how did you get into making zines?

Note – I am slowly going through and cleaning up my folders on our hard drive and found this document from around 1999. The second comics issue of Flotation Device wasn’t going to be a comics issue originally. I wrote the entire issue about how I got into zines and sometime in my editing process I decided it wasn’t working. So I put it on hold until the time came to revisit it a couple years later in comics form. Part of the original idea was to intersperse my experiences with zines with a few brief stories of how other zinesters got into making zines. Only two made it into the final comics version – Jon Resh and Travis Fristoe. Some of the people I knew and some people were beyond generous to give answers to a dumb kid. I apologize to everyone else who took the time to answer these questions only to be excluded from print. Thank you very much to Owen Thomas, Emily Larned, Abby Koch, Jon Resh, Andy Godzilla, Joe Biel, Rita Brinkerhoff, Katherine Raz, Eric Nakamura, Dustin Krcatovich, Mark Maynard, Jeff Wiesner, Jake Austin, Alex Wrekk, and Travis Fristoe. 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.

Owen Thomas – Ten Page News

When I did Gloat magazine with Andrew McGarrell in 1968, we didn’t know we were making zines – but I’d sure count ’em as such today. Gloat was produced on a spirit master machine (better known as a ditto machine) at school and distributed mostly to our math class. It ran for four issues. A few years later, I made the first issues of the Ten Page News (but only one copy of each issue, which circulated among a small set of my friends; it’s not so clear that this should be called a zine). The first zine I saw that I knew was a zine was Steve Romilar’s Tussin Up which ran from 1985 to 1989 in my home town of Bloomington Indiana: this billed itself as a magazine promoting constructive and wholesome alternatives to illegal drugs because they encouraged the kids to use cough syrup containing dextromethorophan recreationally (e.g., Robitussin; hence the title). From then on, I always enjoyed reading about zines in publications like Ivan Stang’s High Weirdness by Mail but, for no very good reason, never sent for any. When Factsheet 5 hit the bookstores (the Friedman era), I picked up several issues and browsed ’em avidly, but again never sent for any (for which I kick myself now). Finally, I just sort of up and decided to make one in fall 1996 and there was no going back. I like making my own for what I suppose is the usual reason: unfettered self-expression. And I like getting ’em because they continue to surprise me. You never know what the heck is gonna show up in the old p.o. box next. Plus I get to correspond with, and now and then to meet, some of the hippest people in the whole country. What’s not to like?

Emily Larned – Memory Town / Red Charming

[I learned about zines] through Sassy magazine, actually: they had a feature Zine of the Month. I never got it though; I thought zines were still magazines. So it wasn’t until I got Mike Gunderloy’s (of Factsheet 5 before Friedman) book on zines that I got very excited about them and wanted to do my own – before, actually, I ever saw one in person. I’ve always been equally engaged by writing and art, so that was a big part of it. But what was most compelling was the complete autonomy of zines from the corporate world of slick magazines, television, and my high school, where I was, of course, miserable. The variety and the enthusiasm miraculously manage to make up for the mediocrity.

Abby Koch – Chatty Pig

I got into zines at the ripe old age of 29 when I went to Quimby’s one Saturday. I guess I knew about zines already, at least I had heard about them in the context of punk lifestyle and riot grrrls. I already read indy-type magazines like Bitch and Bust, but I had never actually run across a zine before. I bought a bunch from Quimby’s that day (including yours) and then just kept going back for more. I like to read zines because I’m a natural voyeur and I’m drawn to the little glimpses of other people’s lives that I would otherwise not know about. I tend to read perzines more than music or poetry or any other kind of zines, although I have read and enjoyed zines of all genres. I guess I just like to read what people have to say about their lives and how they feel about it. I started doing my own zine because I wanted to put my own voice out there, too. I like to write and it seems like I’ve always got a running commentary going in my head, so why not put some of it on paper? It’s cool to have something to trade for other zines. I guess I have also used it to work out some of my lingering teen angst-type stuff. I’m currently working on Chatty Pig #4 and contemplating a new project. I’m thinking of doing a low-tech (no computer) mini that deals a little bit more with my life now instead of stories from my past. Chatty Pig has gotten to the point where my parents and coworkers expect to see it, but this would be for a different audience (i.e., an audience that won’t be offended if I’m not as nice as I am in Chatty Pig). I’m thinking of calling it something like Yuppie Bitch, but I haven’t really gotten going.

