Sunday, 23 October 2011

Interview 30

Andy Pearson is the producer of Fear and Loathing – one of the longest running punk fanzines available in the UK.

Please tell us a little something about the punk scene when you began Fear and Loathing and, what prompted you to start the fanzine? And, I have to ask about your choice of title!

I grew up in Canterbury so we were some distance from London, but there was still quite a large local 'punk' scene. People would talk about getting involved, either forming a band, arranging gigs or writing a fanzine, so I decided to contribute to
a couple of local zines. One was called 'Detached' but only lasted for a couple of issues. The other one was 'Grim Humour', which had been set-up by some people I knew in Herne Bay. The first person I interviewed for GH was actually Mark E Smith, in 1983, which may sound a little daunting in retrospect, but he was actually very friendly and helpful at the time, even though my interview was probably very naive and amateurish! Anyway, I just carried on from there... Funnily enough, although the Eighties tend to have a bad reputation, musically-speaking, there was actually a lot of interesting and exciting music around, you just had to dig a bit deeper to find it. Some of the original punk bands and 'post-punk' bands were making great albums (The Fall, Wire, Killing Joke, etc) and from America, we were getting to hear some great hardcore bands and the early so-called 'noise' bands like Sonic Youth, Swans, Big Black etc. So there was plenty to listen to and write about. However, by the end of the Eighties, GH had started to take a different direction so I decided to start my own fanzine, just so that I could carry on writing about the things I was still interested in. So 'Fear & Loathing' started, the first issue being published in April 1989. The title actually came about more by accident than anything else. I'd actually finished writing the first issue and it was all-set to go to the printers, but I still hadn't thought of a name for it. As it happened, I'd just been reading 'The Curse of Lono' by Hunter S Thompson at the time, so the phrase 'Fear & Loathing' came to mind. I thought that would do the job, but as soon as I sent it to the printers, I started to think of much more suitable titles... 'Bitter & Twisted' would've been a good one, and I think 'The Definitive Rant' (from one of my favourite Fall lyrics) would be a great title for a fanzine. I am a fan of Hunter S Thompson but I've never particularly tried to emulate his writing or lifestyle, except for very occasional references. But 'Fear & Loathing' seemed like such a good indication of what we were up against, and as time goes on, that's probably more relevant than ever.

In what ways do you think the punk music scene has changed? And, how have punk fanzines reflected this change, if at all?

all depends on what you define as 'punk'. As Stewart Home pointed out, you can talk about punk as an attitude (which has continually changed and developed) or punk as a style (eg, all the bands who have copied the Ramones or the first Clash album) which hasn't really changed very much. There are fans for both approaches, so it's all down to personal taste. I've got time for old and new music, as long as I still enjoy it. As far as the fanzine goes, I've always just tried to cover things that interest me, so that can include anyone from The Damned or The Buzzcocks, through the likes of Wire and The Residents, all the way to the Beastie Boys or even Right said Fred ! And it's not just music ... one of the best interviews I've ever done was with the novelist Hubert Selby Jnr (I would actually like to include more non-music based interviews, but for some strange reason they always seem to be a lot more difficult to set-up...) Punk fanzines (and fanzines in general) are now much more diverse than ever, in both the subjects that they cover and the formats. Obviously, the advent of the internet has provided an outlet for a much wider range of people, and although it may have its' faults, I can only support the ability to distribute information on such a widespread basis. People can write about whatever they want, on whatever level they they choose. As long as they have something to say, then it's great that it's out there.

Fear and Loathing has remained consistent visually in terms of its rough, photocopied, production values and the seemingly chaotic way the text is and images are positioned on the page. What are your thoughts/reasons behind the lay-out?

I've kept the lay-out style basically because I like it. I've got no problem with more lavish lay-outs, computer-generated graphics or whatever else there may be, but it's just never been something that I've wanted to do. I've only got so much spare time, and I'd rather concentrate on the interviews and writing rather than lay-out design. If I could produce the fanzine on a full-time basis, I'm sure it would be more elaborate, but I can't see anyone financing that ! Maybe there will be a point at which I change it all, but that'll be because I want to do it rather than feeling that I have to do it. That being said, I do like the 'cut-up' aspect of the lay-outs, although I won't try to claim that it's the major consideration. But I do use certain texts or images in the background that reflect either previous events or something relevant to the current article. Sometimes, nice little references occur by accident / coincidence, and I've always enjoyed that sorta thing. Again, I'd like to try to take that a bit further, but time-restrictions always get in the way.

On your Myspace blog, you have remarked: “Keep Punk Rock on paper!!!” In the age of flourishing online fanzines, why do you think it is important to remain true to the original print medium?

