interviews with zinesters – dan sinker

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive. I just came across a bunch of old interviews I did with people while I was a journalism student at Columbia College Chicago. I think this interview is from an article I was working on for a magazine writing class. I am not sure. I only vaguely remember working on this project. You can tell from my repeated questions that I had some thesis that I was trying to cover, but I can’t remember what it was specifically. I think they are from 1999. At that time, I was a dumb kid, so I probably didn’t appreciate the time that these people took to answer the questions. But I do now. Thank you very much to Andrew Scott, Dan Sinker, Matt Cordell, Karl Erickson, Gretchen Larsen, Julie Halpern and Katherine Raz. If you are one of the interviewees and want your interview taken down, please let me know. I am putting them here for posterity and nerdy archival reasons.

Dan Sinker – Punk Planet

Why did you start Punk Planet? What were your goals, did you meet them? And in the beginning did you feel like a Maximum Rocknroll clone or did you always feel different, like you had a different slant or philosophy behind you?

Punk Planet started because there were a bunch of us that didn’t feel like our voices or what we felt was important or interesting was getting covered in the nationally distributed punk zines at the time. This was back in 1994, the scene was undergoing a lot of changes – parts were getting more commercialized, other parts were finally coming into their own – and we didn’t feel like anyone was writing about the stuff that was exciting and new. I think as far as being a “Maximum RocknRoll clone” goes, we definitely looked to MRR for a template and for an idea of what was possible, but we were also looking at that magazine for what we didn’t want to do.

How large is your entire operation now? How many people work for you? How large is your print run? Are you turning a profit? Is there a difference in how you accept people’s submissions and how you hire employees now as opposed to the beginning?

There is only one full-time person here, and that’s me. We have another person who works on the editorial end of things, Joel Schalit, but he does it part time and lives in California. Everyone else is either freelance or volunteer. We have three designers that come in when that time in the production cycle runs around, and we have probably about 10 or so writers that I know I can turn to and they can churn out good stuff. All writers, designers & editors are paid for their work on Punk Planet. The pay ain’t great, but I feel like it’s important. Reviewers aren’t paid in cash, but get to keep the records they get. The only person that is completely volunteer is a guy that comes in and does mailorder once a week. We are currently printing about 9,000 copies of Punk Planet. The magazine turns a profit, albeit barely. As far as how the magazine has changed in the last six years, I’d say it’s become a completely different magazine a few times over.

How do you feel about Chicago? Do you feel like you’re a Chicago music magazine or a music magazine that just happens to be based in Chicago? Would you or do you put an emphasis on Chicago bands?

I love Chicago, but we’re not a Chicago music magazine. We don’t put any special emphasis on Chicago at all. I don’t feel that that’s our role. There are magazines that cover Chicago music very well. For that matter, I’m not even so sure that we’re a music magazine. We cover a culture, of which a part of that is music, but is also art and writing and politics and ideas.

Do you feel like you are part of a zine community here in Chicago? Do you think that there is a zine community in Chicago? Is it strong or weak? How would you improve it or would you?

At varying points over the last six years, I’ve felt like I’ve been a part of a strong Chicago zine community. But right now, I think that community is at a low point. That could be because I’m so busy that I don’t have time to keep up with it anymore, but I think that the zine scene on the whole is at a low point right now.

Are you happy with how Punk Planet has turned out? How would you improve it? What are your new goals for Punk Planet? Where do you see Punk Planet five years from now?

I’m ecstatic about how Punk Planet has turned out. The last year or so, it has finally achieved a level of consistency and quality that I’ve wanted it to have forever. Where do I see PP in five years? I don’t play that game. I work one issue to the next. It’s been successful so far, I don’t want to jinx it by looking too far into the future, because inevitably you can’t meet those kind of goals.