Who are you? Where are you based?
I’m Alex Wrekk. I live in Portland, Oregon, USA and have been living here for over 20 years.
What are zines to you?
Zines are physical representations on paper expressing ideas we hold in our brain.
What was your first encounter with zines?
In the late 80s I remember picking up the local music zine in Salt Lake City, Utah but it wasn’t until the early 90s when I was dating someone whose father was a chat room monitor for AOL (kids, ask your parents!) He stumbled onto zines somehow and he ordered a bunch. He let us read the zines. I thought they were fascinating and I was hooked. At some point, I thought “hey, I can make one of these!” and started collecting things to eventually put out my first zine: Fun in a Bucket in 1995.
Tell me about your zines. What kind of zines do you make?
I’ve been making Brainscan zine since 1997 and it has grown and changed a lot over the years, just like me. What started as pseudo-intellectual musings morphed into stories of love and love lost, the personal is political, travel, recovery from emotional abuse, fiction, growing up, and most recently Secular Witchcraft. Basically, a perzine wrapped in high contrast cut and paste layout. I also wrote the book Stolen Sharpie Revolution: a DIY Resource for Zines and Zine Culture. The first printing was in 2002 and the 6th printing came out this year. It’s pretty much what it says, a resource for how to make zines and how to be a part of zine culture.
What inspires you to create zines?
The muses. At this point, after 25 years of expressing myself on paper, it’s just a part of me now. It’s how I process the things in my life. I love mixing words and images to tell a story.
What’s your favorite thing about zines?
Meeting the people behind them. I have friends all over the world that I have met through zines and we are all different but we all enjoy expressing ourselves on photocopied pieces of paper and I think that is really beautiful.
Do you recall your first zine ever, what was it about and what inspired you to create it?
My first zine ever was called Fun in a Bucket. I made it with my sister and it was really silly and filled with inside jokes and collages and lists of things. It was a very 90s zine.
Tell me a little about your zine-making process.
I write a bunch of stuff in random notebooks and scraps of paper over a protracted amount of time and then “the muse” reminds me of things I’ve written and I collect a bunch of stuff together in one place, realize there is a theme or a thread that flows through all of it, then I move the puzzle pieces around until I like what I see. That’s the writing process. My zines are visually high contrast cut and paste that I put together by hand. Sometimes I see page layouts before words. I collect old books with images and paper scraps and the insides of security envelopes. I have stacks of rub on letters and another stack of typewriters with different typefaces. I have my own little photocopier and I shrink and blow things up to get texture and images to go with the words. I run paper through twice to layer words or images. I just play a lot with the photocopier to create images. Eventually, that leads to making a new zine, which is less frequent now than it used to be.
What do you hope people get out of your zines?
The sense of a story without having to carry the baggage of it because I’ve processed feelings and thoughts and found words to express difficult or complex things. Maybe some new thoughts or words for things they didn’t know they already knew.
Name two of your favorite zinesters.
I like that you asked who my favorite zinesters are and not what my favorite zines were.
I’m in this zine themed band called The Copy Scams and we have a line in a song that says “my favorite zines are by my friends and I’ve got room for more of them” That’s pretty much how I feel about this.
With that in mind, I’m going to mention Jonas because they are a good friend and a really great writer and storyteller. I met them years ago when they were making CHEER THE EFF UP zine. They now have Fixer Eraser and We the Drowned zines.
At a zine reading, Jonas once read a piece saying that, at our age, asking who your best friend is is like asking what your favorite movie is when you have met so many people and seen so many movies that felt important to you. It makes it hard to answer. Zines are like that for me. I have my favorite zines and favorite zinesters from certain points in my life, some stay with you physically or figuratively when they touch you at just the right time and place. Sometimes the physical zines slip out of your life the same way friends do, but it doesn’t make them any less impactful.
Do you have any advice for new zinesters?
Just start. We all have to start somewhere. Collect stuff until it starts to take its own form. Make something you are proud of right now, you might feel different later but that’s okay, that change shows your growth! Having that growth to reflect on later is really satisfying. Having envelopes and notebooks filled with stuff you never did anything with is less satisfying.
Interview conducted by Solansh M.
Pictures provided by Alex W.