A Sacramento Zine History

Posted on July 22, 2009 – 3:33 PM | by OldManFoster
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by William Burg

Before the days of the World Wide Web, social networking sites and weblogs, zines created an underground network of communication, using the post office and in-person distribution to disseminate news and ideas between subcultures. Zine creators were driven by a desire to create their own media and share ideas with others without access to traditional media outlets. Typically zines are photocopied, often clandestinely on an office photocopier or at a local copy shop, but some were professionally printed on newsprint or glossy paper. Most zines didn’t make money, or lost it prodigiously, but profit is seldom the motive for zine making.

Today, with the world’s information just a mouse-click away, zines seem like an almost quaint form of communication. Photocopies and postage became unnecessary with the popularization of the internet, making zines as archaic as steam-powered riverboats, an artifact of an era when the world worked more slowly. Sacramento’s zine history provides glimpses into a community that was little-known but had its own vitality and unique energy. Some mentioned in Sacramento’s zines are still part of the musical and creative community, while others died tragically young (Micah Kennedy, Curtis Freitag, Mike Gius of the Popesmashers.) They provide evidence of Sacramento’s rich but little-known culture before celebrity politicians and “ultra” lounges could claim they put Sacramento on the map. Now that our secret is out, and Sacramento’s zines show how we got here and how far we have come.  Sacramento produced more than its share of zines, and the following reviews are merely a sampling of local zine history.

sporkSPORK Magazine (Positive Feedback Mechanism Productions, 1989)

In some ways, Tower Records helped promote Sacramento’s zines to the world. Local zines that came to the attention of Tower’s distribution staff could find themselves on Tower Books shelves around the world. Doug Biggert, a former Tower employee, was impressed with local zines like SPORK, and added them to Tower’s distribution chain. SPORK was the product of Mira Loma High School student Joe Colley, featuring clip art, handwritten poetry, interviews with his friends, and comics. Colley later became well-known in the experimental music community as CRAWL UNIT, and is currently the owner of ISSUES, a magazine shop in Oakland.

teen meatTEEN MEAT (Kizzy Miller and Penny Crane, 1989)

Where SPORK was introspective and personal, TEEN MEAT was brash and colorful. Gorged with clip art and photos, TEEN MEAT was a Bizarro-world parody of teen idol magazines viewed through a Sacramento lens. Instead of focusing on nationally-known music and movie stars, Miller and Crane gushed about local hunks of choice, including local band DRY GRIND and local musicians like Ed Carroll, Scott Miller, and Micah Kennedy. Other issues profiled folks like Scott Soriano, Anton Barbeau, Steve Vanoni, Dave Downey and Ground Chuck. In addition to beefcake, TEEN MEAT editors adored 1970s popular culture and toys. Despite its reputation for an almost incestuous obsession with the local scene, TEEN MEAT was defined by its obvious adoration for Midtown and its spirit of fun.

big duckBIG DUCK (Thadicus and Jay Onyskin, 1990)

BIG DUCK was a Sacramento zine, very influenced by the East Bay punk scene that was forming around the Gilman Street project and Lookout! Records. In addition to interviews with bands like CRIMPSHRINE and ASBESTOS DEATH, BIG DUCK featured columns like “Blow Up Your Friends,” unnecessarily dangerous science projects that would probably violate some law about homemade bomb manufacturing information today, a variety of primitive comics, vegetarian recipes, ramblings about life in Sacramento, growing up in Garberville, and appreciation of the life of Bob Crane.

jerkJERK! (Archbishop Dave Smith, 1990)

Speaking of Bob Crane worship and shipping hazardous materials through the mail, JERK! was a mini-zine with spray-painted color covers that often came with a tiny “lady finger” sized firecracker taped to the magazine. Dave has led a fairly ridiculous life filled with many adventures, and he used JERK! to share these adventures with the world. Tales include harassing calls to personal ads, cruel pranks inflicted upon telemarketers, the story of when Dave ran over a feral chicken with a lawnmower, the story of when Dave’s friend Erin ran over a feral chicken with a car, and an acquaintance who kept a detailed journal of his farts. One issue included a mini NINJA ZINE comic as a centerfold.  Today Smith is an on-again/off-again Midtown resident with a blog (http://www.nokilli.com/rtw/) that chronicles his attempts to ride around the world on a 1966 Ducati motorcycle.