Jon Resh – Viper Press Presents / Amped

The first zine I saw immediately changed my perspective of the world, and I guess the reason I still read them heavily is because they have continued to shape and enrich that perspective. And in creating my own zines over the years, I was afforded the opportunity to express myself in any way that I chose – total freedom of communication, total art and action. I’d say a great deal of my education has come from zines, and some of the most brilliant and wonderful individuals I’ve yet met was through a shared love of this amazing, vital medium. Essentially, reading zines and creating them is among the things that, from my standpoint, simply makes life worth living.

Andy Godzilla – That’s Like Fighting Godzilla with a Squirtgun

my friend King Anal (not his real name) passed on to me copies of Underdog Zine and Retrogression Zine. I thought they were the best zines around, big, fat newsprint mothers of invention, brilliant and informative. And I still think so. Retrogression has since passed on, but Underdog Zine is still alive and well, and strangely enough, I now write for them. After reading their work for so long, they invited me to become one of their writers, which really meant a lot to me because they were one of the zines that inspired me to do my own. Initially my curiosity was sparked by the massive amounts of information they contained. Albeit, most of the zines I ended up reading were crusty-punk-hardcore-political types and that wealth of knowledge kind of called out to me. Look at how much I dont know about whats going on in the world. And interviews with stupid punk bands I idolized at the time (and now think are worthless) were simply supplemental. Some of the smaller, indie-emo-personal zine things I originally thought were cool in how they played with a closer level of intimacy in the writers life, but I now think emo-personal zines are shit. I don’t want to read the diary of some boring kid’s life. I love it when zines cover topics that no one else wants to touch. Transgender, satanism, religion, ufo’s, the history of the Third Reich; weird little snippets of history and information that probably only old people would care about. But then again, I’ve been going through quite a history kick as of late. I mean, seriously, as long as the author knows what he/she is talking about, and makes a clear effort to bring their knowledge from them to you, as long as they’re without pretense, its’ worthwhile. What I want from a zine is to read a few of the articles, learn a little something, and then want to do my own reading on the subject. What I don’t like about zines is when kids use them to whine and rant about how their parents suck, or why they dumped their boy/girlfriend. I can understand how aspects of those things would influence one’s work, but, when you have the power, the opportunity, to spread your words like a media virus to an audience, why would you want to clutter up your writing with references to when your mom threw out your Green Day albums or when your girlfriend cheated on you? Needless to say, I don’t read many zines anymore.

Joe Biel

I got into zines when the local crazy kid, Jake started doing a great zine called Summer. I had never heard of the idea before but I loved his zine, every new issue I would bring to school with me and share with all of my friends. Jake is still crazy and still does zines but not so often anymore. The underground networks were very appealing and the ability to have a voice and vehicle for my messages and concerns received by people that were truly receptive to them was incredible as a teenager. In my opinion some of the best writing is in zines, there is no red tape involved. You get, pure uninhibited writing from caring, honest people looking to share and connect with other people. What’s not to love?