That phrase was really just a joke, but there's some truth to it. I do like the 'artifact' aspect of printed zines, documenting a certain time, place or person, rather than a webpage that more often than not doesn't really have any specific 'feel' to it. I have no problems with the internet as a source of information, but it's sorta like the difference between buying a vinyl record or downloading the same music from a website. It may sound the same, but it doesn't give you the same overall presentation. Again, I suppose it's just a matter of personal taste. Also, nowadays, there are also a lot more practical reasons involved as well. Printing costs have increased dramatically in recent years, so webzines certainly present an economic-alternative, and there just aren't as many distribution opportunities for printed fanzines anymore. There are fewer and fewer independent records shops or bookshops, so if you publish a zine it's increasingly down to selling it yourself at gigs etc. and that's something that I've always disliked. I suppose it's just a case of getting balance between finding the format that you enjoy and figuring-out the practicalities.

Any ‘must-have’ fanzines out there now that you would recommend us to read?

Zines tend to come and go, so there's few that I've been reading regularly for a long time. 'Failsafe', from Derby, is usually one of the best, 'Suspect Device' always has interesting articles / interviews, and I also recently read a (new-ish) copy of 'One Way Ticket to Cubesville' which was a lot of fun. There's also a lot of smaller, more localised zines, like 'Barbies Dead', from Cornwall, which just knocks you over with it's enthusiasm. If you keep your eyes open, there's always going to be people out there writing zines and as long as they're doing it for the right reasons, you'll be able to find something interesting.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Interview 29

Patrick Fry is a London-based designer and art director whose publication No.Zine has become a much sought after showcase for the work of young artists, writers, designers and illustrators.

Please tell us a little something about yourself and your new studio and what it is like working in London.

I am a freelance graphic designer / art director working across a broad range of disciplines. I'm currently working on a couple of editorial and identity projects, both independently and collaborating with a few clever people. It's an interesting time to be working in London, the industry is bursting at the seams and every where you go new creative initiatives are popping up.

You are now up to issue 6 of No.Zine - how did the publication come about and what role does it play as part of your practice?

No.Zine was my self medication for too much time spent on squeaky clean corporate work. It was intended to just take up my down time, but ended up stealing many a day away from my commercial work. The great thing about working on a project with no money is the amount of talented people who are up for getting involved just for the fun of it. Inspiring.

There appears to be an increase in the use of the fanzine 'format' amongst designers and illustrators? Why might this be the case?

There definitely is. I guess it's a growing need to create something tangible, permanent and free of client influence in a business increasingly focused on the latest digital trick. Although our industry is often guilty of operating within certain trends, I hope this is one that will last.

Can you please recommend a few zines for us to read and tell us why they might be some of your favourites?

I'm not sure if these can necessarily be classified as zines, but I'm a huge fan of Le Gun and NoBrow. They are both extremely well curated collections of illustrations/art and hold a tone that definitely resonates with me.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Interview 28 (Part 2)

by Sameer Kulavoor - an illustrator and designer from Mumbai, India -
engages with the role of zine production but also captures his experiences of local photocopy shops. [See Interview 28 (Part 1)for more]

Interview 28 (Part 1)

Sameer Kulavoor is an illustrator and designer based in Mumbai, India wh
ose new publication Zeroxwallah zine provides visual evidence of his numerous visits to the city's copy shops.

Please tell us a little something about yourself, your studio, Bombay Duck Designs, and what it is like working in Mumbai.

Being born and brought up in Mumbai, India (then Bombay), the transitioning urban landscape, contrast and chaos, diverse people, (pop) cultural mix, globalization, has had an influence on my approach and aesthetics. What
I like about working in India is you never fall short of inspiration. Immensely saturated in innumerable ways, it is quite a visual bomb. There's an indescribable beauty about the chaos and the way things work here.

Bombay Duck Designs (BDD) is an umbrella under which I create and direct Illustration, Design and Animation. As a small but specialized design/illustration/animation studio, we do a lot of varied mainstream work globally across print and motion for MNCs to Music bands and channels. Last few projects being:

A (soon to be released) rotoscoped+animated music video (based on the idea of loops) for one of India's leading electro-rock act - Pentagram

Series of illustrations for Mothers Pride pre-school brochure which won a Cannes gold lion (agency: Out of the box, Delhi)

50-page quirky illustrated book for Gillette (agency: BBDO NewYork)

Poster designs and Exhibit for NH7 Weekender, India's biggest music festival.

How did Zeroxwallah come about and what is it about the medium you find so inspiring? What role does the publication play in the promotion of your design studio, if any?

