Friday, November 14, 2008

Adventures In Publishing - Part 2 - Cut, Paste, Repeat

I was a good four or five years between my initial V.P. Comics days (from Part 1 of this post) to my discovery of zines. In the intervening years I had discovered punk rock, learned the sacred bar chord, and gone through a couple of girlfriends. Like most kids, I was busy with the business of being busy. Sneaking out, drinking vodka, and smoking clove cigarettes was in vogue amongst my elite group of small town hipsters but we did seem to find a way to do other things like create art and music.
I can actually pinpoint the day I really discovered what the underground press was all about. I was in Knoxville (the big city) for some reason and I went down to Raven Records off Cumberland, which used to be called "the strip". Raven was like some sort of little chapel or shrine to rock and roll, tucked neatly and discreetly away behind a drug store in a little alley just off the main strip. In fact, I wouldn't be surprised if they had housed secret macabre relics of rock's past. Preserved bodies of some of its fallen saints, or even hosted meetings of some kind of Fraternal Order of the Obscure and Awesome where Roky Erickson came out wearing a robe and holding a sword emblazoned with the Sun Records logo. But I digress.
Raven was the place where I bought my first Cramps record (the picture you see here is of myself (right) and my friend Scott when we were just babes in the record store). It was now the place where I was introduced to another facet of cool. I'd looked at their selection of magazines but I hadn't ever had enough money for both a record and a zine before so I had only really glanced over them. This time, though, I had a couple of extra dollars and I decided to take a look. There were a few names I had heard like Maximum Rock 'n' Roll and Flipside but the one that caught my eye that day was Factsheet Five. I think there were three reasons I decided on it above the others. (1) It had the most pages (2) It was only a dollar and (3) It had a bold bright yellow cover featuring some crazy artwork by, I think, Jeff Gaither or someone similarly demented. At any rate, I bought it and read it on the car ride home and for days after. Factsheet Five was not really a zine per se, but a zine about zines. It was a huge compendium of reviews for everything underground, from music to zines to poetry to mail art. Pretty much, if you could send it in an envelope, Mike Gunderloy would review it. I was immediately enthralled and began ordering one dollar zines and two dollar cassette demos through the mail.
It didn't take long at all for me to decide that I had to get in on this. Finally, I had found a way to contribute to the scene that I had only watched from afar. Punk culture was no longer "out there" as much anymore because I could be a part of it via the U.S. Postal Service. I enlisted the help of my good friend and music collaborator, Johnathan L. Perry, as co-editor and we went to work immediately on our first zine, Apparitions of the Future. It was a cut and paste tribute to everything we loved. Death rock, poetry, books, comics, and whatever else we could throw in the mix. Scissors, tape, glue, stolen library books, and contributions from friends we had met through the mail were the tools of our trade. We would go to the copy shop down the road and re-size all our bits and pieces to fit on a standard sheet of typing paper and then back to my room to put it all together. Once we were finished with an issue we would copy a few to send out to other zines for review and then wait. Before long the orders would start coming in and we would wait until we had five or six and then make another trip to the copy shop, repeating the process until we had put another issue together.

This was our internet. I met a lot of people when I started doing zines and contributing to the ones that others did. Some of those friendships lasted many years. I remember going to my mailbox and never knowing what would be in there. Mail art, which could be anything really, was one of my favorite weird things to receive. Sometimes it would just be an envelope full of glitter or something else you could never send in these days of anthrax and "terror". I'd also get loads of cassettes from bands and strange propaganda from environmentalists, anarchists, and nazis alike. I think I was introduced (and eventually ordained) into the "mysteries" of the SubGenius through one of those random mailings. Anyway, my point is that this was my first Renaissance. Apparitions of the Future was not the greatest piece of art or the most intellectual of the staple rags out there but it was mine. Johnathan and I put it together with the same vigor, immediacy, and love that we made our music with. I was still a sophomore in high school with a fanzine that was going out all over the world and playing original music with my own band, The Flesh Thorns, every few weekends in clubs I wasn't even allowed in as a customer. I was tortured by adolescence and happy about it at the same time. But I couldn't wait to get out of school.
All that survives of Apparitions of the Future, at least in my archives, are three issues. If you'd like to take a look at them in their entirety, here's a link where I've scanned and uploaded all three of them as image files.

Download "Apparitions of the Future" (20mb)

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