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.