Brighton Zinefest is pushing a DIY ethos in publishing, with Xerox and staples forming an ever-more tangible medium for the written word. We spoke to Toby Chelms from ‘The New Wave Of Cut & Paste’ about the zine scene.
Nick Coquet: The fest is a lot bigger this year, more than just crates of zines.
Toby Chelms: We wanted to make this one more of a community thing. There’s a big social at the Coachworks on the Thursday, where a lot of writers from all over the country and beyond can meet up. Friday’s a fundraiser for the fest at the Cowley Club – five live bands, all of whom write zines or are connected in some way, and Saturday at the Hanover Community Centre – loads of tables with sellers who usually sell online, people meeting up and buying or swapping zines. There are also workshops, from setting up a zine to more general DIY spirit, from bike fixing to gardening.
NC: It sounds like there’s a real community spirit among the writers.
TC: Yes, there’s a good network of people swapping titles all over the UK, into mainland Europe as well as the US. There’s a great zine scene in Australia too, so it’s quite international.
NC: It doesn’t sound like the blogosphere has impacted on you too much.
TC: I think there’s a good crossover, we’re not shunning the web at all. In the 80s and up to the mid-90s, people were getting their news, tour dates and stuff, from zines. But the web serves that up immediately, so zine writing has tended to veer towards more in-depth reviews and interviews. It’s made for far better journalism, as writers know they’re competing with people pouring their hearts out on blogs.
NC: And music blogs can serve up the mp3s to go with it…
TC: Yes. That 80s to mid-90s period was the focal point for music zines, there are a lot fewer around now. What you get now is the perzine, which I suppose is similar to blog culture in that it’s people writing about their personal travels and experiences. It’s more people self-publishing academic essays than how fanzines used to read – with lists of gigs and news. There’s a guy in the US called Aaron Cometbus, he’s been writing zines for 25 years. He plays in bands but it’s mainly his thoughts on his travels and cultures he’s experienced. That kind of writing is big over there and becoming more prominent here now as well.
NC: There’s a sense of the material standing out more in print than it does online.
TC: I think zines are more realistic in their output, too. You know if people are buying them because a lot of it is face-to-face. Unless someone leaves a comment on a blog you don’t know who, if anyone, is actually reading. That’s not to say there aren’t egotistical zines out there, they just tend to be less frequent and have smaller runs. Ultimately though, you can self-publish anything but there has to be interest to keep it going.
NC: And I suppose success means they get glossier and officially become magazines?
TC: Well, what is a zine? I mean, SOURCE ticks all the boxes – it’s independent, it’s not just trying to make a fortune. There’s a great title called ‘Last Hours’ – a 5,000 copy, professional print run, but it’s still a zine. Some people say if it’s not photocopied or does more than a 100 copies it doesn’t count anymore, but there are no official guidelines. Very few people make any kind of living at it though, but it’s not about that. People write zines to avoid censorship; they do it for the love.
NC: Can we finish with a few Brighton blog recommendations?
TC: Yes, when I bother to email them to you.