Zerox shops in Bombay are omnipresent and easily spottable due to their distinct yellow black 'identity'. They are usually chaotic and haphazard with signboards that could drive a type-designer a headache (and heart ache) The interiors are equally bold and chaotic, if not more. But they are indispensable for the numerous students and office-goers who frequent them. The overall mish-mash of everything around and inside the Zeroxwallah shop makes it visually quirky and interesting. The smell of the toner combined with the sound (noise of papers,people) of a bustling tiny shop can be a heavy dose to all your senses. Frequenting the Zeroxwallahs during my art/design school (Sir J. J. Institute of applied art) intrigued me and the zine is a way to translate my experiences into a tangible product. The use of photocopy for the book was an obvious choice. And the dash of yellow screenprint over photocopy gives it the perfect character and feel. A limited edition zine was the best way to bring out the spontaneity of the Zeroxwallahs of Bombay.

This zine is one of the many parallel personal projects that BombayDuckDesigns works on so we are not completely gutted with (sometimes mundane) commercial work and it also helps to keep our work fresh and inspiring. 'Zeroxwallah' is the first of many more to come.

Do you think there is an emerging fanzine scene in Mumbai or, in India generally?

The fanzine scene in India is at its nascent stages. One reason being the limited outlets and limited demand. That seems to be changing slowly but surely. Delhi has seen a few book 'boutiques' (CMYK and Yodakin) Mumbai (BMB gallery & bookstore) Chennai (Masalachai store) who believe in encouraging independent artists, designers and publishers. Also The Greenhouse (an art culture venue in Delhi) hosted an intimate event 'I ♥ Small Books' encouraging zines and independent books. These initiatives have created awareness and interest and hence demand. So its an interesting time for the small Indian fanzine scene to take off!

For images of Zeroxwalah zine please see Interview 28 (Part 2).

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Interview 27 (Part 2)

Des Behari, Dom Latham and Dan Russell of Manchester Municipal Design Corporation, and of the zine Things Happen, sent us photos of what they feel to be one of the city's least successful building sites whilst also questioning the messages from the billboard slogans and images. And, of course, they sent us a photo of the zines they find inspirational!

Interview 27 (Part 1)

Des Behari, Dom Latham and Dan Russell of Manchester Municipal Design Corporation, celebrate the 'post-regeneration city' in their new zine, Things Happen.

Please tell us a little something about yourselves. And, where does the Manchester Municipal Design Corporation (MMDC) fit into this story?

We started working together on a collaborative Design MA at Manchester School of Art in 2009 — the Design LAB. There were seven of us all from different design backgrounds (architecture, product design, fine art, media art, ceramics) and all somewhat disillusioned with our pasts. Our project was "what next for Manchester" and we worked with real clients and on self initiated projects in the city. We invented the MMDC name to appear real, get name badges at events and also allow us to function outside and beyond the university, especially when doing work of dubious legality, such as a guerilla street projection/mass gathering outside an abandoned city centre cinema.
Most of the active MMDC members now work at Ultimate Holding Company on graphic design and social & environmentally engaged art projects, and are involved in the creation of a Design Without Boundaries-esque university/real world conduit space in our Hotspur House home. A magazine — The Hotspur — a contemporary of the Beano and Dandy may or may not have been printed here, so the next issue of Things Happen will be both a homage to that, and a description of our activity and plans here.

Tell us how Things Happen came about, what has inspired you from a design perspective? What do you hope to achieve with the publication?

The mag occurred because of several things. We wanted to document our activity, and that of our growing circle of like-minds. I used to live in Sheffield and remembered a great zine called Go Sheffo and we got one of the guys behind it over to talk to us. We then stole his idea. He had, in turn, stolen the idea from Mercy in Liverpool. We were(and still are) working on things in response to the city's regeneration running out of steam and money, but still wanted to celebrate what we like. There are also a few swipes at the stuff we dislike!
Another reason I value zines is that I play in a DIY trashy pop band, and the international underground that has existed since the 80s is of huge interest to me. The guy that recorded one of our albums in a Leeds basement is friends with Karen Ablaze and it amazes me the people she interviewed for her zine. With design, I'm very keen on DIY and undesigned stuff, so Things Happen Issue One was more my scrappy influence. Oz and the Underground Press Syndicate are amazing (and I inherited a pile of them) as are things like De Stijl, especially at recording a movement and a time & place. Studying architecture I was obsessed with the Bauhaus and Dutch Modernism — the whole package of ethos, design, education and publication. We had a manifesto for MMDC so placing it in the zine seemed natural for readers to understand our angle. Des has had similar exploits in the underground music world promoting DIY gigs in Bristol. I'd simply like the publication to document us, our opinions and our immediate network of collaborators, and act as a method of attracting more people to get in touch if they have similar ideas.

