Who are you? Where are you based?
Hiya, I’m Andrew. I’m a fortysomething bisexual man from Pendle in the UK. I create art and zines which have my nude body to the fore. My work covers a number of themes but usually deals with disobedience, finding freedom, and losing faith. When things get back to normal, I’m also hoping to be involved with re-opening Burnley Zine Library.
What are zines to you?
They are a simple way of getting creative and expressing an opinion. They are a call to arms. They can be political and poetic. They are a way to show you exist. They can be throwaway but should always be honest, or else why bother? They should also be in a limited quantity and, where possible, not reprinted. When everyone is fearful of fake news, perhaps they are also the future?
What was your first encounter with zines?
It was at the Northwest Zinefest in 2016. I was over in Manchester for an art exhibition, so it fitted in perfectly. I was struck by the clear bond between the stallholders and amazed at the number of people knitting! It was also interesting to see what types of zines were on sale: found poetry, comic books, vegan chocolate cake recipes, and feminist manifestos. There was a girl who’d created a zine rating every Taylor Swift track with her thoughts on each one. I liked that, that devotion. Not particularly world-changing but showing a part of her. One of the zines I picked up is still one of my favourites. Samantha Duffy’s fairy-tale zine called ‘The Girl And The Pool’. It’s deeply moving and beautifully illustrated.
Tell me about your zines. What kind of zines do you make?
That’s a difficult question to answer. My main ‘Torso’ zine started in late 2017 as a way for me to ask: ‘what exactly is masculinity?’ and look at how I felt about my body. Could I skew the usual macho or sexual norms and show an honest and vulnerable alternative? I wanted to see whether a naked male body could ever be neutral. Or post #metoo movement, will it always carry a stigma or be seen as troubling? I realise that it is very much determined by other factors; culture and past relationships etc. I also wanted to track how my body changes. Have my zine as a visual document showing the aging process. Whether I’ll still be doing this when I’m eighty is another matter!
After about six months, I wondered where I could take it. I then thought if I’m creating a zine about change, could I look at how my environment was being eroded and how it showed signs of wear like my body. It was the same format – photos of my body juxtaposed with other imagery plus a thought piece. If I had to describe what it is: it’s part travelogue, part naturistic art book, part ecological howl. I called this sister issue ‘Wild’. These are the two main strands, but there are lots of others. Most deal with loss and feeling lost. Some are much more abstract. I like to feel the majority would be described as ‘perzines’. They are about ‘being human’.
What inspires you to create zines?
I think my main inspiration is to challenge stereotypes. When I first started, I realised that I would be in the minority as a middle-aged male – perhaps a good thing! – and there would be an expectation to write about typical things: Football, video games, fast cars, etc. They have never really appealed. I set about writing about my dysfunctional home life whilst growing up, the teenage angst and homosexual desires, and not really identifying. It was important for me to talk about me as ‘body’ and me as ’emotional and physical mess’. I wanted it to be quite haphazard in that respect. To be defiantly individualistic. To make people wonder what will come next.
What’s your favorite thing about zines?
That you can do so much with so little. I’m quite lucky that I have ready access to a colour printer, which drives my zine’s look. To me though, it is more to do with the message, and you only need pens, paper, and a way of copying to get that across. I sometimes think people over complicate. Another appeal is the immediacy. I create a strand called ‘dd/mm/yy’ where everything is written and photographed in one day. And then usually put together the following. I love being able to document a moment in time. This is me on that given day how I was feeling. It gives a real intimacy.
Do you recall your first zine ever, what was it about and what inspired you to create it?
My first ever zine was called ‘Northern Souls’. It came about because I was friends with In-Situ, a local arts co-operative, and they were keen to support me as a creative. I wanted to physically release my writing in some way and involve the young artists who’d been resident with them. This helped because I knew In-Situ could secure a small budget, and I didn’t have to go down the road of asking for submissions. I feel that would have been much too of a challenge as a complete unknown. With my pages, it was just a case of experimenting. I did a lot of collages. I interviewed local bands, which was daunting as someone who struggles to string a few sentences together! But I came through unscathed, and it was a real confidence boost. We even had a launch party with a poetry recital and nibbles!
Tell me a little about your zine-making process.
It’s very organic. Sometimes the words drive the photo selection, and other times it’s the opposite. Sometimes it’s nearly all images, and other times it’s an essay. I have a vague idea of the overall theme, it can be very dark and raw at times, but I tend to free write to begin with. I don’t want to be deliberately vulgar, but I do want to talk about myself in quite a candid way. And touch on things like masturbation. I think there is too much fear on that front. The zine itself is your typical A3 sheet. The pages are on one side. I use the flip side for a poster, which is usually original art or a photo of graffiti. Something cool that they can pin up if they hate the zine itself! I do it as physical print/cut and paste/stick and reproduce job as desktop publishing is beyond me.
What do you hope people get out of your zines?
Another difficult question to answer. I guess it depends on who’s reading my zine. Allie at Warglitter gave her thoughts here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-y8LsNUrtFY&t=3s. I don’t ask for feedback as a rule – too much of a chicken! I also fear that I may be tempted to moderate things if someone doesn’t like what I do. I’m sure some people will like ‘Torso’ for its honesty/bravery. Others may just like the naturalistic imagery. Both are equally valid responses. I’m hoping that they may be tempted to do their own take. Ultimately zines are about representation. You can show yourself how you want – there is real power in that—not being influenced by social media, glossy magazines, etc.
Name two of your favorite zinesters.
These fall into two categories: the people whose zines I love to read and the people who have been a huge influence. I’m drawn to zines that talk openly about mental health or issues around body positivity or belonging. Struggling to fit in and then realising you need to do your thing. I love Melao Brando’s ‘Bugbrain’ series (@melaobrando). I’d also recommend Olga Alexandru’s work especially ‘Body/Hair’ (@olgawritesthings). Both these zinesters are wonderfully empathetic writers. On a personal level, both Crash Reynolds (@indeliblecrash) and Jessica Maybury (@jessicabynight) were understanding and showed real love towards what I produced. It was Crash who made me aware of the diary element so I made that more prominent in certain issues. They provided friendship and a spark to keep going. I was so grateful of it at the time.
Do you have any advice for new zinesters?
If you get a chance, visit a zine fair first because that’ll give you an idea of the zine-style you prefer. Check social media / the internet to see who is producing zines on the same subject. If you don’t feel comfortable creating your own, you could submit to someone else’s? Ultimately there is no right or wrong way, and a lot of the fun is in the trial and error. The thought of tabling is enough to give me, and many others, cold sweats, but there are plenty of people willing to trade online. This also takes away the hassle of deciding what to charge. There’s probably also some consideration around what contact details you include if your zine is of a sensitive nature.
Is there a zine website or resource you would recommend new zinesters to check out?
When I first started, it was hard to know who to send it off to – I didn’t want to offend anyone, so I approached with caution. Nyx at Sea Green Zines wrote back to me with guidance and encouragement. She didn’t feel comfortable posting a review online, but I valued her opinion. It taught me one lesson: how I feel about my zine’s imagery will often be the polar opposite to someone else’s take. I still respect that. I love listening to her podcasts. There is a real warmth and passion. Her website has loads of useful resources, calls for submissions and reviews: seagreenzines.com
Interview conducted by Solansh M.
Photos provided by Andrew