Rita Brinkerhoff – Terrorist

When I was 13 (1994), a friend from Nebraska brought a box of zines to a unitarian church youth conference in my town (Kansas City). I read Girl Germs, WAD, Goddess Juice, and a few others. I was into the punk rock by then; listening to Bikini Kill, Huggy Bear, The Tourettes, you know. I knew what zines were, but that was the first time I actually saw one. I was so psyched that people could just get up and do something by themselves, without anyone’s approval. I’d made half an issue of a “newsletter” called Code Blue Bitch when I was barely 12, and when two of my friends saw zines, we made up Majjik Marrrkerz, which lasted for three issues, and that was more than enough, believe me. When they lost interest after 6 months, I was doing one called Estrogen Terrorist, trading with people, etc. People were really supportive when I sent our little 3 page Majjik Marrrkerz out – all constructive criticism, people sent me trades even though ours was fuckin ridiculously tiny. So I’ve done zines ever since; I just put out the tenth issue of Terrorist. But punk and friends got me into zines. Going to rock shows. That I could say whatever I wanted, as a 13 year old, and there was a whole community of people who were interested. Being challenged and challenging. Learning to stick up for my work. It’s totally shaped who I am, at this point (almost 21). I’m a library lady now, and I go into schools in Kansas City, KS in the inner city, and these kids (around age 13) are seeing that they can speak their minds and people will listen. That might sound super-saccharine, but they are awesome kids, and being able to work with them and get them to think and express their ideas effectively is so fucking great. Meeting people I admire, trading, etc, is also always awesome. Long live the Underground Publishing Conference!

Katherine Raz – Retail Whore

The first zine I ever saw was The Scaredy-Cat Stalker, which was done by Krista Garcia out of Portland I think. I went to school with Nicolette Liebermann, Jonie Liebermann of Psychoholics Unaminous‘ daughter, and she brought it to school to show to me because she thought it was right up my alley. I was way into celebrities at the time. So anyway, I thought it was pretty cool, and after a few experiments, I came up with a zine of my own – Apple Scruff. I’m not too sure why I decided to do it. I guess I’ve always known I could write, and I love attention and that seemed to be a good way to get it. Apple Scruff folded when I moved to Chicago because I couldn’t afford to do it in the city. But, if you have the bug to do zines, and you spend tonnes of time reading other people’s zines (as I did: whenever I went into record stores I skipped the music and went straight for the publications), you have a compulsion to keep publishing. So I started Retail Whore. What attracts me to zines? I guess the fact that anyone can do them. It sounds simple, I know, and I could launch into a big First Amendment thing and Freedom of the Press and all that, which is important, too, but what I really like is that anyone with a decent narrative skill and access to a copy machine can achieve this cult status. Also, in all the time I spent at Columbia reading magazines like Magnet and Rolling Stone and Time, whatever, I never really got into reading until I read zines. They suck me in, I don’t know why. They can really be about anything.

Eric Nakamura – Giant Robot

I think I saw one at a record store, and thought they were cool. Actually the zine that got me thinking that it would be cool to do one, was Ain’t Nothing Like Fuckin’ Moonshine. I met Brandon Steppe at a show in SF, I saw the raw energy in his publication. It was an awesome feeling. It made me think my life could change.

Indie ability to do anything you wanted. Plus, some have a great aesthetic. It’s great to see some zines look great. That’s always a bonus. Zines are just cool. Websites are an easy way to make a zine. But I think when someone digs into their pockets to make something with paper, it’s just better. I think if a zine is good, it can be entertaining. But the downside is that there’s not enough good zines out there. And another downside is that there’s a lot of zines who say they’re the best out there. It’s not a contest like some publications make it. It’s just doing it that counts, sometimes. I’m also guilty of high expectations with zines, which is unfair. That’s like expecting someone to be a good athlete. But trying does count and some don’t.

Dustin Krcatovich – Shuttlebus Zine

I actually started with “minicomics”, which is a fine line to draw, but I started when I was 12 going on 13. There was a thing in my local newspaper about these local comic guys, and one of ’em, Robert Lewis, used to be pretty prominent in mincomics. He started teaching classes at the Kalamazoo Institute of the Arts, and he kinda mentored me. So, I started with that, which is pretty much like it would be with zines, just a different “network”. I got into zines in a more proper sense because of my friend Randall’s high school zine Scapegoat. Pretty much the fact that most mainstream media sucks. I have my beefs with zines, actually, and I think eight outta ten of them are bad, but it’s like communism: it’s good in theory. There are no constraints, and you can do whatever the hell you want with them. And that those two out of ten are really, really good.