Why have you chosen to move away from the conventions of using a photocopier for producing your zine to using litho printing and a risograph? Do you feel this is indicative of a general shift amongst zine producers today to be more experimental with production techniques?

Risograph is just as cheap as photocopying and there are the joys of colour to work with! We got the litho cover posters done cheaply, too, as the university could print them in house. Although I like the scruffier aesthetic I didn't want Things Happen to look dated, hence the use of different techniques. Stuff like No Zine is great in the use of lithography and colour, as well as the design. I think many people are still photocopying away, but it's no longer the only cheap option. The place we Riso is called MARC, the Manchester Area Resource Centre. Old Man Steptoe and Comic Book Guy work there, and although they are initially rude, they do a good job once you convince them you aren't idiots. They are cheap, and I'm pretty sure stuff like Owt is printed there too.

At the moment Manchester seems to be experiencing a flurry of activity with regards to the fanzine scene. To what do you attribute this resurgence?

Hmm, The Shrieking Violet zine did a feature on why people still publish actual physical things, there were a lot of similar reasons. Mainly the beauty of something you can hold in your hands, something you can stumble across that will last. There's the abstract, pictorial Owt Creative zine that prints stuff from open calls for submissions, the more anecdotal Belle Vue and bunch of others. There's a lot of people just doing stuff, and alongside music, zines are something that are not hard to get out into the world, they have a real grassroots immediacy. There's a zine library in Salford and many self publishing fairs and events, which is great.

What other zines would you recommend us to read, and why?

Manchester's Shrieking Violet — the very prolific editor/author is a collaborator of ours and vice versa. She has published about 10 mags to every one of ours and comes at the city from a similar angle.
I'd also recommend Niche Homo in Leeds. An amazing, thick overview of the DIY music scene complete with amusing/disturbing comics and stories (one of the chaps who does it lives in the same Leeds house mentioned above and has done cassette interviews by post after Karen told him that's how things used to be done). Definitely check out Go Sheffo (all online). It's such an inspiring celebration of how he and his friends saw the city. That guy now does the Sheffield Publicity Department (stolen from the opening to The Full Monty—Sheffield, City on the Move!). He almost saved Sheffield's Cooling Towers from demolition and got them on the Channel 4 Big Art programme. He also suggested Park Hill flats be reused and hey presto, Urban Splash stepped in. Our friends the Manchester Modernist Society are going to be publishing a quarterly on Modernism in the Northwest (and beyond), which we, ahem, have designed. We also just finished a Modern A-Z of Manchester and Salford for them. These are worth looking at as they are down-to-earth and accessible, led by enthusiasts, whereas the subject is often dealt with somewhat snobbishly. Our friend Laura is working on a food and art project that, I think, will be a zine too (Feast. We're not designing that one so no guilt about plugging it!

Thanks a lot!

Saturday, 11 June 2011

Interview 26

Whilst finishing off his degree in Graphic Design,
Kevin Power of
Poetry from Outer Space gives us some insights into what has influenced his writing and his illustrations.

Please tell us a little about yourself, how
Poetry from Outer Space came about, and why this title?

So, the idea for
Poetry from Outer Space started out a few years ago in my brothers house, he is a song writer in a band and had lots of different poetry books lying around at the time, some serious, some surreal and at the same time I had just started my degree in Graphic Design and Illustration at LJMU. That summer I began preparing some sketchbooks before I started, mainly from found objects and making simple drawings from newspapers and magazines. I have always been interested in the Dadaist era, specifically the work of Hannah Hoch and Kurt Schwitters and just after the first issue was released a friend gave me Lawrence Ferlinghetti's 'A Coney Island Of The Mind' and it became a big influence on the next few issues.

The illustrations you use in the fanzine reminds me of early 20th century artists who used collage techniques for making political commentary. Tell us about your approach to your image making and what if any influences/inspiration you are drawing upon?

The process I use will usually start with a hangover! I don't know why but I will usually have been out the night before and had a conversation with someone and there will be a section that I remember combined with one of those weird little news reports you see in a corner of The Guardian like '90 year old Mexican lady wrestler saves Santiago's high street jewellery store' that I will have read that day. As soon as the idea starts to come together I type-write it up and start thinking about some imagery that might work well with it. Over a few weeks I will maybe have about 15-20 typed up bits that I stitch together on the computer to make 6 poems and 6 illustrations.

Tell us a little about the poetry you write for the zines – what inspires you, any influences?

