Tag Archives: publishing
The Life of a Publisher’s Cat Isn’t So Bad
Get to Know Piltdownlad
From a questionnaire “Get to Know Your Zinester” for the 2014 LA Zine Fest that was never posted.
What was your first zine about and when was it made?
The first zine I made, in late 1998, was called Vagabond. It was a comp zine about living on the skids, traveling and urban life. I cut and pasted the first issue together on a camping table in my friend’s living room after taking apart somebody else’s zine to use as a guide. I went to Kinko’s and printed 100 copies, taking advantage of their long-armed stapler. As far as I know only one ragged, heavily annotated copy exists. I did three more issues of Vagabond before moving on to other publishing endeavors.
Describe your most recent zine.
Piltdownlad is a typewritten, mostly hand-scrawled personal narrative zine. I write autobiographical stories about my past using literary techniques like plot and dialogue. I call it “creative engineering.” Each issue is subtitled and centers around a featured story, with some issues including letters and zine reviews. Because I write about abuse, the most common statement folks make about Piltdownlad is that it’s “not for everyone.” A recent reviewer said I should include a label warning potential readers that my zine can be “triggering.” Yes, I deal with very heavy topics, but in light-hearted ways. For me, it’s easier to deal with a painful memory by ripping it apart and recreating it from another angle. I like to think that honest writing is accessible to one and all, but I guess if somebody is sensitive to topics such as male sexual abuse, a sordid family history, growing up in the inner city, being a foster kid in small town Alabama, teenage rebellion, drugs, punk rock, blasphemy, alienation, bullies, vandalism and the pursuit of love or just some sense of belonging in the world, then Piltdownlad is probably not for them.
Of all the things you’ve ever made, zine-related or otherwise, what’s your one favorite?
Around 2000, I started a series of zines and chapbooks called the Pick Pocket Books. They were short, quarter-sized and hand-made with a unique binding. I combined edgy poetry and twisted stories with even weirder comics and illustrations from a variety of underground writers and artists. I sold them for a buck. My tag line was “Read Cheap.” Another one was “…made on a budget so tight, it’s criminal.” To get them printed, I charmed, cheated and stole thousands of free copies from the various corporate copy shacks around LA. I used all sorts of trickery and fast-talking. My specialty was complaining about any possible flaw in the print quality so they wouldn’t charge me for those copies, then pointing out how wasteful it would be to just throw them in the trash. Sometimes I enlisted my spike-haired younger sister as a “distraction.” (Her silhouette was my logo.) I finagled paper from Kelly Paper Supply by demanding a discount for using my name! It never worked, but it made them laugh and they let me slide on the sample sheets of the premium stuff. Once, when I was printing my first paperback, I left 100 bucks under the trash can in the bathroom, as directed by two shady employees, while they loaded 500 dollars worth of paper into the trunk of my car. In all, there were 23 Pick Pockets in the series. I printed hundreds of each title and disseminated them far and wide, selling them anywhere I could and giving them away when I couldn’t. I must have printed and assembled over 10,000 copies during the two year run.
Name three of your influences and how they affected your work.
As far as writing, Hubert Selby is my biggest influence. It was through him I learned that if it doesn’t make you cringe, it probably isn’t worth writing about. And to always love the people you write about, no matter how despicable they may be. When it comes to publishing, my first influence was Lawrence Ferlinghetti and City Lights. Once I discovered the world of zines, I was blown away by the immense diversity and quality, which motivated me to make my stuff look as cool as possible. To keep up and hold my own. Of course, this was back in the alt.zines days, where people were less afraid to tell you what they thought of your stuff. Still, there is so much inspiration in the zine world and small press community. I really respect folks like Fred Argoff and Aaron Cometbus who continue to put out zines year after year. V. Vale is a legend who’s still at it. Maximum Rocknroll too. Fred Woodworth is up to, what, issue 120 of The Match? The proponents of atavistic printing technology, the kooky mail artists, even some of the indie book publishers who shell out the big bucks are all so inspiring. To me, the papernet is most interesting when the lines between traditional publishing and DIY culture intersect.
What do you do when you’re not creating and how does it help or harm what you do artistically?
Like Ramo the graffiti artist said to Kenny the DJ in the movie Beat Street, “These things we do, they’re EVERYTHING!” when I’m not creating, that is, when I’m forced to do things to pay the bills that prevent me from creating, life sucks. It’s not just harmful, it’s soul-crushing! But unavoidable, right? Especially since zine making is such a lousy way to make a buck.