Sunday, February 06, 2011

Zines - Niche Homo/Hiroshima Yeah!/Night Science

Night Science IV
A5 zine + CD. 136 pp. 500 copies.

Niche Homo
Issue 4. A5 zine. 80pp approx

Hiroshima Yeah!
Issue 72. A4 zine. 6 pp.

I used to write a zine. Lost days spent with your head in a pair of sweaty headphones listening to CD’s with your finger on the fast forward button. It was Simon at the [still] famously Luddite DDDD zine who pioneered this approach and when time is against you I can honestly say it works - badly dubbed home made CDR’s with scribble on them can be despatched in a matter of seconds. The only hard part is thinking up words to say about them afterwards. And then eventually one day you wonder why you’re bothering and out come the Art Garfunkel LP’s and the Genesis LP’s and you think to yourself why, this is much more pleasant.

I’ve been reading Chris Donald’s book about his 20 years as editor of Viz. Chris Donald took Viz from a 100 run comic hawked around the pubs and clubs of Newcastle into a publishing phenomenon that at its peak sold over a million of every issue. It made him and a few people around him very rich. It also lead him to clinical depression. Because thats what zines can do to you. They take over your life to such an extent that instead of having a life you find yourself at home in a dark room with a pair of sweaty headphones on trying to think up interesting things to say about a piece of kak from Zagreb. It all starts as a bit of harmless fun; the joy of getting free music, seeing your work in the hands of others, people talking about it, some of them even liking it and then comes the down side; the queues at the Post Office, the teetering review pile and then the letters and emails, why do you hate my music when its so obviously the best thing ever and you missed one of the ‘t’s’ out of my band name and when’s the next issue out and can you do this and that and blah blah blah and you’re looking at the clock and thinking I could be doing so many other things with my life and then one day you wake up and realise you just don’t have the time to do it anymore and you stop and you write a blog instead.

Zines are a great way of filling spare time and finding an outlet for your passion. If you’re on the dole and you’re of a creative bent then zines are good way of killing dead time. If you’re working a regular job then kiss your spare time goodbye. Hello zine, goodbye life.
Which is why I really do appreciate zines, even if the interviews are slightly banal and predictable or the writing is a tad poor because more often than not if the hearts are in the right place it’ll work - enthusiasm can conquer many obstacles.

Having three zines land on me in the space of a few weeks also goes to prove that the internet hasn’t entirely slaughtered them either.  What alarms me most though is the fact that Niche Homo got to issue four without me being aware of its existence, even though its produced in nearby Leeds and covers bands and acts I care about. Niche Homo is in classic zine territory; band interviews [with issue 4 you get Ramleh, The Homosexuals, The Pheremoans and Thee Oh Sees] and articles including the diary of a local swimmer, a three-way mix tape discussion, an odd piece on record collecting and something called Geocaching in which you spend £50 on a gadget that helps you locate film canisters with 50p’s in them on canal banks in London - at least you get plenty of fresh air I suppose.
Its a zine, the quality is up and down, the interviews could do with editing but its put together with much love and attention and that’ll do for me.

Night Science IV has been kicking around for a few years now and during that period has established itself as a serious weighty tome. Due to its sheer volume its going to take me a while to get through it but at least for now I can recommend the accompanying CD [in fact the CD could merit a review of its own - I’ll post one at a later date]. Sole editor and writer Chris Groves has my utmost admiration in putting out a zine that runs to a 136 pages and contains over 200 reviews which as far as I can see have all been penned by his good self. In fact with its prefect bound spine and high standards you could argue the case that this is as good as a small book. Chris interviews Kazumoto Endo, Halthan, The Haters, Dieter Müh, Golden Serenades and Raionbashi and then puts them all on to a CD for your listening delectation [all exclusive tracks I believe]. There’s also two live reviews featuring Dave Phillips and Runzelstirn & Gurgelstock along with KK Null. With Chris living in Tasmania I guess the opportunity to witness much in the way of noise and experimental behavior is hard to come by but this doesn’t stop him taking K.K. Null to task for being predictable. Which is some indication of how critical Chris can be. Chris’s writing can be a little clinical at times but there’s no denying he knows his stuff.

One quality that all true zines should exhibit is regular availability. The only way to go with a monthly zine is to make it cut and paste and go with what you’ve got come the deadline - which is exactly what HY does. I’ve been with HY since its inception and its monthly deliverances are welcome missives. HY works because both of its contributors come from different musical backgrounds; Mark Ritchie lives in Glasgow and likes singer songwriter stuff, his live reviews begin when he wakes up then take in all the food he ate, all the buses he caught, all the pints he sank and all the Glasgow pubs he sank them in with the band sometimes getting a mention in the last sentence. His reviews of everything from John Martin reissues to books and films are short and precise. At the other end of the spectrum comes Gary Simmons. Simmons London based misanthropic rants mixed with Whitehouse lyrics aren’t to everybody's tastes but when he gets on a roll he’s unstoppable. In issue 72 he reviews Pendercki, Gorecki and Charles Manson then gives us a blow by blow transcription of a text war he had with fellow HY reader Jimmy Little which ends with Little being arrested by the London Met. HY is a crude, photocopied, few pages of cut and paste A4 stapled in one corner zine and its perfect. If the writing is good enough cut and paste will suffice.

[HY is available for the cost of a few stamps though I suspect that hard cash wouldn’t go amiss - email for contact details as Ritchie tends to move about a bit. Niche Homo has no cover price whilst Night Science IV is available via the Cipher website for $15 Aus/$16 US plus postage]


Night Science
℅ Cipher Productions
PO Box 169
Australia cipherproductions [at]

Niche Homo

Hiroshima Yeah!
donbirnam [ay]

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