Mark Maynard – Crimewave USA

I don’t really remember. It was over a dozen years ago. I was in college, in Michigan, living with friends. We were drinking a lot and we were bored probably. We did a few issues of a zine back then. We spent our own money on it. Then, years later, when Linette and I were living together, I got a job at a copy shop and one thing lead to another. I started by publishing a short autobiography and then Crimewave happened. That was about seven years ago now. Having Obsessive Compulsive Disorder doesn’t hurt. I liked the fact that they were honest, the works of people who cared about something quite a bit. I like self-taught art and DIY music, so this the written equivalent. People do zines because they have to. I like that. If we didn’t lose money on Crimewave, we’d probably lose it somewhere else.

Jeff Wiesner – Double Negative

I got into zines because of kids I met growing up who put together zines. Two in particular influenced me, neither of which are still in publication – Wonder Rolling News, and Media Locals. I was attracted to the idea of creating something to share with friends and strangers, something to distribute and have some means of communication. I like the opportunity to put together writing, artwork, illustration and design. I love the fact that zines give you an opportunity to meet people you wouldn’t meet otherwise, and share artwork and ideas with people who wouldn’t otherwise have the opportunity to see it. I also enjoy being able to publish work by othertalented artists, give them a chance to get some exposure.

Jake Austin – Roctober

I always read zines and xeroxed comica, and made a few small ones when I was a kid (one compiling Mama Jokes, e.g. Your mama is so…) and the others just comics. The reason I began seriously doing my own regularly published zine was that some punk kids were putting one together when I was about 20 and I did a great interview with Sleepy Labeef for them. When it became apparent they weren’t ever going to do their zine I put my own together and it was rewarding enough that I kept it up. By being available at only stores that sell the best stuff (punk 45s, underground comix, etc.) they inherently seemed like they must be worth checking out. I like the voices of the writers seeming so undiluted and direct.

Alex Wrekk

I read a few local mags and a few poetry type things then my boyfriend’s dad actually was getting zines from people off the internet back in 1993. I read some of his. We started putting stuff together for our own zine that we didn’t put out till 1994. It was called Fun in a Bucket and by that time it was just my little sister and I. I saw them and thought I can do that . And that I can make connections with people and keep in contact with people who are always moving around. The community that surrounds it. And how I can say what I want in the way I want to say it. The only editing is up to me.

Travis Fristoe – America?

This kid Erik Grotz, who I sort of looked up to in high school in Dumfries, Virginia did a zine called Action Time. It focused mostly on the D.C. hardcore scene and it blew me away. I was on the newspaper staff, but a self-published zine was unthinkable to me until I met Erik. Zines were part of the punk rock mystery to me, but they weren’t as scary as leather-jacketed thugs asking for cigarettes at shows. People with glasses wrote zines but they weren’t as passive as me and my comic book / AD&D friends. Zines tapped into something that I very much wanted to know about and become a part of. Too many things to put in a short answer, but the writing is way more relevant to my life than the New York Times or Details or The X-men. Of course, the bulk of zines (like any art form) can be trite, banal, predictable, etc. But stuff like Doris, Scam, King Cat, Cometbus, Scenery, etc. Ranks up there with my favorite hardback books. Zines are a tangible embodiment of d.i.y.

interviews with zinesters – julie halpern

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.

Julie Halpern – Cul-De-Sac

Why did you start doing a zine? What made you decide that you wanted to put a zine together and all that? What were your goals? What was your mission?

