The STACK Blog
Do you like magazines? Do you live in (or near) Manchester? Then you’ll want to be at Printout! at The Deaf Institute on 9 June.
We’re going to be talking about making independent magazines in the north – London tends to dominate the publishing conversation, so I’m really looking forward to escaping the bounds of the M25 and talking to Alasdair Hiscock from Article (Sheffield), Bec Brown from Blanket (Manchester) and James Griffin from Bonafide (Leeds).
We’ll also have the pop-up magazine library for you to flick through, full of amazing independent magazines from all over the world. Tickets are £5 each, and guarantee a great night of independent magazine talking, reading and drinking.
Boat is one of London’s most exciting new magazines, so I’m very happy to welcome it as the latest new addition to the Stack line-up.
Run by husband and wife team Davey and Erin Spens (and art director Luke Tonge), Boat sets sail twice a year to make a magazine based on a city with a story to tell. For the first issue they travelled to Sarajevo and connected with local artists, authors, photographers and journalists to create a fresh vision of the city. As Erin explains, the idea is ”to create a magazine that makes you want to go visit, but also gives you a good idea of what it’s like before you go – the below the surface stuff for people who like to dig a bit more.”
I’ve been reading The Wire on and off for years and have always found it a solid (if sometimes a little too serious) music magazine. But just recently it seems to have hit a real purple patch. There’s absolutely no question of it dumbing down (there are still plenty of references to bands I’ve never heard of) but overall the magazine feels crafted more for the interested passer-by than the die-hard fanatic.
I spent a couple of hours reading the June issue yesterday, and woke up thinking about it today. That’s always a good sign, so I thought I’d share a few of my favourite bits:
Composer Simon Fisher Turner on creating a soundtrack for the Captain Scott film, The Great White Silence. “I like the silence, but it’s very difficult to use it when you’ve been commissioned to make music, not silence.”
An overview of the work of Caroline Bergvall, whose recently published book Meddle English describes what she calls ‘Middling English’: “The middle, for her, is a multivalent space that hosts residues of memory, history, song, poetry and politics.”
DJ DVA on the independent spirit that made him want to get away from “boys with their hoods up, stinking of weed”. I’d heard his Jelly Roll before, and the interview has left me wanting to listen to more.
Author Simon Reynolds on his concept of Retromania, “the dominant culture of music in the 21st century, replacing anticipation and spectacular events with always-on availability and superabundance.”
And an insightful interview with Battles, charting the progress of the band’s difficult second album, Gloss Drop. They talk about it being incredibly intense, but also “more of a factory effect… like creating it on an assembly line.” I wonder whether that was the inspiration for the brilliant cover shoot, showing the trio dipped in a series of coloured paints.
Serious, weird, fascinating and funny. I really hope The Wire carries on ploughing this particular furrow.
It’s been a year since Kasino put out their first Creative Annual, and now issue two has landed on my desk. The first one was more like a book than a magazine, but Kasino fans won’t be surprised to hear that the format has changed and this second issue is nothing like its predecessor. More a loose brochure than a magazine, it’s printed in black and gold (which looks a bit dull and brown in these pictures, but is really lovely and shiny) and green and red (to pick out bottles of Heineken – their back-page advertiser and I imagine their sponsor for the project).
The idea is to offer a glimpse inside the Kasino world, with big, weird illustrations by Nipa on the right-hand pages and short, clipped notes on the left-hand pages. This first spread tells the story of making the first Creative Annual.
“Sprinting and printing in Spring” – the Creative Annual is published, beer is drunk.
The final illustration – “June 2011. The sign on the Kasino office door is flipped back to ‘Gone Fishin”. The small print contains the clause: ‘However, if you have jobs to do, call us’. Because work makes us tick.”
It’s a lovely update from Pekka, Jussi, Jonathan and co. It feels last minute and dashed off, but in a good way. As with anything I’ve ever seen from Kasino, it’s absolutely packed with personality and fun, and it’s surprisingly dense – every time you look at the illustrations you see another odd/upsetting detail.
A couple of months ago a subscriber recommended Stack to a friend. The friend took out a subscription and was happy with the magazines they received, so they sent me an email to say thanks, and to ask whether their recommender might be entitled to a free Stack gift. Like a mug, for example.