private linePRIVATE LINE (Tom Farley, 1994)

Not every zine was about punk. Tom Farley’s PRIVATE LINE was inspired by hacker/phreak zines like 2600, PHRACK, HACK-TIC and TAP. PRIVATE LINE was the product of Tom’s intellectual curiosity and a love of tinkering with phones. Featuring detailed documentation of pay-phone operating protocols, interviews with electronic security consultants, and other matters that made non-techies’ heads spin but were pure enjoyment for enthusiasts of all things telephonic. Farley discovered that self-producing the zine was too great an economic burden, but continued it as an online publication, http://www.privateline.com.

fuckerFUCKER (Moo-La-La Records, 1995)

Many in Sacramento’s music scene are familiar with Scott Soriano through his later zine/newspaper Sacramento Comment, or his occasional editorials here in Midtown Monthly. While all of these proudly feature Scott’s strong opinions, FUCKER to this writer captured his finest literary hour. Soriano sometimes sings Sacramento’s praises, but is also unsparing in his criticism: “If our burrito scene was a Velvet Underground album it would surely be ‘Loaded.’” Whether he was discussing the local music scene (interviewing THE YAHMOS and THE BANANAS), British punk history or world politics, FUCKER explained why he was right and you were wrong.

industrial grindINDUSTRIAL GRIND (Ultra Bit, 1995)

Sacramento’s gothic/industrial scene didn’t produce many zines. There were some, like G.E.A.R. and DYING ON THE VINE, but Sacramento’s relative lack of local bands in these genres meant that opportunities for band interviews were limited. Zine writer Cory You shared his enthusiasm for the local industrial and gothic scene by writing reviews of recent shows, including art and poetry by his friends, and profiling Sacramento and Bay Area goth clubs. Interviews included local bands like 8TH MAN, DACHAU and TINFED, in addition to regional acts like BLACK TAPE FOR A BLUE GIRL and NOXIOUS EMOTION. His other great interest, videogames, was expressed in his other zine, ULTRA BIT MAGAZINE. Today he produces an online comic, NEORAMEN, and performs industrial music with his band XENOCANON.

mentoMENTO FANZINE #1 (Curtis Freitag, 1995)

Some zines result when boredom and inspiration combine. MENTO was completed in one day, focusing on the positive aspects of Sacramento. After doing some traveling, local musician Curtis Freitag decided that Sacramento had a lot to offer and was under-appreciated, so he asked his friends to contribute short articles about great things in Sacramento. Contributors like Rayzen (aka Jason Racine of the band !!!) wrote about his favorite hangouts, including the office building that is now the Citizen Hotel and the Railyards when they were still railyards. Musician and artist Anna Dubois wrote about Sacramento’s open and accepting nature compared to the suburbs, and the joys of rafting in downtown duck ponds. Curtis interviewed local band THE POPESMASHERS, and musician/educator Pam Davis suggested that Sacramento might be better kept as a secret, highlighting the intimacy and community of Sacramento’s music scene.

dropoutDROP OUT (Pam Davis, 1995)
When local musician Pam Davis completed her teaching credential and began a career as a teacher, she quickly found the public school system to be restrictive and inadequate, focusing more on teaching regimentation and conformity than rational thought and human interaction. While many encountered this in their school life, Pam took it to the next level and began a zine and drop-in center to teach people (both students and adults) how to self-educate and home-school. DROP OUT included both resources for those seeking an alternative to public schools and personal stories about the problems of public education. Beyond simply protesting or writing about a perceived social problem, DROP OUT was intended as part of the solution.

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