The final part is the Letters Pages which I send out for somebody to reply to and vice versa. These are based on the ridiculous Please Help...! sections we all occasionally read at the back of the Sunday supplements and I thought it might be a funny end to each issue with. I've tried to keep them space themed so people remember the name of the zine and to remind everyone that it is nothing serious just a bit of fun. My main aim is that people who read it find at least one section so ridiculous it makes them laugh. I think that's what zines are about really, something home made, that interests people and makes them happy. No pressure of a deadline or restrictions on creative input. Spontaneity. I don't know of any sad zines.

What are your aspirations for ‘Poetry from Outer Space’?

Aspirations? well, the type-written collection is building and I usually make about 12 collages per issue so i have lots of stuff that never gets printed. If I'm still making it in a few years then I'm thinking of putting on a small show of all the typed roughs and out take collages. I've also had an idea lately to make a Short Stories From Outer Space based on an extension of the letter pages, but it's still early thoughts yet.

What fanzines would you recommend for us to read? Any favourites?

I don't really read that many zines as such but these books have been on my reading list lately and the authors have definately inspired PFOS over the years.

The Proud Highway - Hunter S. Thompson

In Watermelon Sugar - Richard Brautigan

The Road To Los Angeles - John Fante

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Interview 25

rd Davis, editor of River's Edge talks about his zine, his art director, Dan Holliday, and his visual aesthetic.

Tell us a little bit about yourself and how you came to be involved in
River's Edge.

I began independently writing and publishing i
n 2001, when I set up an online art magazine. This was called New Art Star and things were going ok with it for a while, but it's now sadly defunct. There were only two members of staff, me and the regular photographer. We had some regular contributors too. Since then I've been Reviews Editor at Artrocker magazine and worked at the Guardian and Sunday Times.

But all along I felt a need to set up some kind of independent publication and had a sort of nebulous idea about what that might be. I came up with a couple of names and looked around for someone to work with - and found exactly the right person in Dan Holliday. It was while working at Artrocker that I met Dan and we seemed to hit it off (although, it has to be said, Dan is an extremely nice guy and gets on with everyone). I proposed my idea to him and he was happy to get involved. I decided on River's Edge as the title and then there was no stopping us. Not until we'd got the first issue that is. Then we both stopped and got sidetracked by other things. But issue 2 is now on its way.

River's Edge proposes to "want to cover the things that are not already well-covered elsewhere". What kinds of things are you interested in covering and how are you doing this differently?

Well, we try to cover issues and subjects that might not be covered in mainstream discussion. That was always the plan. Not that we rule anything out, but that's most definitely the general ethos. The way I feel about it is that mainstream subjects, be they successful artists or books, are already well catered for. But what about the unnoticed gems, or potential gems, that may be off the beaten track?

As far as the execution of this ethos goes, that part is relatively straightforward: we all, including contributors, generally have an instinct for the neglected and the downtrodden. Or the not yet even had a chance to tread. Some of the people we focus on may go on to bigger things, but that's not our concern. These things happen. Then there are the people who remain defiantly outside the central stream, like Billy Childish.

The production quality of using hand-printing for River's Edge is counter to many zines who rely on photocopied print runs. You also have a named art director: Dan Holliday. Tell us a little about your intentions here and does this make a difference in defining what we understand zines to be?

This is also deliberate. Art and a sense of visual aesthetic will always be central to
River's Edge. Dan is an exhibiting artist and printmaker and I have a fine art background. My first job in the world of the written word was working for the art writer and broadcaster Matthew Collings, as his general assistant. But aside from all this, there is also the fact that a unique visual aesthetic is something that sets River's Edge aside. And it's something we're proud of. As far as the future goes, we will not be printing all our copies of River's Edge using the silkscreen method as we did with issue #1. This was a special case (limited edition, 500 individually-numbered copies, only 50 left!). And it's hard work! Though Dan may get a little annoyed at me for pointing that out, as he did most of that hard work (I did my bit, at least one shift on the assembly line). We're looking at other methods, but we may retain the limited-run element for special editions of each issue.

In terms of defining characteristics of a zine, I'm not sure if self-printing is or should be an exclusive defining factor. Probably, it is more to do with the underlying ethos behind the endeavour, and who is actually behind it. There's no big corporation supporting River's Edge. In addition, control over content, production and distribution as well as an overriding DIY approach are probably important, I would have thought.

Can you share with us what some of your favourite zines are and tell us why?

I'm a big fan of
Nutshell, which is a kind of literary journal, and is completely self-sufficient, relying on benefit gigs and contributions. We may have to go down that road ourselves.

For further information please see:

Saturday, 19 March 2011

The Occassional Round-up (1)

Every so often it is nice to feature what zine producers are up to of late. Larry Jaffee of the Walford Gazette, for example, has published two books based upon his love of the British soap opera EastEnders. See Interview 24.

