, as well as in Time Out Chicago, Make/Shift, and Print. It appeared on GritTV with Laura Flanders and Worldview with Jerome McDonnell. I’ve also lectured on this work at the University of Chicago; Women, Action, and Media 2008; and in venues and workshop spaces across the United States. Just in case, like, it sounds familiar.

Anyway, you know, the girls in the dorm I was living with in January 2008 asked me to make them a mix CD before I left, and I’d spent a lot of time talking to them about hand-forging your own culture, and making it be about things that interested you. We talked a lot about Britney Spears, and how she sings songs about boys, and how we end up singing those songs in Cambodia, even if we work in rice fields and don’t really know what a Western-style “date” is. So I essentially made them an all-grrrl post-punk and riot grrrl dance CD, which is still one of my favorite CD mixes ever. They listen to CDs while they hula hoop–most of the old punk crew would be appalled.

So the thing is, that Girl Law exists in the US, too. It’s just comes through in our advertising messages, our TV shows, and, yes, our boy-centric music culture. Which still exists today. And for sure, I felt as severely protective of/ambivalent about/frustrated by the ’90s punk/indie music scene as they do about Girl Law. And what did my peers do in the US? We rewrote the rules. I wanted the young women of Cambodia to realize that, you know, this is a strategy women have used, over and over, to recreate, fix, better, and make their own damn culture. Not to mention that, let’s be honest, there are plenty of young women, trans people, queers, and generally lost folk here in the US who forget that one response to oppression is fucking smashing it.

You edited the Best American Comics anthology in 2006 with Harvey Pekar. Would you talk a little about your experience with that? What work went into it? How was collaborating with Pekar?

I did. I miss Harvey. The book was so much about he and I finding this massive point of convergence on the politics of comics publishing and then just having fun with the results. God, I still remember how impressed I was that he was so willing to be so bold with that book. I loved him. We went on tour together for a week, too, and, like I had had nightmares when I was young about being this perky thing and being forced to spend time with some old codgery coot. But it was the best thing in the world.

Grit TV asked me to do a eulogy on him here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HsEbaLZcBlc

Tell me about the Unlympic Games zine, it was hilarious.

From January to February 2009, I held a series of sporting events in Chicago called the Winter Unlympic Games. They were a series of competitive events that engaged Chicago residents in active dialogue about Chicago’s 2016 Olympic bid. At the time, the city had entered a hundred-million-dollar bid for host-city status, despite polls indicating an overwhelming lack of support for hosting the 2016 Games. The purpose of the Unlympic Games was to look at highly organized, internationally recognized, massively marketed, thoroughly branded, and extremely expensive sporting events not from a pro or con standpoint, but from a questioning standpoint. The Unlympics included real sports, fake sports, and things that should be sports but aren’t yet, including Class-Conscious Kickball, Fashion, Karaoke, Live Action Role Play Family Dinner, The Solitary Isolation Game, and Spelling. Indoor and outdoor games were held throughout the city and open to the public. These events were sponsored by organizations with a stake in the 2016 Olympic bid. The Solitary Isolation Game, for example, held during a series of events on February 14 called the Emotional Games, was sponsored by Tamms Year Ten, an organization working to reform a supermax prison in southern Illinois that regularly uses solitary isolation. While participants competed to wear the hoods for the longest duration, former prisoners shared their experiences in the Tamms Supermax facility, and spoke of torture under police detective John Burge (currently awaiting sentencing in Chicago), and the history of torture, detainment, and gentrification that often comes to Olympic host cities in advance of the Games. Karaoke followed. After the enthusiastic participation of over 500 vocal citizens across the entire expanse of the city, Chicago lost the bid in the October vote of the International Olympic Committee.

A documentary on this project has been screened on CAN-TV and Free Speech TV. This project was featured on the radio programs Outside the Loop Radio, Vocalo, Chicago Public Radio WBEZ’s 848, and WGN. Features appeared in the online and print publications the Chi-Town Daily News, Chicago Weekly, Chicagoist, and the New York Times. However, by far the most exciting glowing write-up was on some LARP blog, which basically confused all the facts and thought we’d held a LARP game as an actual part of the Olympics. If I go down in history for anything at all, I deinitely want it to be “made Live Action Role Play an Olympic event.” There’s more information and a video at http://unlympics.wordpress.com.

You are quite busy online as well as in the print realm. Do you ever think you’ll focus all of your creative energies online or do you think the print medium is still essential for zines?

I’d like to say that as soon as every human alive has free web and computer access and total control over their own digital content, I’ll consider moving all production online, but I don’t actually think I will ever do that. For one thing, most of my zinemaking is done now in Cambodia, where cheap copiers are much easier to come by than a computer terminal. But more importantly, zines are just accessible in a way that I like. I do have a few online projects, that I use to communicate with the kinds of people who read blogs and the internet, but to do the kind of intervention work I think is necessary to achieve social change, you still need to be handy with meatspace. I know that sounds dirty.

What sort of feedback and reactions do you get from your audience and peers?

