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Know Your Zine Writer – Ian Koss

Posted by Matthew Moyer on February 19, 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 Ian Koss, publisher of Ink 19. Enjoy!

Please introduce yourself and your webzine, Ink 19.

My name is Ian Koss; I’m the publisher and co-founder (with Francis P. Dreyer III) of Ink 19. We started Ink Nineteen in early 1991 as a printed complement to a public-access cable video show, to be called “Room Nineteen.” (We spelled out the numeral in those heady pre-text-message, pre-URL days.) The show never quite coalesced, but we proceeded with plans for publication, and were in print through the end of 2000. Ink 19 continues to publish online, at www.ink19.com.

When and how did you first become involved with zines?

I was originally involved with the campus paper as an undergraduate; I was also involved with the radio station and was an avid music fan. My computer science degree gave me early access to the internet — these were the pre-WWW days, when the medium had email and newsgroups and not much else. Publishing Ink Nineteen was the solution to the equation of what to do with those interests.

At its height, Ink 19 was distributed throughout the state and the Southeast – what kind of work went into planning, producing and distributing an issue?

An unbelievable amount of work from a large group of selfless, dedicated and vastly underpaid people went into each issue. We did almost everything in-house — editorial, layout, production, distribution, ad sales, billing. It was a full-time job for a handful of people, and a week’s worth of 20-hour days to publish each issue.

Without corporate backing, we always had to come up with creative solutions to problems, since we couldn’t “wash them away with the money hose,” as we liked to say. To this day I have no idea how we were able to get it done, month after month.

Tell me your favorite Ink 19 behind-the-scenes story.

Shortly after we first started distributing in the Tampa area, I got a call from a well-established quasi-religious organization in that area, wanting to purchase a full-page ad at our standard rate. We’d sold very few full-page ads at that time, and all at a steep discount, so the money was tempting. But it felt wrong, so I told them I’d call them back. I thought about it for five minutes, then decided it was a can of worms we didn’t want to open. When I called back to tell them we were turning down their ad, they became furious, citing their freedom of speech and threatening legal action. I couldn’t decide whether to be amused or insulted.

Another time, legendary underground producer Kim Fowley called me on the phone out of the blue and spoke to me for about 30 minutes. I was completely zonked on cold medicine at the time, lacking the sense to beg off and call him back at a more lucid time. I don’t recall much of the conversation, other than his promising that he would overnight some sample recordings. He didn’t — I never heard from him again.

You made the decision to take Ink 19 online several years ago, what prompted that?

Ink 19 has always had a foot in the digital realm — even from before the first issue, which featured writing that was solicited and collected over the internet. Production was always dependent on some form of electronic communication, whether it was transmitting layout files over balky 2400 modems or emailing PDFs of proofs. Our editorial department was fully online, meaning all articles were collected, proofed and prepared over the internet, by 1998. We were able to do so much with so little mostly because we leveraged technology as much as we could, but by the end of 2000 it was clear that the spiraling cost of dealing with print, coupled with sagging ad sales as the first dot-com bust loomed and the music industry found itself unable to deal with digital distribution, doomed Ink 19 as a paper publication.

At the same time, everything Ink 19 needed to “publish” online was mostly in place (we’d been updating our website since 1997), and publication costs there were nearly nil — literally a thousandth the monthly cost of putting out a printed edition. The decision to publish online seemed somewhat obvious to me, as it meant getting rid of the aspects of the magazine that were the most expensive and least fun.

What current projects are you working on?

There are several projects within Ink 19 itself that I’m working on, there’s always room for improvement. I’m also involved with community radio again, with a weekly show showcasing the WTF-ness of the music I like. When time allows, I’ll play with some local buskers for spare change. In between all of that, I’ll work on folding little bits of paper and other distractions-from-distractions.

Posted in Events, Interviews | 1 Comment »

Know Your Zine Writer – Patrick Hughes

Posted by Matthew Moyer on February 12, 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. First up is Patrick Hughes, contributor to scores of zines and magazines, as well as the author of the Diary of Indignities book and the Bad News Hughes blog. Enjoy!

Please introduce yourself.

Hello, my name is Patrick Hughes.

When and how did you first become involved in zines?

