Reviews by Jose Fritz
You can do a lot with paper, sharpies and a long stapler: write, rant, scribble, edit, create, destroy, delete, crumple, burn and start again; or not and release your wildest, raw, unedited and untamed prose upon the outside world. Zines come to us in every state: pulp or polished, poetry or prose, fiction or farce—we don’t discriminate. Here’s some of the latest zines we’ve read:
Out from the Void
It’s easy to zoom out and see only the dry statistics: The National Missing and Unidentified Persons database (NamUS) reports that over 600,000 people go missing every year. Most are found, but on average, we have more than 20,000 active missing person cases at a time and 14,000 unidentified body cases remain open.
The numbers are on the same scale as the population of large towns, small cities and whole midwestern states. On average, 90,000 people are missing in the USA at any given moment. That’s about the population of South Dakota. The numbers staggering but impersonal integers like these are completely unable to answer the horrible, haunting questions. Instead NamUS just reports that about 90% are “resolved.” The word “resolved” here is vague and ominous.
These numbers are people, and often disadvantaged people: single moms, students, children, Indigenous peoples, the homeless, the elderly, people living in poverty, the unemployed, sex workers, migrant workers and the mentally ill. The risk factors are complex and the data is replete with dubious pseudocorrelations. Editor Brenton Gicker takes it all on without judgment.
Gicker is a mental health crisis worker, emergency medical technician and registered nurse. His approach to the topic is professional, but never statistical. He zooms in on the missing persons of Eugene, Oregon. He collects stories with the names of people and places and the people left behind and the places where the bodies are found.
I saw issue #2 of this zine. That issue bore the subtitle “A Chronicle of Eugene’s dead, missing and unidentified people.” That subtitle is absent from the cover of issue #5 but the focus has not waivered. The only thing I find notably lacking this time is the voice of Gicker himself which was more present in earlier issues. This time, aside from the introduction, he expresses himself only editorially. But peering into the darkness can take a toll on people. Perhaps that distance is necessary— for sanity, and for self-preservation — so that this personal quest can continue, unabated, like the disappearances themselves.
Memory Loss – Collected Communiques from CLODO
Free on Libgen & archive.org
In May 2022, the organization Destructionist International released a documentary named Machines in Flames, a research project into CLODO. The filmmakers were quoted as saying, “knowing CLODO meant becoming CLODO.”
This zine is about a now obscure, but important clandestine group from the early 1980s. Were they anarchists, were they primitivists? luddites?, perhaps anti-civ? They saw computers both as tools and as weapons in the era which predated mass-surveillance. There was no social media. Cell phones were still the size of a shoe, there was no facial recognition and no cloud computing. The word “email” was brand new. Their bombings and arson attacks were contemporary to cyberpunk, not cybersecurity.
CLODO stands for “Committee for liquidation or subversion of computers” and from looking at the zine alone you can be forgiven for mistaking it for a work of fiction. CLODO was very real. In the original French it stands for Comité Liquidant ou Détournant les Ordinateur. The name is also a pun, “clodo” is a slang word for homeless in French. Hebdo even published some of their communiques.
Their statements from 40 years ago seem prophetic today. “The computer is the favorite tool of the dominant. It is used to exploit, to put on file, to control, and to repress.” Statements like that are all the more prescient decades before Anonymous, Snowden, FAANG, X-Keyscore, and Artificial Intelligence. The mass surveillance they warned about has come to pass on a scale unimaginable in 1980. Today data storage is measured in numbers difficult for humans to even comprehend. The NSA processes 29 petabytes of data per day by their own estimate. In 1983 there weren’t 29 petabytes of storage in existence. Today we’re well into zettabytes.
Mixing quotes and excised texts with commentary, Memory Loss goes down a very dystopian rabbit hole. This might look like a good place for a Wachowskian red pill / blue bill metaphor but the truth is that the red pill can’t set you free. There is no irrevocable choice. Everyone is inside the Matrix and everyone knows it and there are no means of escape. To date none of the members of CLODO have been identified, nor the author of this zine. (It wasn’t me. I promise.)