I can’t deny that I’m very well loved. It’s funny though when moving between the zine world and the “book publishing world” (pretending for a moment they’re totally different): The same things matter to me in each. So, like, an Unmarketable fan sent me a super cute note, and I wrote back, of course, and then in return I got this song that now goes on every mix CD I make. And that’s the sort of stuff that really sustains me. Because I also work in a radical, smart, art-making community in Chicago that, to be honest, isn’t all that supportive. And the work I do in Cambodia, for example, can be very very difficult. I’ve had guns pointed at me on more than one occasion (although, OK, one of them turned out to be fake) and I don’t have many peers to consort with, so “hey I really think you’re / what you’re doing is cool and here’s a blog post / song / zine I wrote about you / wanted you to have” really goes a long way.

What zines are you enjoying right now?

I’m the world’s biggest fan of Geneva 13 out of Geneva New York, which is a zine about varying aspects of this town where, like, zine culture wouldn’t seem natural. And yet, people love this thing and it’s become a really central part of public life there, and it’s really exciting. And Mickey Zacchilli is making these amazing comics I can’t get enough of. But I don’t really distinguish between zines or books or magazines or comics. I just have a massive pile of things to read on the coffee table and whatever’s up next, that’s what I’m into.

What are some of the projects you have coming up soon?

I was just given a Fulbright to return to Cambodia for the winter and work with young people studying global and independent media. It’s pretty incredible, that the US State Department is sponsoring this, and it allows me to make all sort of jokes about the percentage of money the US State Department spends on zines vs. everything else. It’s important to keep in mind that this is work that has been funded and supported by, essentially, the zine community and DIY culture for three years. I kinda miss it, but the Fulbright’s nice too. If you wanna keep up with that, I write about it at http://www.cambolgdia.blogspot.com. I’ve also signed a deal to turn that writing and some of the essays in Cambodian Grrrl into a four-book series with Cantankerous Titles, so those will start coming out soon, too.

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Know Your Zine Author – David Greenberger

Posted by Matthew Moyer on July 6, 2010

David Greenberger has been faithfully releasing The Duplex Planet zine since the late Seventies. What started out as a quirky, compulsively readable collection of interviews with senior citizens Greenberger encountered in his daily life and work has since blossomed into books, comics, albums, art installations, and segments on NPR. Even with all of these new outlets, the indefatigable Greenberger is devoted to the print zine above all else, with two (!) new issues on the way. You can find many issues of The Duplex Planet in the Zine Collection, after reading the interview, of course.

Tell me about your first exposure to zines.

Let me start off by saying I don’t use the word “zine” in reference to my work. I was first drawn to the idea of self-publishing as a means of artistic expression from my exposure to artists’ books in the early seventies. That led to mail art which brought forth not only the postcards and singular mailings, but a range of chap-book sized publications.

How long have you been writing Duplex Planet? What made you decide to create a print zine? And what gave you the inspiration to collect (and publish) interviews with the elderly?

I started publishing The Duplex Planet in 1979. This was not my first entry into the world of self-publishing, but it was the first time I conceived of producing a periodical. My earlier fascination was with the world of artist’s books. In the mid-seventies I’d mail order regularly from Printed Matter in New York City, which stocked all manner of publications at affordable prices. I was especially taken with something Ed Ruscha said in an article I read, describing the thrill he got from seeing a stack of his new books back from the printer and in neat piles in front of him on the table. As I looked around the studio at my paintings that were leaned everywhere, this held a certain fascination for me.

The Duplex Planet found its shape and size within the first four issues and has remained basically the same since. Though the material has reached a broader audience in its other forms (books, CDs, performances, comics books, etc), I still feel very attached to the whole act of publishing it myself for it’s relatively small audience. On the one hand, it keeps me on my toes, coming up with new material on a regular basis, and on the other, the aesthetic of the work itself is enhanced by its very means of production and distribution. Most copies go to subscribers, and, since one of my aims is to sketch in characters little by little — the way you’d get to know someone you bump into once in a while — that process is heightened by each new issue being actually dropped into a reader’s hands over a period of time. (It was monthly for about a dozen years, bimonthly for a decade and a half and lately it’s been quarterly or thereabouts.)

My initial impulse to do this was entirely personal: I wanted to get to know people who were nearing the end of their lives but whom I’d never met before. I never knew them before so wasn’t caught up in mourning their assorted losses (internal and external). I found this personally enriching and realized it was a rare occurrence in our society. Most people are exposed to aging solely by witnessing family members age and die. Our own mortality is so tied up in that familial parade that it is very hard to learn anything from it that doesn’t underscore our own finite lifespans. Meeting new people, no matter what age they are, can be a rich and vivid experience -– it makes us feel good. The wonderful mystery of all relationships is that they start at the point we meet and move forward, with all the life that preceded that meeting being asked and told about, but never coming to life the way the present does.

