March Madness with Alex Wrekk!
1) Briefly, who are you and what are you all about?
My name is Alex Wrekk. I live in Portland, Oregon and I'm all about zines and zine culture.
2) How did you get into zines?
I moved to Utah when I was 10 and as a teenager in the early to mid-90s I stumbled on to local music zines as a starting point and followed the bread crumbs into the world of other zines and that led me to moving to Portland in 1999.
3) You have a really random assortment of interests - craft beer, role-playing games, vegan cooking, etc - how have they affected the zines you write?
Well,I haven't written a zine about any of those interests yet, but that doesn't mean that I haven't thought about it. I have half finished zines about feminism and gaming and even a vegan cook zine. I guess following my life trajectory, I don't see the topics as random. I started role playing and reading zines at about the same time in my life. I think that all of our lives lead up to the point we are at and that our experiences and interests make us unique. Zines can be such personal extensions of ourselves, if we let them be, but there is more to a person than what they put on a page.
4) My favorite things you've written have been adhered pretty closely to the feminist idea of "personal as political". Was that intentional? That is, did you set out to write about things like birth control and power structure/abusive relationships, or did writing down your story politicize your experience in a grander way? What was your writing process like? Was it different than for other, less personal things you've written??
For both of those topics I started with writing my personal experiences in my journal...not everything in your journal is meant to be read by others, but that's where I started. I'm a big believer that the "personal is political" and I'm also a big believer in making the particulars correspond to universals. Anyone can rant about the experiences in their life but if they don't take time to reflect on the bigger picture then no one else can really gain anything from. I shared some personal experiences but I held a lot back. My intent was not to burden the reader with my experience. I think all of my writing starts in my notebooks and grows its own life from there. I'm really driven by The Muses and it is hard to get me working without their inspiration.
5) If it did, how did punk rock influence your relationship/involvement with zines?
I think it took until the early 2000s before I realized that there were zines that didn't come from a punk rock tradition. Does that make sense? I feel really silly saying that. I mean, I knew about sci-fi fanzines, and political zines, and comic zines but zines that were just about random stuff by people with no political or DIY background besides wanting to make a zine, that seemed so weird! I feel that has become more prevalent in zines in the past decade...but that could just be the prospective from where i am. I've been accused of being "too DIY" but I can't help it. I grew up in punk and DIY seems to permeate everything I do!
6) You do a tremendous amount in terms of offering resources for the zine community: a podcast, a website, and organizing the Portland Zine Symposium. What would you like to see more of in the zine community?
How do you manage all of your assorted projects? I have too many ideas that I want to see happen and I do way too many projects that I don't get paid for. I think I have a wheel of projects in my head that spins until it stops and that's what I work on for awhile. I spend more time working on zine related things than actually making zines! I am a founder and continued organizer for the Portland Zine Symposium, volunteer at the IPRC (Independent Publishing Resource Center), co-host of Nobody Cares About You Stupid Zine Podcast, founder of International Zine Month, I helped start a google group for zine event organizer around the world and we have our own events to talk and network with other zine event organizers. One of them is this Sunday after the Chicago Zine Fest. I also just finished the newly started zine resource website StolenSharpieRevolution.org. It is a companion to my book and has updated zine distros, events, stores that sell zines and more.
What's wrong with me? I guess I do all of these things because I want to see more networking in zine culture. I got involved with zines as a way to escape to confines of Utah. The internet makes it a lot easier, but I still feel like zines are really diffused and that there are still people creating zines that feel isolated in their physical location.
7) How did the copy scams get started? Any news on the 2012 tour? Will there be a new release anytime soon?
The Copy Scams started with Steve Larder (of Rum Lad zine from the UK) staying in my basement for 2 months before we did the Zines on Toast tour in 2000. He said we should start a band. I said we should start a band all about zines. We recruited my partner, Paul, and my housemate, Marc (zine thug) and in 3 weeks we wrote, rehearsed, and recorded 4 lo-fi pop punk songs all about zines. Then we played a show that closed the 2010 Portland Zine Symposium. It is perhaps the most ridiculous thing I have ever done, besides what I am doing this autumn. At the urging of Giz (Cheaptoys zine and Bus Stop Press) Paul, Marc, and I are headed to the UK along with an inspired contingent of North American zinesters to meet up with Steve and play a tour of the UK. I'm not exactly sure of how it is all gonna work out but it will be a blast! We are trying to organize some zine readings and possibly convince some people to host a zine fest one or two of the weekends we are there.
You can listen to our four songs for free here. Steve just e-mailed me some more music to play around with the other day and I'm thinking we should cover "Please, Mr. Postman" because I can't really think of a more zine-y song to cover!
8) What projects are you working on these days?
Just in time before I leave for the Chicago Zine Fest, I have completed my first fiction zine as a split with No More Coffee zine. I'm excited to get it out there as Brainscan #29! I'm also working on a 90s style zine with some friends as a joke. We are going to call it Waffle Toboggan and it will be awesome! I'm perpetually trying to write a vegan cook zine but I'm really bad at writing recipes down. It's getting ready for spring and I'm excited to start working in my yard! Other than that I have a bit of ahead of me with the Chicago Zine Fest and helping a group teach zines at Coachella in April.
9) Do you remember the first zines that you read? What authors influenced you? What zines are you currently into?
The first zine that wasn't a local music zine in Utah that I remember reading was Shelf Life. My boyfriend at the time had a father who was a monitor in AOL chat rooms and he somehow found out about zines from there and would let us borrow from his collection. I actually found a copy of that same zine in the Library at the IPRC. Nicole who did Then She Deflated and Voice of One zines was one of my first zine penpal and so was Jerry from Bad Art and Antonio and Zach from Three Sheets to the Wind who lived in Austin and then moved to Portland. Antonio and Zach were two of the reason I moved to Portland. As far as influences? Who at that time wasn't influenced by Cometbus? I was also a huge fan of of Lisa's zine, Three a.m. I took a lot of inspiration from her layouts. People laugh at me when I say this but my favorite zine are done by my friends. They are the ones that I want to read first. I guess I'm lucky to have so many friends that make zines! But that doesn't mean that new one don't move me. Last year at the Chicago zine fest I met Ben Spies and got a copy of his zine, No More Coffee. It's really great fiction. He challenged me to write some fiction and this year we will have a split zine for the fest!
10) It's the tenth anniversary of Stolen Sharpe Revolution! Can you talk a little about the evolution of that zine into a book and website and your plans for SSR for the future?
10 years ago SSR was an idea in my head that I thought I would put out as a zine. I find it funny when I see reviews now of SSR stating that it is all common sense and things that people already know. Well, a lot that is in SSR wasn't common sense and I kept seeing the same mistakes over and over, that's why I wanted to make the zine. I was informed that I would never be able to steal enough copies for the demand the zine would have so we decided to get it offset printed. We also made red cardstock covers that were photocopied and hand stapled them on along with a template for envelopes. 3,000 0f then was a lot to staple. Those were all gone within a year so we upgraded to a book with a spine and ISBN for the next print run of 4,000. After those went we printed 10,000 hoping they would last a good long while, and they did.
In 2009 I printed 4,000 more on my own and those are down to about the last 100. That means that an overhaul of SSR is due again! I'm hoping that the website serves as a companion to the book because gathering zine resources and hoping they still exists when the book goes to print has been a nightmare over the years. I'm hoping the website can server that function because it can be easily updated. I'd like to post a bit of zine news every week and keep an active list of zine distros, a zine event calendar, and a list of stores that sell zines. I also made a space to have International zine month information. I'm really excited to have all the information in one place. It will make updating and printing the book a lot easier.