Interview 24

Larry Jaffee is editor and publisher of the Walford Gazette - an American fanzine for the British television soap opera EastEnders. He recently published 'Walford State of Mind' - a collection which brings the 'best of' essays previously published in the fanzine.

Please tell us a little about yourself and how you came to be a fan of the British TV soap opera, EastEnders.

I've been a professional journalist for over three decades,
published in the likes of The New York Times and Rolling Stone early in my career, and later edited media and marketing trade magazines and websites. Although no one in my family is British, I’ve always been an anglophile, to which I attribute listening to Beatlemania and the British Invasion on AM radio in the 1960s, and ingesting large amounts of Monty Python humour during my impressionable teenage years.

I first
watched EastEnders in late 1987 on a public TV station in Washington,DC, which didn't yet have cable TV so there were few programmes that interested me. Tracey Ullman introduced EastEnders as the great new thing out of Britain. From that first episode I was hooked, and especially loved the look on Den Watts' face in the Vic when he realized that there was blood on his crisp white Oxford shirt after breaking up the fight between Nick and Ali.

Can you tell us about how you became the American champion for this
British TV show and whether you think fandom has a role to play in keeping shows like this on air.

I started the fanzine on a whim, and had no idea that I would
still be publishing it 19 years later. It was two or three years into it that I realized we wielded some power with the BBC in New York – that they took us seriously when we started protesting plans to cancel the show. Incredulously, The Times of London picked up the story in 1995 (quoting the Gazette’s co-founder) and ran it on page 2 next to an article about the United Nations inspecting Iraqi arms!

The actress and star of EastEnders Michelle Collins (who played the
character of Cindy Beale) has remarked that 'the Walford Gazette is obviously far more than your typical fanzine...' Can you perhaps talk a little about why Collins (and others) might consider it more than a 'typical' fan publication.

I think the cast members have responded to it positively is that we treat them with respect, and unlike the tabloids, don't delve into their personal lives. In the case of Michelle, I think she's amazed how devoted we are to analyzing the intricacies of Cindy Beale. A succession of executive producers and other members of the creative team also praised the Gazette's approach to writing about the show.

Who is your favourite character in the soap and why?

That is a tough question. I used to think it was Mark Fowler because
he represented sort of the soul and conscious of the show. He was the only character with whom I could picture myself being a mate. I always appreciated the Humphrey Bogart-like swagger of Den Watts. Dot Cotton is always good for comic relief, but she can also bring the highest drama.

Can you please recommend one or two other fan publications we should read?

Neither is sadly still in print. They both debuted in 1990 and sort of served as models for what I wanted to do with The Gazette. 'Wrapped In Plastic' was dedicated to 'Twin Peaks' and all things David Lynch for 75 issues through 2005. They spun off a book, which impressed me greatly.

'8-Track Mind' published its
100th and last issue in 2001. It was a fun fanzine with cut corners like an 8-track tape, perfectly capturing the subculture of collecting a dead medium that just recently was rewarded with a museum in Dallas! I also was contributing editor to a great Bob Dylan fanzine called 'On The Tracks' that published from 1998-2005.

Sunday, 6 March 2011

Interview 23

Roberto Barreiro is originally from Argentina and now lives in Chile. In 2001, he wrote Historia de los Fanzines de Historieta en Argentina which traces the history of comic fanzines from his country. From 1998-2001, he was co-creator with Lucas Varela of the comic zine Kapop.

Tell us a little about yourself and how did you become interested in comics and fanzines?

I was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1971. I lived there until 2002, the year in which I change countries and went to live in Chile with the girl which became my wife. I still live in Chile and I am a husband and father of two girls. I was a journalist, librarian and now book salesman, so I have always been in the middle of writing one way or another.

My interest in fanzines started in Argentina in 1986, when I was a teenager. I got interested in comics with the apparition of Fierro magazine, one of the best comics "adult" magazines which appeared in those years in Spain and Latin America - and, in those years in which adult magazines in the style of Metal Hurlant appeared around the world. Fierrro introduced a section reviewing fanzines (which started appearing like mad around the time for reasons that I will explain later) and it sounded interesting. It was a surprise when I went to Parque Rivadavia (a open book market which in those years was "de rigeur" for any comic aficionado in Buenos Aires) and found one of those strange fanzines... and whose editors were at the time, not much more older than me.

One thing led to other and for 15 years I was an active observer of the fanzine comic scene, with some minimal participation. Curiously, I didn't produce any fanzines for many of those years. Things like University and trying to work as a journalist (plus laziness, I suppose) were first on my list. But I was an active buyer of fanzines from all those years, amassing a very big collection of them (and not only on comics and not only form Argentina, but also form other countries of Latin America, Spain and even some former zines from the USA like
Murder Can be Fun or Mystery Date).