All of the major decisions in our lives — choice of career, where to live, whether or not to have a family, etc – are made having had examples of others already doing them. As regards aging and decline, we are generally limited to the loss of those we’ve known the longest: first our grandparents and their generation, and then our parents. I have benefited from meeting so many elders who are not related to me over the past thirty-two years (which is to say, I never knew them before and they new knew me, so we both started from the same point and moved forward together, however briefly). The Duplex Planet is my way of taking that personal experience, abstracting it somewhat, and letting it land on people as it may. Depending on who encounters it, there are many different responses. I don’t seek consensus but relish the messiness of art: that there is no one right way to perceive it. If someone reads or hears it as dadaist wordplay, that’s fine. If someone else is moved by the fleeting but potent glimpses of ordinary people talking in ordinary ways, that’s perfect too.

Was Studs Terkel or the WPA an influence on your work? How did you develop your interviewing style? It’s very subtle, mostly open-ended questions and letting the interviewee set the tone and pace.

I read and admire his work, but other than the fact of it being other people’s voices I’m gathering, I feel that it’s a very different undertaking. I like to find material that is unique to someone talking to me –- the way a real conversation is a unique occurrence. Furthermore, I’m interested in what I call fractured narratives –- incomplete story arcs that allow the character to resonate rather than a complete story.

To end up with conversational material I need to put myself into the mix, so the things we talk about reflect me as well as the person I’m talking with. And, with many of the people experiencing memory loss, I need to get things going in a way that will engage them, but then also keep them engaged. If they change the subject midstream, I go with them wherever that may lead. I’m not after historical information or data of any sort, but the vivid presence of another person in whatever condition they may be in, or however small their orbit has gotten.

When you first started publishing Duplex Planet, did you encounter any resistance or suspicion about what you were doing? (I’m thinking from nursing home officials, etc.)

None at all. I took a job at a nursing home as an activities director specifically so I could meet a range of elderly. It was a wonderful place, a small family-owned home, forty-five beds, all male, run by the son of the man who’d started it. Ray Murphy, the owner, was a wonderful man who truly cared about the men who lived there. I worked there for a few years (1979-82), long enough to find that I didn’t want to be working at a nursing home, but wanted to continue to meet the people who lived in them. In the decades since, the history of my work becomes a way in. Also, I’ve been doing artist residencies to create new works (monologues with music, also books, as well as material in the ongoing periodical). These have been for museums and universities and that also helps to open doors.

Is there a particular interviewee that stands out in your memory? Do you have a favorite story or anecdote that you’ve been told? Has there ever been a time when you were completely caught off guard by a response?

There have been so many people I’ve met and talked with over more than half of my life that many of them come to mind depending on what I’m doing. Surprise ones seem to always resurface, prompted by something that was said or occurred. They even show up in my dreams. I am routinely knocked out by the people I meet — just as I am when it’s not in the context of this ongoing work of mine. Most recently, there was a woman in Milwaukee (I was there as artist in residence for three months) named Maxine Gilboy. She had very little short term memory but loved to converse with me. I followed wherever it went, even if it didn’t make sense. In the end, the emotional resonance was the same — or even more potent -– than the hundreds of thousands of conversations I’ve had in my lifetime with people who do have all their memory. I remember pretty much none of those conversations, because the main purpose of most conversation is to give us an emotional memory of a person. We’ll forget what was said, but will remember, “Oh, I liked that guy, I’d like to see him again.“

Duplex Planet has a nice web presence right now. Would you ever publish exclusively online?

As an artist, I struggle to carry out my ideas and stay afloat. That’s not a complaint, it’s a simple fact. It’s the trade off for doing things exactly the way I want to, rather than tailoring it to the marketplace. I believe in what I do, and enough other people also do, so that I know what I do matters. That said, I like making things that you hold in your hand (or put on your wall), objects. The website has been a tool to get people to find out about these things that I make: The Duplex Planet, CDs, books, drawings, etc.

What kind of work goes into creating an issue? How much time?

I print two at a time, I get a better price from the printer that way. That’s how I’ve been doing it since the early nineties. I have files for pieces that will go into issues and sometimes they fit what I’m doing, but lately issues have been built around regional projects: Chatanooga, TN, Portland, OR, Erie, PA, Cape Cod, Milwaukee. The issues are filled with pieces all derived from conversations with people in those cities.

The layouts for Duplex Planet are simple but very eye-catching. Who are some of the people who have contributed art and illustrations to your zine?

Most are by me, both covers and photographs inside, but over the years many friends have done artwork for covers. Some are comic artists (such as Gary Leib, Doug Allen, Wayno), others are artists in other media (including Darryl Vance, Michael Hurley, Bill Whorrall). The photographer Jim Herrington did portraits of some of the elderly I spoke with in Milwaukee and those are being incorporated into recent issues. I’m also pleased to have been able to use art by Ed Ruscha and Ralph Steadman for a couple of my CDs.

What sort of feedback and reactions do you get from your audience?