Liz went to college in Oregon, and I went to Madison. She sent me a copy of The Scaredy Cat Stalker and I thought it was hilarious. When she moved back to Chicago, we talked about how we should do something creative. We’ve known each other since we were five, and we always did lots of kooky, creative shit together. Since we were both done with school, we wanted something to do that was still somewhat intellectually stimulating for us. At the time, I was dating a guy who wrote a really crappy zine, and when we broke up, I thought it would be the perfect way to one up the dude. Not like he ever saw it, or anything. I felt very proud to have created something, though.

How small did you start? Print run, circulation, sales. And how far have you come? Is circulation and size and cost important to you?

We are pretty much just as puny in circulation as when we started. We make 200 copies each issue and more once they run out. The Zine Guide seems to increase our mail and orders, especially since they put a picture of one of our covers. Liz and I both have contacted people and stores in other cities, so the zine gets sold in other places besides Chicago. We have some in a store in Australia, and we’ve already gotten a few letters. People actually recognize the zine’s name sometimes, which is like mini-stardom. The cost is pretty important to me and Liz, since we have no money. Office Depot used to be really cheap, but they doubled the prices. Still, we do some shifty dealing here and there. And the infrequency of our printing makes it easier to save up.

How long does it take you to put an issue together? Is it fun? A chore? What distracts you from doing the zine?

The actual issue doesn’t take so long, especially at this point. We know what to get together and how to do layout and clip art, so it’s getting less painful. We start by thinking of a theme, and then we give each other assignments and brainstorm. We set a due date for the rough drafts, we read them, we make final drafts, then do the layout. But it takes us fucking forever in between issues these days because we’re busy. Distractions include school, work, boys… I’m getting my masters and working full time; Liz is in school full time and student teaching.

Do you think of Cul-De-Sac as a personal zine? Something else? An outlet?

Yes. It’s a personal zine, but it’s not like I wouldn’t just tell those stories on an everyday basis. I’m a pretty open person, but I’ve gotten to the point where I know I can’t be as open as I once was. People don’t deserve to know every bit about me. It’s weird. Matt [Cordell, of The Plan] and I are dating, and the way we hooked up was through him reading my zine. So he knows all these things about me, like sexual things and stuff, before I know dick about him. But in a way, that’s good, because he already knows I have some of these issues. We haven’t really talked about anything in the zines. It’s almost like the zine us are different from the real us. I never really thought of that before.

You live in the suburbs, right? Is that a hindrance? A help? Does it inspire you? Do you hate it? Do you identify with it? Why don’t you live in the city?

Actually, we both live in the city. That address came when I was living with my folks for 3 months after I got back from living in Australia. I had more time on my hands, so I opened it. Plus, Chicago mail sucks ass.

Do you feel like there’s a sense of community among Chicago’s zinesters? Do you feel like you’re a part of it? If there’s a community, is it strong or weak and how would you improve it?

No. The thing is, you can’t tell if someone writes a zine just by looking at them. Plus, being an indie venue, I’m sure a meeting between zinesters would be like going to a show where everybody tries to out-cool each other by how different they are. It would be fun if we tried to do a zine fest again, but that one a few years ago was shit cause no one came. Too cool, I suppose.

Are you happy with Cul-De-Sac? Would you improve it? How? Where do you see yourselves and Cul-De-Sac in five years?

I’m very happy with Cul-De-Sac. We get so much nice mail, it’s hard not to feel good. I wouldn’t improve it cause I don’t like to improve things. In five years, I’ll be a librarian. Liz, who knows? We’ll probably be doing the zine still. What the fuck else are we going to do?

Can you take us step by step through yr zine making process from start to finish?

Big question. Here goes: The easiest thing for us to get started is thinking of a theme. That way there’s some sort of focus. Otherwise, we have trouble thinking of what would make sense. Also, it brings that issue together. Then we give each other assignments. We talk to each other about things that go with the theme. Since we grew up together, we can remind each other of things that have happened.

