Zines: An Audience with… Alex Mitcalfe Wilson

cupcakemonstersDescribe an average day:

First thing:  I get up at about 7 am and have some fruit for breakfast or leftovers, if it’s a weekend. Then I get dressed and either go to some school or other if I’m teaching, or attend university if I have classes.

Once I’ve made that choice, I do nerd stuff and talk about inclusive teaching and science for a few hours because I’m training to be a teacher (my two degrees are in Maori Studies, Environmental Studies and Chemistry). Once I’m done with learning I usually try to hang out with some of my friends, I often try and do this over dinner, because cooking is rad. People are my new thing and a great way of avoiding reclusiveness when one lives alone.

Notwithstanding marking and/or homework, I then work on my music or art and email people about their interviews or writing for my zines. Actually, that stuff usually happens after about one in the morning, if at all. I’m pretty busy at the moment.

How did you first get into zines?

My mum is most excellent and had heaps of small-press comics in the house when I was young, stuff like Tim Bollinger’s early strips and the original Pickle series by Dylan Horrocks. That probably predisposed me to falling in love with self-published media in my teen years, largely in the form of Ian Jorgenson’s A Low Hum zine. I doubt I would have ever made zines if it wasn’t for ALH. Ian published my shockingly teenage drawings when I was about sixteen and gave me the confidence to start writing about the music I loved and sharing the photography I’d always done.

That led into the first Cupcakemonsters issues, which are fanzines in the most fannish sense of the term. I’m no longer too embarrassed about how giddy they are, though- there is something to be said for unpretentious honesty and a childish lack of self-consciousness.

Describe your work:

I write, photograph and illustrate the entirety of Cupcakemonsters, my longest-running zine. It’s made up of interviews with bands who I find interesting or inspiring. The zine’s content and focus have changed massively over the years, following my tastes.

I see its format (transcribed dialogues of several thousand words) as a good way of encouraging less superficial discussions about music than occurs in the likes of Groove Guide, where artists are expected to explain the fundamental nature of their work on one side of an A5 page, while being badgered with idiotic questions about their favourite record labels and future touring plans.

I also write and illustrate a travel and house-party-attendance zine called Hectic Lifestyle, which comprises accounts of my friends and I drinking in the park and/or going camping, depending on the season. It takes itself a lot less seriously than Cupcakemonsters and I’ve started putting smaller, less interesting stories that don’t quite fit in it on a blog: http://herbariumofnature.blogspot.com.   I also put a whole lot of my nature photography on there, too. Nature studies being my new exciting pastime.

thermodynamicsMy last zine is called Thermodynamics and it features the collected short fiction, poetry and illustrations of my friends. My role stops at collating the stories and illustrating orphaned pieces. The contributors are largely the people I’ve met through Cupcakemonsters, whose creativity doesn’t end with music, such as Xiu Xiu’s Jamie Stewart, Colleen Paige Johnson from Polka Dot Dot Dot , Cougar Flashy’s Grant M. Gronewald and Seth Frightening.

What do you like about zines?

Their immediacy and accessibility, as well as their physicality. They’re sweet little artifacts, which allow us to share things we find important.

Is there anything you don’t like about zines as a medium?

The freedom I alluded to previously can go to people’s heads a little. I’m probably as guilty of it as anyone else but the absence of external restraint can make it very easy to disappear around the corner on all sorts of pretentious tangents. I’m working on that in my own writing, I swear. It’s also very easy to get discouraged and think that no-one’s listening, although I don’t think that’s a valid reason to stop making zines!

How do you get inspiration for a zine?

It depends on the zine. I make a new issue of Cupcakemonsters when I’ve talked to four new bands who make me massively excited. I put out an issue of Thermodynamics when my friends have sent me enough writing and I write stuff for Hectic Lifestyle whenever something exciting happens in my life. Which occurs surprisingly and hearteningly often. I’ve recently been really inspired to extend the skating stories from the first Hectic Lifestyle into a full zine about my adventures as a chino-wearing older skater. I think it’ll be called New Ramp. I also want to do a nice, full colour zine of my pictures of trees. When I get the time.

Tell us about some of your favourite zines:

-Heather Barnes and Zach Webber’s Neighbour Cats

-Aaron Cometbus’ Cometbus

-Carmel Rowden’s Hearing is Believing

-Bryce Galloway’s Incredibly Hot Sex with Hideous People

-A Low Hum

David Horvitz’s zines and resulting books about Xiu-Xiu’s tours

-Mary Pearson’s zines from before she started the High Places photoblog (it’s so beautiful- I totally recommend it to anyone who likes nature).

-Al Burian’s Burn Collector and Natural Disaster

-Hera Bird’s Perpetual Companion

-John Porcellino’s King Cat Comics and Stories

-Ian Svenonius’ Ulysses Speaks and his book The Psychic Soviet

All of these people consistently extend my ideas about what zines can be and inspire me to do more exciting things in my own work.

Draw (or collage or photograph) a picture of yourself:


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