That’s a whole chapter unto itself, but in a nutshell, I hear primarily from people who are moved by my work. There are those who don’t understand it, which reaffirms for me that I’m on the right track. Their resistance to witnessing aspects of decline reveals more about them than about the piece at hand.

You’ve been able to do some amazing offshoot projects from the zine – radio segments, documentaries, music, books. How do you approach projects like these?

It’s all a mix of aesthetics, a set of skills and problem solving. I’ve found that one discipline can empower me in others –- being a bass player affected me as a painter, which affected me in making The Duplex Planet, which, in its various forms, is like painting and music for me.

What zines are you enjoying right now?

I don’t see too many lately, but The Alterrian, The Lowbrow Reader, and Ice Cream For Quo come to mind. From the past, I’d mention Dishwasher, Closest Penguin, Lost & Found Times, any by Blaster Al Ackerman, Eight Track Mind, and Symphonic & Popular Music Journal, Nancy’s Magazine, Kooks, and Civitas.

Would you give us a preview of what you are working on next?

I’ve got to get a couple issue of The Duplex Planet to the printer and have one about done, again drawn from my Milwaukee months. I’m also readying four CDs for release in the late fall. Each is with a different musical collaborator, and the titles are Never Give up Study, Oh Pa, How I Became Uncertain, and Tell Me That Before.

Posted in Interviews | 2 Comments »

JPL Zine Collection Video

Posted by Josh Jubinsky on April 29, 2010

My friend Clay Doran approached me about a project for his digital capturing class at UNF.   He was really excited about featuring the zine collection in his short video project.    It worked out great for both of us!  Thanks Clay!

 

An Introduction to the Jacksonville Zine Library by Clay Doran

Here’s a link to the video – http://vimeo.com/11197955

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Know Your Zine Author – John Porcellino

Posted by Andrew Coulon on April 27, 2010

John Porcellino recently celebrated publishing 70 issues of King-Cat Comics in 20 years.  That’s a great accomplishment, especially considering that most zines never make it past the fifth issue.  His autobiographical comics focus on single moments, scrapping away all of the clutter to expose simple, real experiences in his life.  It goes without saying that we here in the Zine Collection are very excited to offer up an email interview with John.  Read on….

How did you first get into zines?

I’d been making little handmade booklets since I was a kid, and in High School I began making photocopies of them, to give to my friends. In 1987 I started making an art and poetry magazine called Cehsoikoe, which I sold at a local record shop. One day I got a letter in the mail from a girl named Lainie the Oyster, who lived a few towns over from me, and also published a little magazine, called “Lime Green Bulldozers.” I went to her house one day and she showed me Factsheet Five. Before that time I was unaware that there was a “Zine World.” Finding out about that network changed my life, and I’ve been involved in it ever since.

How long have you been writing King-Cat Comics?

I started King-Cat in May of 1989.

What made you decide to create a print zine and what keeps you going?

Well, at the time there was no other option. There was no web, I didn’t even have a computer. What keeps me going? In print? I guess I’m old-fashioned, but I love paper, I love books, I love holding something in my hand and being able to put it on a shelf.

Do you have a large web presence right now? Would you ever publish exclusively online?

I have a website, and a Facebook page, and a few blogs. I have an ongoing archive of my comics going up online at WhatThingsDo.com. The internet is great for so many things– getting the word out and communicating, discovering things, and tracking down information. I suppose it’s inevitable that some amount of my comics publishing efforts will eventually be online, but I would hope that I’d be able to maintain the print version of King-Cat as well.

What kind of work goes into creating an issue? How much time do you put into your publishing?

I keep notebooks around me where I jot down ideas, phrases, titles, and memories etc as they come to me. I also always have little scraps of paper, receipts for instance, with notes jotted on the back. I kind of keep that stuff around, refining my ideas until they begin to take shape. When they do, and I can start to see the next issue of King-Cat in my head, I begin the actual drawing. Once I start drawing it goes pretty fast. The bulk of the work is in the writing, and editing the writing. I’d say the whole process can take six months to a year or so. Then I get the new issue out, and it all starts over again.

Where do you get your ideas from?

Well, I’m mostly an autobiographical cartoonist, so I get my ideas from life, from things that happen to me or people I know. I’m always looking at other people’s work too, comics, movies, books. They all kind of inspire me, or take my thoughts in a new direction. My inspiration comes from life, and, to me, life includes everything, so I draw inspiration from all over.

Several of your zines reference Zen masters and koans. Do you draw a lot of influence from Zen Buddhism?

I discovered Zen in the mid-nineties, and I always say it was like finding a pair of shoes in your closet that you’d forgotten you had. You put them on and it’s just such a comfortable, natural fit. Zen is concerned with the reality of everyday life, and that’s something I was already trying to work with in my artwork, and my life. So, I had those impulses before I discovered Zen, but Zen kind of put a form to these amorphous ideas and feelings I’d had floating around for many years.

You also have a few comics about Greek philosopher Diogenes of Sinope. What draws you to him?