Then we choose a date where the rough drafts are due. We meet with typed drafts and exchange. We edit and make suggestions. Then we set a date for the final drafts. On that date, we come and exchange finals to make sure it’s all good. Then we go through these clip art books we buy and get from the library. We pick the clip art and mark them. The next time we meet, we photocopy all the clip art and place them correctly. We don’t use any computer programs for this. We are so good at it by now, it doesn’t take that long. Plus, we don’t have the resources, such as scanners and Photoshop.

The next day we take the finished product to Office Depot. We choose a color for the cover, have the office dudes make a copy and check it. They fuck up and we check it again. This happens several times. Then they start printing, and as they go, we take chunks and staple them. It takes a few hours.

Distribution: we take bunches to Quimby’s, Reckless, Earwax, etc. Then we mail them to various zines that we trade with. Then we find zines that review, and we send them there.

Do you have any horror story type experiences making your zine?

Once, Office Depot’s machine broke, but they gave us a bunch of free copies. No, I don’t really have any horror stories.

interviews with zinesters – karl erickson and gretchen larsen

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.

Karl Erickson and Gretchen Larsen – Cakewalk

Why did you start Cakewalk? What made you decide to do it? Was there some event or some thing that made you want to do it? What were your goals? What did you hope to accomplish? Do you feel like you’re filling a void in Chicago’s zine scene?

Karl Erickson: Mari Eastman, Elliot Joslin, Liz Mayer and myself started Cakewalk a few years ago. Mari, Liz and I all worked at another art magazine and, I at least, felt a bit of dissatisfaction about content. Not that that magazine was doing anything wrong, they were and are serving their audience just great. But I wanted to see different stuff and I wanted to have more of a decision making role. Plus, I thought it would make me look cool. I’m really not sure why anyone else has joined on, other to bask in the warm glow of the Cakewalk machine.

Gretchen Larsen: Yes, the glowing machine was definitely a draw, but for me it was an opportunity to do some cool design. We all have a very similar aesthetic, attitude and sense of humor, so it’s way more fun to produce something with your good friends than for your no-good, unimaginative boss.

KE: But what I think what really started it was that Mari and I were having an unsupervised, over-caffeinated day and decided to do it. Our goals are to, from my point of view, continue to have artists and people interested in art talk about this interest and their other interests. It builds a sense of community and, I hope, allows people to get to know each other outside of more professionally orientated magazines. I like to see people talk about whatever in a more informal, but still critical way. Also, the more strange drawings we can publish, the better.

As for filling a void in the Chicago zine scene, I’d say sure we do. I only know of a couple other art magazines in Chicago and each has their own flavor.

How long ago did you start Cakewalk? Is it your first zine? Were there other zines, are there other zines that you work on?

KE: I think Cakewalk started in 1998, but it may have been 1997. It comes out very sporadically. All of us have worked on a variety of magazines.

How large is your operation? Do you employ anybody? Is it mainly just you? How do you feel about that?

KE: We have a revolving cast, but there is a 5 or 6 person core (Steve Anderson, Mari Eastman, Gretchen Larsen, Liz Mayer, Josh Rothkopf on drums and myself.) We don’t pay anyone, though I have used some of our advertising money for bus fare. I would love to make money and pay people, but I’d also like to be Hugh Hefner.

GL (Designer & Karl’s girlfriend): The hell you would!

Is everyone friends? Is it larger than when you started?

KE: We are all friends and the great thing is that we get to be friendly with the writers and artists involved. It is larger now in that we actually get around internationally. People are always saying Oh, I saw you in Singapore or UNICEF was including issues in a drop. Kind of surprising, really.

Do you think of your zine as a Chicago art magazine or an art magazine that happens to be in Chicago? Why?

KE: Definitely an art magazine that is based in Chicago. And not even that too much, as our writers are from all over, Mari is in LA. There is so much complaining in Chicago, particularly in the art scene, that we don’t get enough attention, blah blah blah and one of the things I think that Cakewalk does is just ignore the idea of regionalism. If it is good (or not good but we are interested in it) then it is in. This brings the world to us and us to the world.

