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.
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!