Behind the Zines #13
$3 – 40 pages etsy.com/shop/iknowbilly
One thing you can appreciate about zine culture is that it has never become locked into the nostalgia cycle. Unlike other aesthetics, which have collapsed into self-parody, zines persevere. Each individual zinester, every mimeograph, xerox, risograph and austere hand-drawn squiggle remains true to the format’s origins. The trajectory isn’t toward mockery or parody, instead it seems to be toward archivism and academic analysis: zines that examine zine culture. In short— it’s getting really meta in here.
To that end, you have to appreciate the bibliography of Billy McCall. He’s now a published novelist. His perzine ‘Proof I exist’ has been running for over 20 years and is collected at multiple university libraries. That kind of academic and/or professional acceptance may feel good in the moment but it’s also awkward in light of the medium’s DIY roots. It forces the format to confront the dreaded “L” word… legitimacy.
Billy McCall straddles both worlds, he’s been in a half a dozen punk bands and has been self-publishing longer than he’s been self-recording his own country music. Country music? Yes, but his mohawk is still pink and still crooked. His DIY resume is above reproach so he becomes the ideal person to publish a zine like Behind the Zines.
This issue includes writers like Kari Tervo, Anna Jo Beck, Keith Helt, Anna Sellheim, Bradley Adita, and Todd Taylor… names you’ve seen in previous issues and often in other zines. This issue includes a really solid history of zine publication, comic articles on the zine-making process, a serious column about online distribution and autobiographical articles about both Razorcake and Junk Drawer.
Behind the Zines makes a great companion to zines like Broken Pencil and Xerography Debt. The biannual publication is so consistent that they offer a subscription. Only 13 issues in, and Behind the Zines already needs a compendium of its own.
From Staple to Spine – A Compendium of Zine-Related Books
(2022 Ed.) $2 stapletospine.wixsite.com/about
How very meta: this is a zine review about a zine which is about books about zines. With thanks to editor A.J. Michel, we are deep inside the ouroboros today. You may better know her name from Xerography Debt, but back in 2015 she also edited the zine Unrecommended Reading, a genuinely hilarious metazine that reviewed exclusively bad books. Her commitment to the metazine format is unique in our universe, and special to me personally as a bibliophile. She remains a national treasure.
As a relic of the print era myself, I am drawn to the exposition of books, magazines, zines, and other print ephemera. For me From Staple to Spine constitutes nothing less than a shopping list of must-read books. Ten years of British punk zines? Yes please. Hippie era underground press? A Punk Planet collection? The complete Noise For Heroes? Where do you even start?
It took a few hours, but somewhere in the bowels of my hippocampus I realized that I could contribute to future editions of From Staple to Spine. I checked the “I” section. There were only three entries: Inconspicuous Consumption, and both editions of the It’s alright Truckface Anthology. I went to my personal archive and pulled out I Shout “That’s Me!. A history of selected Czech zines from the 1980s. I typed out the standard MLA details and fired off a love note to email@example.com. We can all be part of the source code.
My highest hope is that this project grows to become a book in its own right: A compendium of zines, about books about zines. Then I can write a book review in a zine about a book collecting a series of books about zines. May the circle grow ever wider.
In the Basement: Punk Music Spaces
brownowlpress.com $7 – 32 pages
If you are anything like me, these images sweat gravitas. Put emphasis on the word sweat there. Imagine rivulets of dank, salty water condensing from the breath of a hundred people on old latex paint, running down the walls, leaving trails in the grease and dirt, illuminated by yellowed flickering fluorescent bulbs… that kind of sweat. If you haven’t remembered the smell by now. You just haven’t been there.
The images in In the Basement are a series of large format camera photographs of empty punk music spaces; no bands, no crowds. These are usually community spaces, political organizing spaces, art spaces, and safe spaces. Pretty much anyone reading this review has been in one of these places.
I emailed the author Karen Kirchhoff to ask her thoughts and she responded very thoughtfully on both the substance and the transience of these kinds of performance spaces.
“Generally photographs of punk are focused on the people who make punk. Often the photos are of live music, made using a 35mm hand held camera. The large format photography I used for this series is a slow process using a cumbersome camera. The photos have a planned quality that is counter to the spontaneous images made by a hand held portable camera. Small format cameras are perfect for capturing the energy of the punk scene while my images admire the quieter moments in between the chaos. My photos are an appreciation of the places where punk happens.”
