I’m doing this talk at Rough Trade East in a couple of weeks on fanzines from pre-punk til the modern day. Andrew Weatherall, Bob Stanley, Geoff Travis and Andy Childs will be taking part, talking about the part they played in DIY world, whether it was ‘60s rock ‘zine Zig Zag or acid house irregular Boy’s Own.
Getting ready for a session like this requires some proper research, so I’ve been reading books (the Boy’s Own and Soul Underground anthologies amongst others) and I’ve been keeping my eye out for current examples of the fanzine imperative, something Caught By The River’s Robin Turner called “an ever-present and excitable urgency to pass on newly learnt information to as many people as possible.”
This is precisely what I found in a gorgeous sun-bleached surf fanzine called Kook, which I came across in The Ship, a delightfully grown-up men’s clothes shop-stroke-vintage skate ‘n’ surf treasure trove in Greenwich Market.
I haven’t got a ruler to hand but it looks like a slightly slim-line Berliner, filled with beautiful photography, illustration, neat design touches (the lines and dots, dominos and cross-hatching that appear subtly throughout). Even better, the words are wonderful. I particularly enjoyed Rui’s article on how surf-board shaping has become popular in Portugal, Cyrus Sutton’s article on creating surf experiences in the street with a 50ft piece of tarpaulin, and Rebecca Jane Olive’s piece on how the idea that surfing and freedom are linked isn’t always right: “When I choose to take some time away from surfing, it sits on my shoulder whispering in my ear, nagging me, asking questions and making demands… At times I think we’ve all been fooled. Surfing isn’t freedom, it’s a trap.”
Kook is entirely propelled by the fanzine impulse. On the back, in the box titled ‘Kook Needs You!’ (people who do fanzines always want to reach out to like-minded folk) they say it quite explicitly. “Kook is created and produced for the shared joy of creating and producing something different. It is not for profit. If you would like to submit content for Kook 3, please get in touch.”
I found another piece of DIY publishing recently. It’s not exactly a fanzine, more a cross between treatise and graphic novel, but hey, who’s checking? It was about the size of my hand (properly pocket-sized), bound in blue blotting paper and contained a cod-scientific argument against spending too much time on the internet. It was called Social Notworking and the final page contained a 2nd Class stamp and an exhortation to go and write to someone. I would post a picture, but I leant it to my friend and I can’t find anything about it online.
I’ve never been convinced by the argument that blogs have taken over from fanzines, especially as so many blogs are transparently CV-angled. There are blogs that are propelled by the fanzine imperative (Paul Byrne’s testpressing.org and Matthew Hamilton’s AOR Disco come to mind) but I’ve never bought into any idea that suggests that a new technology (blogs) will destroy an old one (print). Video didn’t kill cinema. On-line shopping didn’t kill physical retail. All that happens is a constant realigning of everything, all the time.