Updated: Nov 22, 2020
In my increasingly desperate attempts to look on the bright side of this pandemic I have noticed a wellspring of creativity pouring forth from Twitter. Writers, musicians, artists and filmmakers all trapped at home with nothing to do but make. I guess I’m the same. I had the idea for Vintage Media last Christmas but haven’t really touched it until now. Finally, after 6 months of staring slack-jawed at Netflix, I have put pen to paper, literally, because having lost days staring into my laptop and nights staring into my TV I've gone back to analog and it seems I am not the only one - ‘Zines are back!
For the millennials and Gen Z’ers out there, a word from our non-sponsor Wikipedia….
A zine (/ziːn/ ZEEN; short for magazine or fanzine) is a small-circulation self-published work of original or appropriated texts and images, usually reproduced via a photocopier. Zines are the product of either a single person or of a very small group, and are popularly photocopied into physical prints for circulation. A fanzine (blend of fan and magazine) is a non-professional and non-official publication produced by enthusiasts of a particular cultural phenomenon (such as a literary or musical genre) for the pleasure of others who share their interest. The term was coined in an October 1940 science fiction fanzine by Russ Chauvenet and popularized within science fiction fandom, entering the Oxford English Dictionary in 1949.
So, ‘Zine’s have been around a while but I only discovered them in the '90s as a retro punk fan. Back in the mid-late '70s the DIY spirit of the punk bands incited writers to publish their own reviews and gig listings because the legit music papers were still obsessed with what shirts Pink Floyd were wearing. They would hand draw headlines or cut letters out from newspapers, glue them down and photocopy short runs to sell at gigs. Some titles became legendary such as Sniffin’ Glue (And Other Rock n’ Roll Habits), which launched the career of British journalist and broadcaster Danny Baker, or Bondage, which was founded by Pogues frontman Shane MacGowan. The whole ethos was DIY and anti-establishment and it’s making a comeback. Here are some I’ve recently discovered and subscribed to…
In the nicer corners of Twitter there exists a vibrant Britpop community that I discovered through the Britpop Revival Show, a radio show from Phonic FM in Exeter available on-demand anywhere via Mixcloud. The community has been steadily growing over recent years adding new fans and contributors including the guys behind Speakeasy, a brand new Britpop fanzine only on Issue #3.
Produced, one presumes, on a home printer Speakeasy’s 30 or so pages offer up retro album and gig reviews, band interviews and Britpop memories from fans and bands alike. It also features new bands in the Britpop mould, chart rundowns from the 90s and new releases all of which are included in their monthly Spotify playlists. Opening up a new issue of Speakeasy is like walking into The Good Mixer pub circa 1995; all your favourite bands are in there drinking, chatting, telling stories and singing songs for the same price as a student pint back then i.e. £1 (or as part of your Britpop Revival Show Patreon package). Subscribe now! https://speakeasyfanzine.bigcartel.com/
Off The Grid
Off The Grid I have just ordered from Signalnoise a.k.a. James White in the UK. As a fan of all things Synthwave I love the art as much as the music and James is the pre-eminent Synthwave visual artist right now. His ‘Zine is a showcase for his 80s inspired neon designs and is a great way to support him as an artist without necessary having to fork out thousands for a canvas.
His ‘Zine comes out quarterly and features 40 pages of full colour drawings, stories and digital art bagged with a trading card and holo-foil Signalnoise sticker all for just £8. Treat yo’self! https://store.signalnoise.com/
Curious British Telly
Of course, as a fan of all things retro, Curious British Telly is a Twitter account I can’t resist as it rediscovers long-forgotten and often surreal TV shows from my youth and earlier. CBT has already published two books of Curiosities of British Children’s TV but has just announced the launch of a ‘Zine due next month, which I can’t wait to get my hands on.
I think the return of ‘Zines is a reaction to both the boredom of being stuck at home and the relentlessness of work and entertainment being delivered through screens. When everything is available in abundance at the touch of a button nothing seems special anymore, there is no discovery, no anticipation, just consumption, which can leave the ‘user’ feeling bloated yet unfulfilled. ‘Zines are precious, limited, a labour of love that you can hold in your hands. They are an island of tangibility in an increasingly unreal, virtual world. They remind me that people exist, not just avatars, and that makes me happy amidst all the gloom. What other ‘Zines am I missing?