In the early 1980s I started reading zines. For fans of and participants in offbeat, independent or underground music, film, politics and culture, zines were crucial for disseminating information and networking. I probably wrote my first piece for a zine in the mid ’80s.

What’s your favorite piece you ever wrote for a zine?

Probably an interview with the Gainesville band Spoke, which ran in an issue of Maximum Rock ‘n’ Roll in 1991 or 1992. It was apparently a bit controversial, because I didn’t ask stock questions and cracked wise at the band’s expense, but I thought it was funny and informative and provided an honest impression of the personalities involved. The zine itself has a lot of history in a particular slice of the music scene and had been very important to me at one time, so it was nice to be published in it, even if by that point it wasn’t as relevant to my lifestyle or interests.

You’ve gone on to contribute to an eclectic variety of magazines and other publications, and even had a book published – did zines at all serve as sort of an incubator for you where you could hone your writing voice?

No. But participating in zines did give me the confidence to bother trying to write anything in the first place.

Tell me about the blog that provided the raw material for Diary of Indignities, the infamous Bad News Hughes.

It started out as a quick and easy way to share articles and reviews I was writing for local or regional magazines, just to scattered friends and family. Eventually I started trying to make people laugh, documenting all the terrible things constantly happening to me. Somehow it got popular.

What are you currently working on?

Nothing.

Posted in Events, Interviews | 1 Comment »

An Interview with Travis Fristoe

Posted by Josh Jubinsky on April 28, 2009

A slightly dated interview for sure – being conducted in April of 2003.  But what’s true then is (mostly) true now.    I’ve known Travis for 5 or 6 years now, having co-released records with him and kept up with both his zine and musical output during that time.  It’s fitting that the first interview we post – though simply reposted,  if from not only a fellow Floridian, but a Alachua County librarian as well.   It’s also perhaps a good first glimpse into ‘ zine culture.’  Thank you Joe Biel of Microcosm Publishing for allowing me to repost this. 

Anyway, enjoy. -Josh

travis

 
Travis is the editor of America?, a critique of punk culture and touring as well as a travelogue of his adventures as a roadie for various bands and also stories of a (zine and children’s) librarian in Gainesville, FL.  Joe Biel interviewed Travis in April, 2003.

 

Joe: Who are you? What do you do?

Travis: Hello. My name is Travis Fristoe. I’m guessing Microcosm interview-worthy because I do zines (america? & drinking sweat in the ash age), organize a zine library (at the Civic Media Center), volunteer at a zine-friendly store (Wayward Council) & am usually willing to make it to the big zine gatherings (Portland Zine Symposium & Bowling Green’s Allied Media Conference).

Joe: Are you happy with that role and the way that you just described yourself?

Travis:  I wouldn’t spend so much time around photocopied bits of paper if I didn’t think it worthwhile. But, I don’t consider it a ‘role’ in the same way that I spend most Sunday nights role-playing a dwarvish beserker named M.I.T.B. Zines are a familiar methodology, one link in a larger chain of communication, resistance, support and community.

Am I happy with that? Usually. But it’s just one-side of the d20. I work 5 days a week at the downtown Gainesville public library in the children’s department.  I try to make decent vegan meals everyday.  I practice once a week with people I respect, occasionally playing shows out as reactionary 3. I write letters to friends that donít live in Gainesville. I flea-comb Ivan and let him sit in my lap as I read good books & poems until my eyes hurt. I play city-league soccer for No Idea F.C.  I hang out with Joe & Pablo & talk comics & watch pirated Asian films.  I try to keep Blue Baby, my í76 Ford Econoline, running. Etc.  Some combination of those makes for an okay night’s sleep. How pretentious does all that sound? Better to be pretentious than suicidal.  I admit to being a lot of clich’s.  That’s fine. I refuse to stop being involved in something I involve because it’s occasionally frustrating and/or overrun with squares.  Am I happy with said roles?  More happy than unhappy. If it was just about ‘happiness’, I’d slip over to the dark side with some cable tv, fast food & alcohol.

Cover of 'America?' #9

Joe: What motivates you to make zines and produce things in general?