Do you feel that there’s a sense of community among Chicago’s zinesters? Is it a strong community? Weak community? Do you feel that you’re part of it? How would you improve it?

KE: I really don’t know if there is a community among zine producers. If there is, I don’t feel part of it. That said, the folks at Quimby’s are very nice and supportive and I imagine are a focal point of the scene. Cakewalk is more centered in the art world then in a zine world, if there is one, so most of our contacts and sense of belonging are there. It would be interesting to hear how everyone else gets their magazines out in the world and into the hands of those who thirst for their brand of knowledge. But I hate group meetings. If somebody asked me to be part of the zine scene, I would say sure.

GL: I can’t say I really feel like we’re doing “‘zine” in the proper sense anyway. I’d say, rather, the “independent publishing” scene in Chicago has been pretty great, but I don’t know if I often feel part of a scene either. We all just sort of do our own thing and maybe run into each other every now and then. Karl mentioned Quimby’s, has picked up a few of our articles, Punk Planet has given some good advice, Reckless Records has been super nice to us – anyone interested in printed matter, really – which may or may not qualify as a community. The reaction has been pretty positive and most people are like This is cool, can I mention/sell you in my ‘zine/website/bookstore/shout from the rooftops? Everyone has been very giving and sharing and they play nicely with others.

Are you happy with how Cakewalk turned out? Is it what you had envisioned when you started it? How would you improve it? Where do you see yourself and your zine in five years?

KE: I am pretty happy with Cakewalk. I think it is great because sometimes it doesn’t make any sense and confuses me and sometimes it does make sense. I love our covers. I think Cakewalk has an internal logic that we just haven’t figured out yet. Oh, there could be all sorts of improvements. We could have more money, we could become “legit” and be business-y and probably have people give us money and it could be in color and have more than a thousand issues printed and people would turn stuff in on time and I could be super organized or hire organizing monkeys and actually present more new ideas to the world that make people think. In five years. Good God. If we are still around, it should be quarterly, at least, we should not be doing it from our mother’s basements or “borrowing” office supplies from other jobs, and have a nice website like and we should be able to impress people by saying I work on Cakewalk. And have meetings in hot tubs.

GL: It would be dreamy if we could make enough money to do it for a living. But it would probably take more than five years for that to happen. I could see it continuing casually as we have for another few years. Maybe more color, better print quality. But I can’t see the feel-good factor ever changing, I think that’s our biggest asset.

Is there a step by step process that you go through in putting together your zine? What is it? This includes everything, from brainstorming to final product and distribution.

KE: Kind of. First we talk loosely about what the magazine should be about. Then we take this loose idea and present it to different writers we are interested in who might be interested in us. Then we start to get in a few article suggestions and that usually spurs on other article ideas. Sooner or later we end up with most of the articles we need and we go about designing it. We usually have an internal theme that we work with that doesn’t really have anything to do with the article themes. For instance, last issue, a lot of the articles dealt with rebellion and the artists place in our society. But we decided that the internal theme would be all you can robot. Before that, it was country western. This just gives us the structure we need to have a cohesive design. So after it is all designed we send it out to be printed. Then we get it back, send some to our distributors, who take it and do something with it, I am not sure what. They don’t tell us. The rest we self-distribute, putting them on consignment and sending them to friends around the world. Probably the easiest thing to forget but the most important thing to do is send issues to people who are in the magazine or who have helped you out.

Has it changed since you put together your first issue? Is it smoother now? Is it always evolving or do you have it perfected?

KE: It is far from perfected, though we are moving away from doing the editing and designing at the same time. That is a recipe for pain. So, it is smoother.

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.

interviews with zinesters – andrew scott

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.

Andrew Scott Sobstory

What made you start your zine? Was there some incident or some thing that happened that made you want or need to make a zine? What did you hope to accomplish when you first started? What was your mission?

