This is something that I did for the Red Bull Music Academy's daily newspaper The Daily Note. You can find it online here.
The internet is, in many ways, a perfect digital manifestation of many of the core characteristics that defined the DIY punk scene that spawned ‘zine culture in the late 1970’s.
The copy and paste, staple and glue approach to producing ‘zines which gave them such a coherent aesthetic is wholly and immediately available to anyone with an internet connection. The ability to say virtually anything without being censored and the sheer amount of information that is freely available online coupled with the ability to copy chunks of text and paste them elsewhere or screengrab an image from one website and place it on another has allowed blogs to become the online equivalent of ‘zines.
Special interest blogs have become small, cottage industries populated by passionate individuals discovering and passing on information very much in the tradition of pioneering ‘zines such as Sniffin’ Glue or Maximum Rock & Roll.
While online blogs and websites allow immediate and inexpensive exchange of musical knowledge at hitherto unimaginable speed they are yet to render the humble ‘zine redundant. Scratch below the digital surface and you’ll soon find a vibrant world of small-run, print ‘zines catering for people who still like to be able to hold, touch and smell an actual physical artifact and for whom reading about new and interesting music on a screen will never be wholly satisfying. After all, when was the last time you read Pitchfork while taking a crap?
Punk was the movement which birthed the ‘zine and a massive percentage of contemporary ‘zines continue to be concerned with punk music and culture. However, great though those ‘zines are, they are merely the tip of a massively varied iceberg. The focus of this paper has dictated that we look mainly at music related ‘zines but go to just about any ‘zine fair or symposium (http://www.londonzinesymposium.org.uk/ is a great place to start investigating where they happen) and you will encounter ‘zines that deal with art, comics, literature, poetry, oversized vegetables and shoelaces. I am not making the last two up. I own ‘zines on both topics. Here are a few of the best ‘zines dealing with music currently in print.
Australia might not be the first place that springs to mind when you think of hardcore and punk rock but Distort is easily one of the best ‘zines currently chronicling the genre. It is an A4 sized, black and white stapled affair crammed with carefully selected fliers, photographs, reviews and columns that run the gamut from classic punk and first wave hardcore right through to what is happening right now. Issue 24 covered everyone from Rocky Erikson & The Aliens to Cold Sweat. With a wonderfully anachronistic adherance to the physical distribution of music most issues come with a cover mounted 7”. Watch out for the next issue which will come complete with a 7” by excellent Aussie powerviolence types Extortion. All information can be found at distortcult.blogspot.com
Once the novelty of getting hold of a ‘zine which isn’t pre-occupied with punk or hardcore has worn off allow Feral Debris to quietly inform you about band after band you have never even heard of. If you try and claim to be a huge Simply Saucer fan you’ll have to forgive me for not believing you for a second. The ‘zine also has a regular poetry section and comes with a free CDR consisting of tracks by artists featured in that issue so if you are after a free compilation of acts like Moss, Jandek and Wooden Sjips: look no further! For musings on strange sounds check out myspace.com/feraldebris
OK, so Yeti might not technically be a ‘zine due to it’s sheer size and glossy cover but take a peak inside and sure enough Mike McGonal’s sporadically released labour of love is indeed mainly black and white. So I am including it as a ‘zine. If you are interested in everything from indie-rock to avant-garde power-electronics to strange sounds from sub-Saharan Africa then Yeti is for you. Past issues have included conversations with folks like Will Oldham and Pat Gubler from PG Six, illustrations by German surrealist artist Unica Zurn, drawings from Kyle Field from Little Wings, a comprehensive feature on Blind Willie Johnson and a Western Saharan travelogue by Hisham Mayet from the excellent Sublime Frequencies label. You should by now be wanting to purchase a copy at yetipublishing.com
Again straying away from the default ‘zine fodder of punk-rock, Woofah concerns itself with all things bass related from a uniquely UK perspective. Whether it’s charting the latest offshoots of the constantly morphing UK Garage/dubstep/whatever-you-call-it continuum via interviews with folks like Untold or the Hessle Audio gang, continuing to champion grime that isn’t made by Calvin Harris with features on the Newham Generals or re-examining UK bass music’s roots with features on dancehall mainstay Tippa Irie, hardcore and jungle dons Shut Up & Dance or legendary Leeds soundsystem Irration Steppas, Woofah has consistently proved that informed, considered and informative journalism continues to exist outside of the internet and mainstream monthly music titles. Head on over to woofahmag.com for more information.
THE HIDDEN HAND
Run by a Northen misanthrope whose MySpace name happens to be ‘Nathan Awesome Rape’ this handsome ‘zine is consitently stunningly presented with screened woodcuts on heavy-duty card and text on recycled stock. Throw in interviews and features on The Shitty Limits, Eyehategod, Pagan Altar and Pulling Teeth and even rarities such as an unpublished interview with J.P. Morrow from 1997 conducted by a young John Gilbert from Red County War Ensemble and you have one of the most thoughtful and engrossing ‘zines covering heavy and warped metal out there. More can be discovered on The Hidden Hand at myspace.com/unholyhandfanzine
FODIDO E XEROCADO NO.7
“Fododio e xerocado’ translates as ‘fucked up and photocopied” which is a very accurate portrayl of what you will find between the covers of this ‘zine: a heaving motherload of images of kids going wild at shows as well as shots of the bands who are whipping them into such a state. While the guys behind the publication may be based in Brazil this doesn’t seem to act as a barrier to making their coverage truly global with photographs of shows by bands you’ve never heard of in Brazil and Portugal to spot-you-and-your-mates shots of Fucked Up at The Barfly in London. Find out more at myspace.com/fodidoexerocado
NICHE HOMO 1
A ‘zine that comes out of Leeds and is unafraid to mix articles on ‘The Women Of Hollyoaks’ with pieces on great current bands such as Leeds residents Mob Rules or an extended discussion with Oxbow frontman, MMA champion and general hellraiser-for-hire Eugene Robinson. One of the most fun and varied ‘zines to come out of the UK in a good while. Buy actual real life issues of the ‘zine and find out more at myspace.com/lonklonklonk
MODERN HATE VIBE
When not fronting excellent garage punks The Sceptres or putting on some of the most consistently great DIY shows in London with her Big Takeover nights Bryony Beynon somehow finds time to put out an informative, coruscating and bilious A5 black and white ‘zine called Modern Hate Vibe. On top of bits on bands you should like such as Ironclad and Cold Ones you also get convincing columns on why you should listen to Poison Idea and what you could be learning from the Wu Tang manual right now instead of reading this. Fun for all the family at modernhatevibe.wordpress.com/