Same thing that drew me to the old Zen masters: these wild-and-free old men out there prowling around the fringes of society trying to get us to open up our eyes. They may seem gruff and unconventional, but they’re acting out of compassion, they’re trying to help us get our heads out of the sand and really experience what it means to be alive, to be a real live human being.

You recently went on a long tour to promote your work. How did that go?

The tour was fantasic. It’s so rewarding to get out there and meet people who read my comics, and see new things, meet new people, connect directly like that. It’s the best feeling in the world. I hadn’t been down south since I was five years old, so it was all very exciting and new to me.

What zines do you enjoy?

I have such broad interests, so I like all kinds of things, but I especially like personal, auto-biographical things. I’m interested in real life, and what that means for other people. Specifically some of my favorite zines are Roctober, Laterborn, Strange Growths, but there are too many to name them all.

Do you have any non-zine reading recommendations?

Well, for me, Kerouac and the other Beats were big inspirations. I think they’re an important part of our culture that are often overlooked… I just read an “autobiography” of Federico Fellini, called I, Fellini, that I think any creative person would find interesting. I read a lot of non-fiction, stuff in The New Yorker or Harper’s…

Can you give us a preview of what you are working on next?

I’m always at work on the next King-Cat. And I’m putting together a new book about an illness I had in the 90′s, called The Hospital Suite. I’ve got so many little projects and big projects going on all the time… I keep busy!

Posted in Interviews, Staff Picks | 1 Comment »

Know Your Zine Writer – Sandra Knauf

Posted by Matthew Moyer on March 19, 2010

Sandra Knauf is the driving force behind Greenwoman, a zine devoted to gardening, environmentalism, and all manner of outdoor DIY pursuits. It was an early favorite amongst the members of the Zine Committee for its impassioned (and educational) writing and a quirky, homemade design sense. Several of the issues are currently available for checkout, and the rest of the series will soon be added to the Collection.

Tell me about your first exposure to zines.

Being an unhip, middle-aged Coloradoan, zines were part of the great unknown for me until a few years ago, where I first read about them in Ariel Gore’s wonderful book How to Become a Famous Writer Before You’re Dead. Her book advises writers to just get your work out there, publish it yourself if you have to, and she mentioned zines. I ordered a few zines from Microcosm Publishing to find out what they were all about and a new world opened up. I fell in love! Later, I figured out that I had been exposed to zines before. Years ago I had read Al Hoff’s book Thrift Score, the definitive book about thrift store shopping/American material culture & kitsch/etc. She published these little booklets before the book, and I wound up buying all the issues that she had. She was selling them for super cheap, like 50 cents apiece, and they were so fantasic! After reading Gore’s book, I thought, oh, those were zines! Just this last summer I noticed that some things I had in my library, handmade booklets on herbs and cooking, for example, were really zines.   

How long have you been writing Greenwoman? How did the zine come to be?

I published the first issue of Greenwoman in May 2008. After reading Ariel Gore’s book and being floored by the talent of some of these zine writers, I thought, okay, I want to do this! I’d worked on a fundraising book on gardening while in a garden club a few years earlier and so I had a little experience and I felt confident that I could publish something entertaining and educational. I can’t even tell you how psyched I was and how excited to begin!

What made you decide to create a print zine? What sort of writing had you done prior to Greenwoman? Was there ever any temptation to just slap it all up online?

Slapping it online? Hell no! I’m a hand’s on person. I see making zines like cooking, like making a garden, a home; I relish the work, the planning, the intricacy, the intimacy. Also, I want to present my best work possible, and it would be impossible (at least for me) to do that on a blog. To me, writing takes time and a lot of thought and finessing and rewriting…and even though I’m not a perfectionist, I always see how I could have done it a little better. It’s fun, because you make yourself a deadline and you get it out there, so you see results. And zines are REAL, you can hold them in your hand, send them to people you love, let them clutter up your house.

I did have quite a bit of writing experience before Greenwoman. Many years, in fact, as a suffering, mostly unpaid, but happy writer that continues today. I’d written for local publications, did a few magazine features, had some humorous essays published in the garden journal GreenPrints, written six columns as an op-ed guest columnist for The Denver Post. I’d even read my essays on the radio (KRCC, southern Colorado’s NPR affiliate). I’ve been in love with writing, fiction and nonfiction, for many years, and by many, I mean almost two decades. From my first creative writing class, when I went back to college in the early 1990s. 

What kind of work goes into creating an issue? How much time?

I spend a lot of time thinking about it. I think about what I can do for a cover, what artwork I have available (collages I’ve made), what I can come up with. I have a pretty big collection of gardening books, catalogues, pictures, a lot of vintage stuff, Dover books, most bought at flea markets, yard sales and thrift stores–plenty of material to work with. I thought it would be funny to have these “Veggie Comix” made from embroidery transfers of decades past, something I was fascinated with as a kid–anthromorphic vegetables & fruits, so I do a couple of pages of those in each issue. I bought those transfers on eBay.