Throughout highschool I read Maximum Rock n Roll religiously. I loved punk rock, I identified with it and was so inspired by it all. I bought the records, the zines, and attended the shows. The next step was to start contributing to this scene that meant so much to me. But after three failed attempts to play in punk rock bands, I decided that maybe a zine was a better option. So rather than scream my thoughts through a microphone, I decided to write them down and xerox them. A zine was a creative outlet that I could do entirely on my own. Then later on it turned into an addiction, I had to make zines to keep my sanity. It was a relief to empty out the thoughts in my head and put them on paper. Like John Lee Hooker said Let that boy boogie-woogie, cuz it’s in him and it’s gotta come out.

How do you feel about Chicago? How long have you lived here? Do you think of your zine as a Chicago zine? Do you feel like there’s a sense of community among Chicago zinesters? Is it strong? Weak? Do you feel part of it? How would you improve it?

I’ve lived in Chicago basicallly my entire life except for the one year I spent in California. I grew up about 25 miles west of the city in Dupage County, but moved to the city six years ago. I’m not too fond of Chicago, but at the same time I love it. Every year I vow to move away, but something always keeps me here. Chicago is my home, as much as I curse it, this city fuels me. Chicago is filled with real people that have real problems. Walking down the street you can see it in their eyes, I’m sure they see it in mine too. It’s not easy to live in this city, it weathers a person, but I think that’s what gives it it’s character. It’s all surface level, what you see is what you get in this town.

Sobstory is inevitalby a Chicago zine, because that’s where I reside, but I think that people everywhere can relate to what I’m writing about. It’s about experiences and life. Like how people understand love songs in every region, we’re all humans right?

If there’s any sort of a zine community in Chicago, I’m not aware of it. I know a few people that do zines, and we’ll talk about printing methods, or other insignificant issues. We’re not really helping each other produce our zines.

When did you first start making zines? I know you did Kumquat before Sobstory, when did you start that? Why did you switch over to Sobstory? Do you think of your zines as personal zines?

I started Kumquat zine in the fall of 1992. Six issues were printed up, and the last one was released in 1998. I switched to the name Sobstory, because I felt that the feeling of the zine had matured. I was 18 when I printed up the first Kumquat. You can imagine the difference between an 18 year old’s zine and a 25 year old’s zine. It was time for a change. I’d liked the name sob story for a couple years, I was into the idea of a title that said this zine tells a story. So Sobstory it was.

I hate the name personal zine, it sounds too sissy. Like this is my private little story I’m sharing with you. Yeah, I may talk about experiences that move me, but it’s no different than someone singing a song about romance, gun fights, or being a rambling man. They don’t label those songs as personal songs. Most things that inspire people touch them personally. I don’t think it’s any different than an author writing a story. I do like some zines that might be labeled as personal zines, these are my all time favorites: Reality Control, Notes from the Lighthouse, Scam zine, and Beer Powered Bicycle.

How have you grown as a zine maker over the years? How have your zines improved over the years? Are you happy with how Sobstory came out? Were you happy with Kumquat? If you could improve Sobstory how would you?

I’ve grown as a person and inevitably my zine has followed the same path. My zines have improved as far as design and printing techniques. When I first started, it was entirely a cut and paste layout. And I hope the writing is a little better. I’m happy with all of the zines I’ve ever printed, even though each one has a lot of room for improvement. I always think the next one I print will be a little bit better. I suppose if I had an editor to read my stuff before it was printed that would be an improvement.

Where do you see yourself and your zine in five years? What do you hope to accomplish by then?

In five years I will be probably be dead, but at least my zines will finally be recognized. Just kidding, I don’t know. I hope to keep putting out zines, and busying myself with other creative projects. My head is always conjuring up these ideas in which I can waste more money. Nonetheless they keep me going, I’ve found that involving myself in these projects sort of puts more meaning into life, like maybe I have a greater purpose than working some shitty 9-5 job for the rest of my life. Well, I’ll still be working that 9-5 job, but hopefully doing stuff on the side.