By the time I was to submit my final thesis for graduation from Communication Studies at the University of Buenos Aires, I decided that it was necessary a history and chronology of what comic fanzines were needed to be published. Having been collecting in Argentina for all those years I realised it was a job which needed to be done. So I finished the thesis, which is the basis (with minimal addenda) of the book published in 2001, Historia de los Fanzines de Historieta en Argentina.

Curiously, only after I finished the thesis did I start a comic fanzine with an artist friend. The zine, Kapop, was published between 1998 and 2001, for six issues. I compiled the series with a professional creator friend of mine, Enrique Alcatena (known for work in USA comic books and many series for the Italian market). Our zine was popular with the fans and the issues sold well. Actually, Kapop magazine prompted my friend to start working with professional comic writers and to begin his own professional career as a comic artist who has achieved certain stature in the field.

My moving form Argentina to Chile put an end to all this. I still get in touch online with many of the people who met for the first time doing zines (and who has became pro editors, artists and/or writers) but I am not so in touch with the actual fanzine scene on Argentina and I never tried seriously to do the same in the Chilean scene. I have continued writing on my blog, Arboles Muertos y Mucha tinta (which means "dead trees and a lot of ink"), working on pop culture topics as old paperbacks, photo novels movies and (of course) comics. Blogs are in some sense a prolongation of the old DIY ethic of the fanzines. It is not exactly the same, but its advantages to me are many.

The blog brings a strange collaboration with the American Publisher of an old mystery photo comic,
Killing. We finished creating one issue of Killing Time, a bilingual pdf free e-zine about those strange old photo novels. The killing Time pdf give me the insight that, even when blogs are good in many ways to replace fanzines, there are things that a publication (even an electronic one) can do that a blog cannot do right. For example, the extension of the articles: long, profound, complex articles on a theme are not read so widely as if you read it on a zine package... and I like to do that kind of articles!!!

...Which brings me to my actual new project: to put an Arboles Muertos Y Mucha Tinta e-zine which can put in a zine package big articles on the same kind of stuff that I write on the blog. Because a review of an old Carter brown book is ok in the blog, but an overiew of the Carter Brown work is better covered on an e-zine. At least to me. Zero issue of the Spanish version is almost ready (no more than one or two weeks before I post the issue). The English version (yeah I am ambitious and I believe that in those times you need to put an English version of these stuff also) is next. I hope that in a month more or less I will put the Zero issue English version and then I will start on issue one.

You wrote a book about the History of Fanzines in Argentina (Libros en Red, 2001) which specifically focused on a history of comic fanzines. For those of us who don't know much about the Argentinian self-publishing scene, when did independent comic fanzines become significant and what was the general context for their emergence?

As you see, I will talk primarily on comic fanzines, but there are many zine scenes in Argentina. The first fanzine form Argentina that I know is a s-f one, made in 1960 and in the 80s and 70s the s-f fanzines were big also. But I got to get into the comic field principally because that's the more than I know.
First of all, you need to understand that, before 1983, there was little zine activity of any kind... because between 1976 and 1983, we had a military dictatorship which was not conducive to any cultural activity.

There were some comic fanzines at the time (
Crash! a critical comic zine was the first that I found and it was published between 1979 and 1983), but after the recover of democracy, it appeared for many people (not only with comic fans) the necessity of creating new cultural ways of expression. You have to understand that between 1983 and 1988 in Argentina there appeared a very profound 'cultural earthquake' in society, which needed new ways to express itself publicly after years of repression. In the case of comics, the key point was the appearance of Fierro magazine, a comic magazine devoted to an adult audience similar to the ones made in Italy, France and Spain at the time. They put in the first issue an open search looking for professionals...and, the feedback was astounding. Too many people trying to create comics. Of course, not all of them were published by Fierro... but they started to create their own fanzines as an alternative way to publish their comics. The scene was alive and well until 1990.

In that year, Argentina suffered a devastating hyper-inflationary crisis (for example, think of Weimar's Republic account of inflation and you get the picture, with things doubling price in only a couple of days!!!). And, then, there was a change in the economic paradigm of the country, which became a prime example of the return of the neo-liberal school, opening up the importation of everything - including comics. Since paper is expensive in Argentina, the local magazine industry could not compete with the cheaper imports from Spain. As a result, the marginal sales of comic magazines fell dramatically - all the comic magazines in Argentina fell in less than 6 years. And of course, the fanzine scene disappeared for awhile.