For the writing part, I send out S.O.S’s to my writing friends– “please, I don’t wanna do this alone!” I whine, and I bribe them with free copies and plants from my garden. I tend to get very sick of my own voice in these productions, so I really try to get some friends to join me. So far, I’ve been thrilled to publish some of their work, as well as a story by Bruce Holland Rogers, an award-winning fantasy writer, and an essay on bees from the late Al Meyerhoff, an environmental lawyer who had been published in the L.A. Times and The Huffington Post. These last two were fabulous scores from really wonderful men who either let me reprint their work for free or for a pittance. It made me realize, once more, the generosity and incredible goodwill among writers.

So far, I’ve always used as a main essay one of my “old” writings, something I wrote about during the last decade while learning how to become a gardener and gardening with my children, transforming our urban property, doing this “country in the city” thing. This is really why I started the zine, because I had these stories that I cared about and I wanted to see them published. That and because promoting gardening and environmentalism is of the utmost importance in my life. I still have a couple of essays I want to publish from back then, and I’m always out there, having new adventures. Once I figure out what I’m going to do and can focus on putting the issue together, it goes pretty fast. It takes a couple of weeks, working a couple hours here, a few there…maybe 40 hours altogether, I’d guess, in actual hands-on work.

Where do you get your ideas from? Your life and your work seem very much intertwined.

I have so many ideas, Matthew, it’s like a bad case of ADD every day. I get caught up in a lot of things. I love gardening and Nature, and that’s the focus of this zine, and I’m always thinking about it, about what I’m going to do this year (join a community garden, keep working on a native plant documentation project at our Red Rocks Canyon Park, and, I’m going to try to do something super-subversive and funny, grow Peter Peppers–native peppers that, I kid you not, actually resemble penises). I’m always thinking about what I want to write about, but I also get easily obsessed with other things. For instance, these last few months I’ve been fascinated with Julie & Julia (and learning about Julie Powell, Julia Child, and reading all these books, and trying to figure out why Nora Ephron did not portray Julie Powell true-to-life in the film), and now I’m into the Grey Gardens thing, exploring these fascinating anarchist women who lived in shocking filth and a strange combination of both unparalleled freedom and imprisonment. I could make a zine about both of these subjects; there are so many rich subjects. My zines and my life are completely intertwined. I think my feminism, my love of film and food and a lot of other things overlap, and some of the strange obsessions spill over into Greenwoman.

Speaking of which, I liked the twine binding and collaged covers. Do you do all of the art yourself?

No, I steal some of it! Actually, I felt very guilty after the last issue because I used a picture of an actor, and I shouldn’t have, it was copyright infringement. But I wasn’t clear on all that (I know, no excuse), and I’m not going to make that mistake again. That said, thanks for the compliment. Everything else is legit. The covers are from photographs I’ve taken and from my collages. I love visual art, although I have no training. I’m a folk artist, I guess. I took the idea of the twine binding from Christoph Meyers’ zines, 28 Pages Lovingly Bound With Twine. Christoph Meyers was one of the first zine authors I fell in love with, he’s an incredible writer, and I really liked the craftmanship and look and feel of the twine bindings, so I borrowed that idea. It’s really a pain in the ass to tie all those knots, but it’s a labor of LOVE and I think people respond to that.

From your work with Greenwoman, have you made connections with other zine writers? What sort of feedback and reactions do you get from your audience?

I’ve contacted a few zinesters and a few have contacted me, and Greenwoman may have a few fans out there, but I haven’t received a lot of mail because, maybe, I don’t know, my zine’s more polished, less punk, and I’m older, kind of an old lady in the zinester world (I just turned 47) so maybe the people who read zines aren’t as comfortable contacting me. They don’t realize that, inside, I’m just an advanced twelve-year-old. 

I’ve written several of the writers I love, including Celia Perez (I Dreamed I was Assertive). I was contacted by Dan Murphy, who writes The Juniper. Dan is super-cool, and such a garden lover. I totally develop crushes on all the people I connect with because zines are such a passionate media. Maybe a few zines are made out of anger, and I can relate to that, but the vast majority are made from love, and it shows. Currently, and I’m sorry if this sounds kiss-ass, but I’m being completely sincere, I have to say I am in love with zine librarians. I’ve had a lot of contact with them as I’ve sought out a few librarys to send Greenwoman to. Jessy Randall (a brilliant poet and YA novelist who is the zine librarian at Colorado College, just a couple of miles from where I live) is also a zinester. Jenna Freedman, the zine librarian at Barnard College where they collect zines by women, rocks. She does a lot for the zine community and does her own entertaining and brainy zine, Lower East Side Librarian. Most of the zine libriarians I know are writers, educators, and just brilliant people. They’re on the cusp of seeing what is important now in American literature. I also love Sage Adderly, who carries my zines in her distro, Sweet Candy Distro. She’s a mama, a tattoo artist, a sensitive, talented writer of zines (Marked for Life) and a beautiful human being.  

What zines are you enjoying right now?

