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 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.
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.
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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