Friday, 26 September 2014

The Zine Factory

When I was at university, I dropped a good chunk of my student loans on a laser printer. Back then, in the early 2000's, they were cheap but still not that cheap. They were generally still seen as an office staple as opposed to being on the desk of a dirt poor student.

Why did I have a laser printer hooked up to my cobbled together laptop? Because I was a zinester. I wrote about what I loved and published them in little magazines for friends, and others, to read. I sold them and traded them for other, similarly interesting, little magazines. Mostly I wrote about the Goth scene. There were a few magazines at the time, but none of them seemed to cover what I wanted to read about. Sure, they featured bands and artists and authors. But they didn't really feature travel articles. So, thanks to the power of the internet, I managed to get in touch with people who worked in the scenes in Japan, Germany, and other far flung places. All of them gave awesome interviews, telling of what the Goth scene was like in their corner of the world. Along the way, I made some pretty cool contacts with record labels and lovingly reviewed their new releases. Somewhere I still have all the CD's and tapes they sent me. I'm also sure that, somewhere in the attic, are all the old zines I either made, traded, or bought.

Sadly, that zine died a death when I moved back to the Midlands. Over the years, the zine scene is something I've thought of on and off. I remember it fondly. I remember packaging up and mailing out my own. I remember receiving the ones I traded my own for. One particular zine, a music and gig review one I believe, used to come with a different fabric heart glued to the cover. Some were traditional cut and paste zines while others, like my own, used desktop publishing. I'd loved to have done the cut and paste version but the photocopying costs were prohibitive. Hence the reason I brought a laser printer. Yet all of them were lovingly made.

The zine scene is still going strong. All you have to do is look on somewhere like Etsy to see the ones being produced. A Google search throws up lists of directories and distros. If you're in a city, you may even find a small independent music or book store selling them.

As I said, I've been thinking about the zine scene on and off for several years. I started to put one together last year until I realised that my brain had forgotten how to order the pages (it's not easy, trust me!).

Then I read a book called “DIY: The Rise of Lo-Fi” and that spurred me on. I dug out one of the three laser printers we now own and began to compile the articles I'd written following my visit to Sound City Studios (four in total, two of which are on this website). Somewhere along the way, Dad must have seen me trying to order pages and gave me a program that did all the hard work for me (PagePlus 5 for anyone who's interested).

And so I set up my little zine factory again. The Sound City one is a one off, as is another I'm planning. I'm also thinking of going back to putting one out a few times a year, one with a variety of different articles in it, some of them culled from this very website.

I thank the people who are putting up with my current bout of crankiness and the constant whirr of the printer. I thank them for ignoring the thud of the (brand new) long arm stapler. And I thank them for the endless cups of tea as I once more delve into a little world I'd forgotten I loved so much.

Saturday, 13 September 2014


This week, the world lost a great man. He wasn't a president, nor a prime minister. He wasn't part of a royal family. He wasn't someone you'd have seen on a reality show. But, to many, this man, along with the rest of his wonderful family, was a welcoming figure after a long journey.

Tom Skeeter was one of the founders of Sound City Studios and their main man. Earlier this year I had the pleasure of spending an hour there. During our visit, we had the honour of meeting both Tom and his lovely daughter, Sandy.

He was a wonderful and warm man. Even though we only spent a few moments with him, you could tell that he relished the visits from random strangers and made each and every one of us welcome. He loved hearing where we were from, lit up when we asked questions, and was like a child at Christmas with every new story he got to tell. In all honesty, we could have spent all day curled up on the office couches listening to him talk. His smile was infectious and you could tell that he loved his job and loved every person who stepped through the door. It didn't matter if you were Dave Grohl or some random woman from the UK, Tom did his best to make you feel comfortable and at home. It was obvious where his daughter, who now runs the studios, gets her own sunny personality from. We adored spending time with Sandy and Tom and are still grateful for allowing us to wander into their lives for those sixty minutes.

Truth be told, that visit changed my life for the better. It showed me that love and warmth can make the world a better place and that such characteristics should be treasured as opposed to being seen as a weakness. The Sound City family have obviously built their business not just on their splendid studio but also on being some of the kindest people in the industry. So often we hear that, to survive in any industry, you have to step on those below you to climb the ladder. Tom, Sandy, and everyone else who's worked there over the years have proved differently. They've shown that it takes hard work and dedication to do what they do. But also being a welcoming face in what can sometimes be an unforgiving industry. We'll probably never know how many nervous musicians have been soothed by their friendship and mentoring.

Today my thoughts and prayers are with Tom's amazing daughter Sandy, the rest of the Skeeter family, and everyone who's ever passed through Sound City. Tonight I'll raise a drink in his memory as I listen to the music he had a hand in creating. RIP Tom. Thank you for everything you've done and see you on the other side. Keep rockin', you wonderful man!