Travis: Anti-depression. A not-too-embarrassing way to interact with the world?  Music is awesome, but when I was 15 I didn’t have a guitar.  Or a microphone.  Or the courage to play music even if I had some sort of an instrument.  When I found out about zines, it was glorious.  Even a dork like me could take part in punk culture through zines.  There can be no undervaluing the process of finding your own voice and the confidence to speak it to others.

In a larger sense, I try to look at production in a healthy D.I.Y. sense and not as part of the gruesome, dehumanizing machinations of capitalism.  Yeah, I produce cultural artifacts (zines & records) that I occasionally get money for. But we’re also creating work that speaks for itself rather than having an academic come in years later to validate & interpret.  Or waiting on museums to catalog and sell our sweat.

With zines I try to give my version of history.  My interpretations.  With records, I put out local records that would otherwise go undocumented. And with Mikeís comic of Richís thesis about house shows in Gainesville, I simply wanted to have a copy of it. I think itís brilliant and I wanted others to read it and respond. Things happen because you work to make them happen.

Joe:  Do you feel that it is wrong to profit from making zines?  What about if no compromise of ethics is necessary?  How about in terms of sustainability?

Travis:  I’ve never seriously considered making a living from my art.  Zines & records make my life better and worth fighting for, but it’s way easier for me to work a morally-okay job elsewhere rather than focusing on marketing my art.  I like those distinctions – I operate better with those separate roles. I’m in it for the long haul (whatever that means), but not in a careerist-sense. Some people don’t mind self-promotion, but it’s not my style and I’m not very comfortable about doing it.  Even writing a description of my zine for a distro can be excruciating.

And to be honest, even if I wanted to write some sort of bestseller (or play some kind of hit song or market cleverly-sloganed coffee mugs), then it wouldn’t work. I have a terrible voice.  I use too much awkward grammar & high-falutin’ words.  No one gets my jokes.  I don’t really understand what is popular and why. Etc.

I haven’t developed that sort of business sense, nor do I want to. If I get a few bucks for zines at a show, I’ll probably spend it on food later that night. If I get a dollar in the mail for a zine, Iíll probably buy a bagel or some coffee or spraypaint with that dollar. That’s sustainability for me-being able to make it through the day with these small rewards.

america7

The closest I came to such a syncronous life was when I worked at No Idea mailorder.  They make a living without compromising their ethics too much (i.e., giving most of their workers healthcare & vacation; keeping things reasonably priced, etc.). But working around music & punk stuff all day made me a bit neurotic.  I don’t want to see that 30 people order Get-Up Kids cds in a day and no one orders Yard Wide Yarns or Clamor.   It’s not that I don’t know these things,  I just don’t particularly care to be reminded of marketplace realities constantly.  Ideally, zines exist outside of the mainstream of business.  And yes, there are punk distros that I respect and gratefully use– Hello Mary Tree of Knowledge! Joe & Alex Microcosm! Gavin Stickfigure! Troy in Vancouver! And bookstrores across an underground America.

Joe: How do you feel about the zine community being comprised primarily of white kids in their twenties? (if you believe that it is). What about predominant bike culture, leftist sentiment, dumpstering, hitch hiking, train hopping, etc.

Travis:  If zines are an offshoot of the punks and if the punks are overwhelmingly white & in their 20s, then the math makes sense.  Which is a small consolation when you think you have all the goddamn answers.  Why does a certain demographic embrace punk over underground hip-hop or Limp Bizkit?  Or prefer Steven Seagal action films over Wong Kar-Wai?

The trends you listed (bikes, leftist politics, dumpstering, alternative modes of travel) are all positive things. Even if someone is riding a thousand-dollar fixed gear (instead of driving) and baking vegan treats (instead of going to McDonalds) just to earn scene points or impress someone, aren’t they still doing good things?  Motivations are tricky things that I don’t relish examining all the time.  How foolish is it to cut off allies during wartime?  I’m off on a tangent again, sorry.

These homogenized topics can be interesting insofar as maybe everyone will have a different slant.  Even within similar themes, there should be huge and revelatory differences in how people write about them, why they write about them and what sort of conclusions they draw.  I don’t mind the similarity of topics.  The problem(s) lie in treating such things as dogma.

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