Around 1996 that changed: a new generation of zinesters started doing new comics in their own zines. The difference from the first comic 'fanzine wave' was that this generation only had zines as a way to express themselves. The 'first wave' had the possibility to graduate from zines to pro magazines. Now you cannot do that unless you work in other countries. So this 'second wave' scene was more diverse and comic producers much more self-conscious of their work.
A second economical crisis in 2001-2002 crashed the neo-liberal system. So the cheap imports were not there anymore... and many of those old zinesters became editors of small publications, bringing comics graphic novels from Argentina comic artist (many of them who had honed their skills years ago in the 'second wave' of zines) with pro quality, exchanging the logic of confrontation of the system with the logic of the quality of the product. There are a new wave of zines in Argentina but I don't know much of them since I don't live there now, so I would prefer to pass on talking about them.

Which publications and/or artists do you think were key to shaping the field historically?

I will list these title by title:

Crash!: The first comic zine, made between 1979 and 1983. An information and investigation magazine, with very good notes on comics from Argentina and the world.

Comiqueando: Appeared for 12 issues between 1986-87 (with a enviable regularity). They were the first info magazine to talk about the comics made in USA in those years in a laudatory way (which was strange in those years because comics fandom of the time considered USA comic books as cheap escapist stuff, with less quality that the comics published in the adult comics of the period). In the 90s Comiqueando (now a more pro magazine) emerged as the comic magazine for all fandom, with a very influential voice during in those years and who opened space for the diffusion of the 'second wave' of comics fanzines. It is still published but is not so important as was in the 90s.

Poco Loco, O no, HGO, Surmenage: were fanzines published in the 80s ('first wave') who based his stories and aesthetics on the Fierro and the adult comic magazine mold. Full of post-apocalyptic adventures, self-conclusive stories and realist artists. Many future comic professionals started working on those comics and the quality of the work was very good.

Squonk, Todos somos felices, Agujero Negro: were fanzines (of the 'first wave') which wasn't based on the Fierro aesthetic, trying to do a more underground style of comics.

Arkham: Only one issue and with stories very much in the adventure mold but it was important because it was the first appearance of Cazador. A couple of years after that magazine Cazador was brought back in a comic book which became the only comic character who was successful in the 90s with the local public.

Catzole: the most prolific (16 issues) of the second wave of comic fanzines. Their editors were of great importance to the new generation of comic zinesters, because they were active defenders of the zine as a way to publish independently. They have became successful artists, filmmakers and/or animators.

Falsa Modestia: the best humor fanzine of the 90s. His author, Gustavo Sala, has become one of the most successful strip artists for one of the largest Argentinian newspapers. His Dadaist humor still continues and similar to what he did in the fanzine.

8. Arkanov: a very interesting anthology magazine with short comic stories interconnected with the place in which all happened: the s-f city of Arkanov. The guy behind the series was the writer, Diego Agrimbau, who has became a pro comic writer in those last years.

Moron suburbio: a strange mix of "Pulp Fiction", social commentary and strange geographies, that fanzine was an interesting commentary on reality on the 90s.

Oceano y charquito: the most similar to a girl (but not grrl) fanzine on the comic scene. Two girls doing a strange, cute and fascinating humor/perzine mix.

Historietas reales: it is actually a blog, with several contributors doing a weekly strip about real stuff that happened to them. Of course some are better than others, but the experiment has been successful and has receoved recognition from the mass media.

(prozine) was one significant publication from the the late 1990s. Could you tell us something about the subjects covered in the comic fanzine, the artist and your role as a co-editor?

We published Kapop between 1998 and 2001, six issues in total. We wanted to do the magazine on comics who we wanted to read. We wanted a professional-looking style to the magazine, and trying to do stuff who were at the time forgotten. For example, an Asterix-like comic, which sounded like it was outmoded at the time. Or, delving into pulp style fiction. I believe that we got an interesting mix of cool graphic design (thanks to co-editor and artist Lucas Varela, who happened to be also a graphic designer) and clever and easy to read ADVENTURE comics (which is not so easy to do really: EASY TO READ IS NOT EQUAL TO MEDIOCRE). Plus we got to publish stuff from other people who were interesting to us, some new guys some established pros.

In doing the magazine we divided the work up fairly evenly: I wrote the stories, Lucas drew them. Lucas also designed the mag and I was in charge of distribution and payment, going to comic book store to comic book store to do this and going to every comic show in town putting up our stand. As I said before, it was very good received and it was the first step for Lucas to get into the professional comics.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Interview 22 (part 2)

In Part 2, Alan Rider's music- and agitzines were able to capture a significant chapter in Coventry's music and political history - not only in terms of who and what they covered, but in the way in which visual imagery was used to effect. Here are covers from Adventures in Reality (1980-1984) and Not The Jobhunter (1981-). [See the full interview with Alan Rider in part 1 below]