Here is little roundup of print zines that I did for Vice Magazine.
Why Zines are still great.
This is a magazine. Most of the people involved in this magazine are people that really like magazines and care about them and had their identities shaped by things that you can actually hold in your hands and keep in big piles in your bedroom. Things that were put together by people who gave a shit about what they were putting in front of other people on a monthly basis. The Internet has lowered the bar for what is acceptable and any sense of standard has evaporated. Blog culture and the ease of online self-publishing makes it acceptable to moan about your tampon getting wedged uncomfortably at a right angle in your pussy for a whole day and with a single click hundreds of people can read all about it. Lazy publishing has lead to lazier audiences who feel savant simply by being online. If you are having to photocopy, glue, paste, hand draw and assemble each individual issue you make sure what you let go in is worth the effort, it’s a simple but effective editorial tool. This makes zines a kind of self-regulating sub-culture of publishing where standards and relevance have remained high despite the great odds stacked against them.
This one is kind of like a zine version of McSweeny’s. Instead of new fiction all of the stories in here are true and autobiographical and in keeping with their concept of “short short fiction” they have to be 400 words or less. It’s a little bit like a compendium of our new “It Happened” feature, and the length of the stories make it great toilet reading. Their issues are also themed. Hey, maybe they just got all their ideas from us? Anyway the theme for this one is “compulsions” which makes for an interesting read.
Nieves is this amazing independent publishing house based in Switzerland that’s been going since 2001. Every year it puts out zines from people with so much talent that it makes normal illustrator guys weep green tears of unadulterated envy. Each zine is limited to about 100 copies; looks beautiful and when they are gone immediately become more rare than a straight guy in The Joiner’s Arms. Thurston Moore, Daniel Johnston and Fergadelic have all done exclusive zines for Nieves in the past. Here is a brand new one by a collective that includes Dennis Rousski and a guy who goes by “Vertical Overload”. Cool.
Crystal Vision Collective
Here is a zine by Catherine Osterberg who is part of this London based collective called Crystal Vision, they kind of have a Forcefieldy/Fort Thunder thing going on and they make weird outfits and knitted installations and weird stuff like that. They have already curated a show at the ICA where they were called “London’s six sexiest illustrators and artists”. This zine definitely makes me feel pretty sexual. It is full of vaginas with magic powers and trees that look like penises. Its like a hipster art version of the Anne Summers catalogue. Shit, I’m getting a boner.
Zines By Bands We Like
Brain Bulletin is a small, sweet zine written by a small, sweet girl called Alessi who sings folk songs. Her dad produces TV shows like Modern Toss, which also has its own fanzine but it’s not as good as this one. Each page is covered in little details and hidden stuff and looks like it’s taken a whole day to put together. There’s handwritten short stories, comic sketches, twee little drawings of girls and trees as well as quotes like: “When I grow up, I’ll be all grown up,” and lots of other cute stuff. Basically, it’s like reading the stream of consciousness of a dreamy sixteen-year-old.
The best thing about this zine is that it makes it seem like fun to be in a band. There’s none of that crap where you have to pay $25 to access the “backstage area” of a band’s website so you can get the chance to download tossed away b-sides and “exclusive footage” that is all over YouTube anyway. The whole darkness of it all reminds us of Whitehouse zines in the 80s. This particular issue comes with a free girl group CD compilation of heartbreak songs chosen by Faris, which they haven’t even bothered to clear the samples for.
Remember that movie “The Fantastic Voyage” where the characters get shrunk and injected into the diplomat guy to save his life? A perzine is a bit like that but without the whole pressure to save someones life vibe. You just get to spend some time hanging out inside someone else’s thoughts for a while. It can be interesting and more often than not a little scary. Think Leslie Arfin’s awesome Dear Diary column but laid out with doodles and cut and paste bits. This one is by a young girl who lives in New York called Jade. You find out all sorts of stuff about her like that she can’t decide what her favourite colour is so she just likes the whole rainbow, that she loves free samples of stuff and that she once had self harm issues but talking about it in print made her realise that life was pretty OK after all. Funny, frank and moving perzines are pretty good.
Lets Just Pretend
Music is something that is covered extensively everywhere. People love talking about music almost as much as they like listening to it. Probably more in fact. The problem is that most people that have opinions about music are idiots. A Blog is a platform for these insufferable cunts to spout their ignorant musings unedited and unstoppably everywhere. What you really want is a nice timely roundup every now and then of all the releases you might have missed and interviews with bands that are actually interesting enough to bother hearing from. Punk kids started this whole thing anyway and tend to be pretty funny as writers because they hate everything. Here are a couple of UK punk zines. Last Hours is kind of the flagship UK title that is still going and has pretty high production values, they even try and have a go at photojournalism every now and then (hang on, a bunch of ex punks doing real journalism, that sounds familiar). Lets Just Pretend is a cool DIY effort that ticks all the boxes. Both are like a breath of fresh air after reading more than 5 minutes of 99% of the stuff online.
Zines That Are Actually Comics
A 52 Second Silence For Topsy and The Blackest Gnome
Flesh And Bone
Sometimes guys put out really nice comics in tiny runs through miniscule labels to the point where they kind of fit in to the whole zine thing. Companies like Drawn & Quarterly and Fantagraphics have taken the whole idea to the comics mainstream but there are still plenty of guys putting out weird little books like these. Malcy Duff makes noises in Usurper and these two books are both awesome, A 52 Second Silence For Topsy involves the progressive decay of an elephant until it looks like a giant melted vagina and I’m not even going to pretend to know what is going on in The Blackest Gnome. Flesh and Bone is by David Bailey who is part of the Mount Pleasant collective and features characters that remind me of a nightmare version of that Funnybones strip you read when you are a kid.
The good thing about zines is that they can be about anything. They don’t even really need to be about the same thing within the same issue. As you would imagine from the title, Braindead generally involves a lot of horror. You get cut and paste, line drawings, lists and loads of horrible things like ladies with Little Shop Of Horrors style monsters for pussies and true storys about guys dicks getting electrocuted in thunderstorms all put together by sXe kids in Maidstone. Good times.