Currently I’m reading a book that was compiled from zines, Make Your Place: Affordable, Sustainable Nesting Skills, by Raleigh Briggs, which has a lot of natural house cleaning, health and beauty recipes. It’s fantasic. And I just ordered Christoph Meyer’s book What I Did Last Summer. Since October, I have not had enough zine reading time. I was recently thinking I need to buy MORE zines, even though I still have some I haven’t read. I’m kind of greedy. I’d love to read more of some writers I admire, Celia Perez and the author of Trailer Trash, Michele Shute. I’d like to order tons of zines, just to search for more interesting writers to become enamored with–maybe this summer.

Do you think zines have a place in public libraries?

You’re kidding, right? Okay, you’ve forced me to climb atop my high horse. I’ve been writing a long time, I’ve loved reading since kindergarten, and I even managed to get a B.A. in English, so I know a little about literature. Zines are so much more important than many of the mass produced “products” in libraries today (you know what they are, like something with Dummies in the title, or Goosebumps, or the latest celebrity or politician tell-all-for-money). Zines are the most authentic form of writing self-expression, because no one is telling you what to do, there’s no editorial or market imput. Zines are produced by one person or a small group of people who write solely because they love the printed word and they feel they have something to say. Zines are the opposite of corporate publishing garbage. They may not always be beautiful or perfectly written but they are pure, and many are fabulous examples of living history–chronicles of what it’s like to live in the good old U.S. of A. from the point of view of a real person (versus, for example, a celebrity). 

Would you give us a preview of what you are working on next? 

For Greenwoman Issue #6–grab the breath mints, I’m going to write about garlic. I got turned on, so to speak, to garlic this last year when a local gardening guru, Larry Stebbins, the director of Pikes Peak Urban Gardens (they create community gardens in the Pike’s Peak region and also provide horticultural education) was rhapsodizing about his home-grown garlic. He said that when he bakes lasagna the aroma is so heavenly that his neighbors come over to investigate! Of course, that intrigued me. Then I was astonished to learn that 70% of garlic sold in the U.S. comes from China! Internally I screamed, nooooooooooo! So I’m going to try to inspire people to grow their own garlic. I’ve discovered there are lots of different varieties, Creole garlics, Italian garlics, and the one I’m going to try to grow, Inchelium Red, is a garlic that was found on the Colville Indian Reservation in Inchelium, Washington. I’ve cooked with a few of these garlics this fall and winter, so I know first hand, they’re fabulous. I’m probably also going to publish a story on a community garden experience gone wrong, and, hopefully, I’ll scavenge some brilliant work from friends. (Note to readers–if you are a garden writer, contact me!!) This next issue will debut the art of my friend Rachael Kloster, who will translate the lowly garlic into a beautiful lino cut or illustration and maybe perform one or two other amazing feats.  I’m also in the process of developing another publication. I would like to publish a more inclusive and diverse collection of garden writing and art. Working on Greenwoman, I hope, will be a stepping stone to a bigger and better garden writing magazine.

Posted in Interviews, Staff Picks | 5 Comments »

Know Your Zine Writer – Max Michaels

Posted by Matthew Moyer on February 25, 2010

To help prepare you for our Much Ado About Books Zine Events, we’re kicking off a series of short interviews with several of the participating writers and creators. Next up is Max Michaels, publisher of local zine Movement. Enjoy!
 
Please introduce yourself and Movement Magazine.
 

I’ve been defined by my peers as a “prolific outsider artist whose influence on the local Jax scene is unmistakable.” True or not, I first independently published MOVEMENT in the summer of 1992 with my own creative outline in mind, focusing on the music and arts scene. Close to two decades later I am still publishing the magazine with correspondents across the county and around the world. Publishing the magazine has led me into dozens of other projects including gallery exhibitions of my Rock and multimedia photography, club & nightlife promotions, music and talent management, and film production.

When and how did you first become involved with zines?

When I was 11 or 12 my father was the treasurer of a local credit union and he would to take me to his office with him when he had to go back to work at night and I’d get parked in the break room which had a copier. I would cut up magazines or type up articles and paste them into a handmade layout and recopy them into my own little magazines to hand out to my friends at school the next day. Later on in high school I focused on photography and continued to make little zines and comics. After graduating I got much more serious about publishing, it was in my blood, so I taught myself all I could and had some pretty tragic first experiences with a couple minor upstart local zines, none of whom were willing to cover subjects that held my (or anyone else’s) interest, either that or they could not hold themselves together. So I set out to create a vehicle for my vision that could accommodate a broader scope of artists than anything I had worked with prior. I relocated to Gainesville, which was only an hour from home and at the time had a much better music and club scene than Jax, where I met a great group of writers and club kids and started MOVEMENT. The rest is history.

You do all of the design, layout, distribution and editing yourself. What work goes into producing an issue?

I do the design and layout myself, but its all the writers, artists and sales team that make it happen. It’s very much a group effort, and producing an issue is fairly mechanical as long as their departments are functioning smoothly. Obviously advertising is the life blood of the industry, and though unfortunately its been a bit anemic as of late, signs have been showing promise for stabilization.