Every image evokes a memory: the gritty cement floor, frayed scrap carpet, flaking paint, speakers mounted to the rafters with orange tie down straps… danging, shreds of duct tape on linoleum, spray paint over wallpaper, spray paint over latex paint, spray paint on spray paint, dusty mattresses with concentric rings of stains, car seats on cinder blocks, stacks of mismatched drums to the ceiling, scraps of 2×4 nailed to the floor, and always christmas tree lights. I can even remember that particular melange of smells… sweat, stale beer, mold and that faint tang of urine. But the memories are all good… I assure you.
Shards of Glass In Your Eye
$3 +postage firstname.lastname@example.org
Some sources refer to this as a comedy zine, but this is most definitely a perzine. It’s been a year and a half since Kari Tervo’s last issue and that’s about average. She has kept this series going since 1995, that’s a good run; 17 issues in 27 years.
But a lot has changed over those decades both for Ms. Tervo and for the rest of us. The sensation here is like watching a film that follows a long-running TV series. The writing is still good, but the actors have grown up. You recognize most of the faces, but we’ve all aged: crows feet, gray hair, comfortable shoes… Change is an inevitable consequence of life.
So you find your expectations are incongruous with that new reality. Kari can still go to the rave if she wants to. But on the third day she might need a nap back at the tent. You cant’ tell me that it’s any different for you these days. She’s not quite so snarky anymore, but she’s still very silly in an endearing way, just like your own friends; the ones you first met back in the 1990s.
Node Pajomo 2.7
$1 by Mail PO Box 2632, Ballingham, WA 98227
It only took three paragraphs into the first page of this issue of Node Pajomo to explain the premise. “In the Spirit of Global Mail and Fact Sheet 5…” Those are two enormously influential zines to call out as influences. Fact Sheet 5 was published by Mike Gunderloy in 1982 on a ditto machine cranking out collage and reviews. Global Mail started back in 1993 with Ashley Parker Owens editing reviews, articles and mail art into a publication that was at one time, about the size and format of Slingshot. Be there no doubt, Node Pajomo fits the bill.
The bulk of the content is zine reviews, succinct, fair and direct and by the hundreds. There are zines on every conceivable topic: extreme metal, French metal, poetry, police violence, innumerable perzines, communal living, UK punk, life in Sweden, collage, photography, playing cards, dictionary appreciation, writing prompts, bus tickets, dadaism, anarchism, surrealism, existentialism, zine reviews, podcast reviews, candy reviews, magik, devo, pulp adverts and did I mention mail art? Oh yes.
The listings are at the back but the mail art overflows the zine itself. The envelope it came in was stuffed with a literal confetti of ephemera: Four red images all cropped crudely labeled “scratch, test, zeta and adden” – A vinyl sticker with an image of a boy scout haloed by televisions with a note on the back – An orange carnival game ticket hand stamped “ADIOS” – A hand drawn face looking left, cut out by hand – A date stamped blue image on cardstock reading “Mailart is just one word like bullshit” – A small hand drawing of an inscrutable petroglyph – An art trading card from Private World – A series of cut up magazine images glued together and then stitched over with pink thread – a square cut from a salmon identification form – two blurry but continuous photographs of a statue taped together asymmetrically, an ad for the Eternal Darkness Creations catalog… and that’s not even all of it.
Node Pajomo doesn’t usually score zines or render judgement but they review Slingshot 133-134 with the three words “Reccomended as fuck” which is all you need to know.
Rite or Riot
Issues #15 & 17 Naomistine28@gmail.com
I am a music geek, a reader of music zines, musician biographies and genre histories. So when I saw the name of this zine I understood the reference immediately. The name of the zine comes from an infamous 1913 performance of Igor Stravinsky’s “The Rite of Spring” which degenerated into a riot: fights in the audience, objects thrown at the ballet dancers, shouting, fighting and rending of garments—total pandemonium. Many books have retold the story. But it’s that event which juxtaposes the two words “Rite” and “Riot” and inspired this zine combining punk and classical music.
I emailed the editor Naomi, and she confirmed it was indeed the Le Sacre du Printempts which inspired her zine title and topic. “Classical music” as we call it today was not always viewed as prim, proper, formal and stodgy. Compared to the chamber music of the day, Stravinsky was outlandish and utterly radical; and he wasn’t alone.
