Digging the dirt on ex-zinesters
For some people, a lot of their time and efforts are simply sucked up into the strange netherworld of magazine publishing. Recent magazine deaths are signal posts to the possible concept of independent arts becoming buried, debauched or fossilized like some antiquated civilization found in some Pompeii finish.
Recently, US-based DIY indie music rag Skyscraper is now RIP, but not down for the count. Though it was not my plan for this column to be about magazine closings this year, the fact that, for the second straight issue, Deleted zines has been devoted to such abject ISSN fates seems foreboding. I know what you may be saying: what happened to the zines? Those tiny stapled zines that get offed, deleted, orphaned (and that this column promises to be about); why not write about them? They are killed off far more often than regular magazines.
The point is however, no matter how widely these larger magazines are distributed, how many they employ, or how popular they are in some industry sects, they still have zine integrity and that lovely thing called indie cred. Zine dying traditionally comes as a result of the creator, whereas the recent deaths of indie magazines have been forced on the creators as a result of the economy, and it signifies a larger trend than individual zine deletions. Skyscraper was all independent music, all the time and came from the same creative place as most zines.
Peter and Andrew Bottomley started Skyscraper in 1998 while living in Boulder, Colorado, but spent teendom in Southern California’s hardcore punk scene of the early-to-mid-’90s which “provided the original impetus for the zine,” says Bottomley “We had gotten really involved in the music scene there and even started a record label, Satellite Transmissions, which put out six releases over about as many years.” The brothers also fooled around with cut-and-paste, Xerox style zines. “That was before most people knew anything about desktop publishing, so we’d do all the layouts on photocopiers at Kinko’s and by the time we had a master copy, everything was nth generation photocopies and the reproductions looked like rubbish.” The experience got them more and more interested in the zine community and soon they discovered that zine-making “gave us a way to actively participate in the music scene, so I think it was valuable.”
The recently released Issue 30 (Spring 2009) is the final issue of Skyscraper that will appear in the print format, but says the magazine’s editor, Andrew Bottomley, “the zine will continue online in an enhanced and expanded version.”
Despite the closure, Skyscraper is trying to keep their roster of writers busy. “We’re counting on our current group of contributors to follow us during this transition, because honestly, we won’t be able to do it without [them]. In fact, I’m going to be looking for a number of people willing to step up and take on more active roles, either as writers who can commit to contributing [web]content on a regular basis (say, one or two reviews/features every week) and/or as semi-autonomous section editors.”
Bottomley says many readers have expressed sadness over the news and they say that they’ll really miss seeing the magazine in print, but they’re also happy that it isn’t completely vanishing. “Everyone seems to understand our reasons for moving online. The way things are in the economy right now, and in the print press industry in particular, our decision isn’t taking anyone by surprise,” Bottomley says, continuing, “most people are actually shocked that we made it as long as we did; so many of our music zine peers that started up in the ’90s, like Punk Planet, Hit It or Quit It, Chunklet, Hanging Like a Hex, Muddle, Held Like Sound, and Hodgepodge, to name but a few, stopped publishing years ago, and really none of those are even around online still. So, as much as it appears that people are genuinely upset that Skyscraper will be disappearing from newsstands, I think what they’re really mourning is the death of fanzines as we used to know them. For a lot of people Skyscraper seems to represent the last publication in a long tradition of serious hardcore/punk/ indie/whatever music zines. We were kind of the last holdouts from that tradition.”
So in one way, the Internet has sucked up another magazine from the shelves, in another, it has kept it alive in another dimension and things could turn around for magazines like Skyscraper and Verbicide. Lord knows it would not be the first time.