What’s the strangest thing that’s happened to you because of Movement?

That I’ve been able to carry it on for close to two decades now! Who knew? Total shock to me, but a welcome one. I am completely and consistently humbled and overwhelmed by the vast talents that I have had the privilege to work with over the years. It’s made the lot of us a little family. I guess also becoming close with some of the artists I idolized in my youth is always a little strange to me, and embarrassing when they call my cell and their music is my call tone.

Though Movement does have a web presence, you’ve always been very adamant about giving the print edition priority. What’s your rationale?

There is no rationale involved at all. It is entirely foolish I’m sure, but I am a nostalgic artist and as we were one of the few pioneering publications to embrace the web early on, we will also champion the undeniable need for a quality street worthy underground zine that embraces and supports the independent artists who struggles every day to be heard in the shrinking print media pool or are left to drown in the information storm on the web.

What projects are you currently working on?

I will be expanding MOVEMENT Publishing projects this year beyond the magazine, aggressively publishing a few new series on our comic publishing imprint, as well as some biographic releases relating to our art and nightlife history in the city.

Posted in Events, Interviews | Leave a Comment »

Know Your Zine Writer – Joe LaChut

Posted by Matthew Moyer on February 22, 2010

To help prepare you for our Much Ado About Books Zine Events, we’re kicking off a series of short interviews with several of the participating writers and creators. Next up is Joe LaChut, publisher of hardcore punk zine Seven Inches To Freedom. Enjoy!

Please introduce yourself and Seven Inches to Freedom.

My name is Joe Lachut.  I’m 27 and live in Ft. Myers, Florida.  I started SITF a few years back and am now up to 7 issues.  I originally started the zine because not many zines were covering what I wanted to read about.  I wanted a music zine that had more that just interviews and reviews, it needed a more personal touch.  So I tried/try to incorporate all of those things into each issue.  Plus, up until recently with the addition of Give Me Back zine, (a great zine out of Washington DC http://www.givemeback.org) most of the bigger zines came out of California, so the east coast wasn’t getting talked about as much.  I figured that since I interact with different folks, see different bands, etc. I could offer up a different viewpoint.  As of now, print run have been from 300 to 500 copies of each issue and up until issue #7 have been free in person, $1 by mail (now they are $1 in person and $2 by mail).

When and how did you first become involved in zines?

Even before I got into punk I loved music magazines.  Metal Maniacs, AP (when it actually covered “alternative” bands) etc…  I also stayed up late to watch 120 minutes and Headbangers Ball on MTV and was always really intrigued with the lesser-known bands that they sometimes played…and when I finally found punk, which was in the mid to late 90′s, zines and punk went hand in hand.  So I would go to a show and someone would have a table set up with a crate or shoebox full of records, tapes and zines.  It took me some years to actually get up the nerve to publish my own zine.  I just never thought I had much that people would be interested in to write about…but I loved talking about records and figured that there are tons of music related things I can write about, so the well wouldn’t run dry, so why not try my hand at it?

Tell me about the work that you do in putting together each issue of the zine.

As much as I love doing SITF, starting a new issue is always really daunting.  First, I make a rough outline of what is going to be in the next issue, but it takes me actually forcing myself to get into “zine-mode” before I start work on an issue.  “Work” consists of  researching whatever I’m writing about, which means scouring the internet, old zines, records and emailing whoever I can get a hold of that was involved.  Then writing everything, and then the layout, which is usually the most time consuming.  I don’t really use a computer for much more than shrinking/enlarging or cleaning up images, all the rest is done by hand…and I’m pretty meticulous about the layout…a little too much sometimes.

Up until recently, I used to photocopy the zines myself, so that involved multiple, long and stressful trips to copy places.  (I used to scam lots of copies, so the threat of getting caught always weighed on me).  But now, I use a local print shop that does a great job, so I then wait to get a call from them, then I usually get some folks to help, put on a movie and collate and staple like crazy!

You did a Florida-only issue of Seven Inches awhile back – did you encounter any surprises as you gathered the material and content?

I didn’t encounter a ton of surprises, but talking to folks that were around before I got into hardcore/punk really filled in some holes.  I love the “behind the scenes” stuff that only get by talking to people who were involved.

What’s been your favorite moment working on Seven Inches to Freedom?

There’s been a ton of great moments.  The aspect that consistently makes me smile is the mail; writing letters, packing up zines/records/etc. and getting off work to find a full PO Box really can’t be beat.

Are you working on a new issue right now? Would you let us in on some of the things you’ll be covering?

Issue #8 will have all of the regular features plus the addition of two permanent columnist (besides myself).  I’m also working on a “Zines vs. Blogs” story where I ask a series of 5 questions of a handful of zine writers and folks who have regularly updated blogs.  The questions basically ask where zines stand in 2010 and if blogs are replacing or co-existing within the underground publication world.  They’ll will, of course, be more record talk and hardcore/punk madness!

Posted in Events, Interviews | Leave a Comment »

 
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