So the two genres are mashed together, an interview with a cellist, an interview with a 2nd wave punk vocalist, a review of a book on piano technique, a review of a punk zine, a review of a heady foreign film, a review of a D.C. punk documentary… the record reviews go the same way.
The last page of each issue is a single page of a lengthy, multi-part interview of Naomi by Kristen M. Zoom. Part 13 of the interview is in the back of issue 17 and even that segment ends with “to be continued…” I suppose I need to read issues 3 thru 12 to get more of the backstory about how this rogue punk pianist turned into a rogue zinestress. May the mystery endure.
Fire Art & Style (Summer 2022)
Free at select infoshops
This is a self-described anti-capitalist art and style zine. The duotone cover is a nice piece of collage either piercing together cut ups or digitally imitating that classic aesthetic. Parts of newspaper and magazine headlines crash into images of suits shaking hands, pedestrians and art of uncertain origin. Ronathan and Multi contribute art and comics which help round out a zine otherwise monopolized by the voices of Lenin and Rhys.
Lenin Downunder opens with a riff on cooperation between Anarchists and Socialists. It’s serious and he backs up his arguments with multiple historical references. I’ve read articles like this elsewhere previously. It’s not breaking new ground but it’s a good, concise, well-ordered piece.
The balance of the verbage here is a single article by Rhys Anderson titled “A Meeting With Hungry Djen on the Road to Suranaq.” It reads like a folk tale, like the work of Raouf Mama or Isaac Bashevis Singer. Magical realism has its place. It takes center stage in South American fiction for example. Multiple publications from the Heinemann books African Writers Series come to mind as well. But in general, it’s not my bag. More critically, Downunder and Anderson’s two works are so dissimilar, that it creates a palpable dissonance in this issue.
Setting aside that central conflict in this specific issue, I appreciate their model. On their Tumblr they proudly announce “…this zine operates at a loss because we don’t charge for it and we pay our writers.” They are paying for art, paying for writing and then publishing those works in a free zine. They’re flipping the literary journal model on its head. Then just for the lulz they set the rate so that one picture is equal to 1,000 words. At least they have a sense of humor.
Issue #10 – $7 dynamitehemorrhage.com/
Dynamite Hemorrhage is not just a zine, it’s also a podcast. While we’re only up to issue 10 of the zine, the podcast is currently on episode number 192. The big round, pear-shaped numbers suggest that it is about 20 times as easy to crank out a podcast as a radio show. (Having done both… I can confirm that is the case.)
But put that thought aside, focus on their journey deep into the underground; down into the basement, down the stairs into the boiler room, and climb down the access hatch into the dank unlit tunnels below the city from whence all indie rock originates: in darkness, and obscurity. In the void it was amorphous and existed without shape and form until the day it is borne into the daylight. The act of writing about indie rock makes it real. That’s when it transcends its native media. Until then, it is another tree falling in the forest.
The best part of Dynamite Hemorrhage is that Hinman writes whatever he wants. If he wants to write 8 pages about back issues of the 1980s Michael Koenig/Byron Coley hardcore punk zine Take It; he can. He’s also the editor, he’s not going to stop himself. In doing so, he contributes to the punk cannon in the same way that Koenig and Coley did. Their original writings on commerce and art rock in the 1980s reflect the obligate foundation of the indie rock ethos that followed. There is an unmistakable continuity of thought, style and ideology.
In an interview with Rockwrit, Jay Hinman tells the story of the first fanzines he ever read: Ripper and Maximum Rocknroll. At the time he was still listening to the Maximum Rocknroll radio show on KPFA in Berkeley, CA. But unlike many zinesters today, he waited until after college to start his first zine. That one-man operation, Superdope, was started back in 1991. That series ended in 1998, and Dynamite Hemorrhage began in 2013. Those were dark years in the tunnels without the words of Hinman. We don’t talk about it anymore, we’re just glad he’s back.
Dynamite Hemorrhage remains wholly devoted to only the most raw and unpolished underground rock and roll. You can tell from the first sentence of the first record review on the first page that it’s going to blow your mind. It opens with the words, “Some of it is not even music.” I want that carved on my gravestone.