The answer was no, but since then I’ve been quietly obsessed by the idea of making Stack mugs. Last week I finally got around to placing the order, and I’m pretty delighted with the result.
So, I now have a proper way of saying thank you to people who spread the word about Stack. If you’re a Stack subscriber and you persuade a friend to sign up to a year’s subscription, drop me an email to info[at]stackmagazines.com and I’ll pop a free mug in the post to you. Likewise, if you buy Stack as a gift for somebody else, I’ll put a mug in the post to you (remember to use the Gift option on the subscription page).
I’ll only be able to send the mugs out while stocks last, so if you’ve been thinking about buying or recommending Stack for a while, now’s the time to do it!
Oh, and if you’re the person who originally asked for a mug, drop me a line. I’ll only be sending mugs out for subscriptions received from today onwards, but it’s only fair that I should make an exception for the one who came up with the idea!
I spent most of last Sunday reading the new issue of Zoetrope, and then I went on eBay and bought a camera.
The issue was designed by Mark Romanek (director of One Hour Photo and Never Let Me Go), and the stories are punctuated by pages and pages of his photographs. He writes in his Notes on Design at the front of the magazine that he has being taking pictures since he was nine years old, when his dad bought him a Kodak Instamatic. That was followed a few years later by a Canon FTb, and later still his dad loaned him an old Ikoflex bought in Japan during the Korean War.
More recently Romanek has been taking pictures with his iPhone, and a favourite old camera:
“Recently I’ve fallen back in love with my cheap Pentax K1000, a fully manual 35mm SLR that’s seemingly incapable of making a bad picture. (You can find them on eBay for under $200.)”
It turns out that you can pick them up for much less than that, so I did. I haven’t got a clue how things like aperture and shutter speed work, but I’ve downloaded PDFs of an old K1000 manual and I’m ready to test that whole “incapable of bad pictures” thing.
But I’ll have to be careful. I can’t go running to eBay every time a charismatic director designs a new issue of Zoetrope. That could get expensive.
In the meantime, here are a few of my favourite spreads, to say nothing of some seriously excellent stories by Frances de Pontes Peebles and Keith Ridgway.
I first came across Meatpaper at Colophon in March 2009. It’s made in California and it’s pretty hard to get hold of over here, but I’ve managed to lay my hands on a few copies since then and I’ve loved every issue I’ve picked up. There’s something very clever about focusing on a subject that can be made both everyday and taboo with a slight twist of context.
The current issue is dedicated to the theme of looking at meat. It’s a strange theme – you could say that every issue of Meatpaper does that – but editor in chief and art director Sasha Wizansky has used it to put together a beautiful and brilliant issue.
It kicks off by interviewing San Francisco sushi chef Tim Archuleta about his restaurant and the Japanese culinary philosophy of “eyes, nose, mouth” – sight gives the first impression of a dish, so it needs to look beautiful. Archuleta’s passion for seasonal sushi and unusual fish jumps off the page.
It’s interesting that the majority of people writing for Meatpaper seem to have been vegetarians at some point. For example there’s Abner Nolan and his wife, who began putting meat on the table again when their three-year-old daughter demanded it: “The lure of meat has led us headstrong toward an omnivorous future.” I think that’s her pictured below.
This is the sort of thing Meatpaper does so well – a lovely illustration and a thoughtful, cheeky, provocative bit of musing on lapsed vegetarianism:
“Now that the vegetarian nightmare is over and we are back to our diet of meat and deep in the sway of our dark and beautiful habits and able to speak with calm of having survived, let the breeze of the future touch and retouch our large and hungering bodies. Let us march to market to embrace the butcher and put the year of the carrot, the month of the onion behind us, and let us worship the roast or the stew that takes its place once again at the sacred center of the dining room table.”
You don’t get that in the Waitrose magazine.
When the first issue of Bracket came out last year I salivated over its silky newsprint and its clever take on interviewing creative people from all over the world. Interviewees were sent a list of questions about their craft, and were asked to scrawl and sketch their answers.
The next issue is out now, and I haven’t seen the real thing yet but the pictures look pretty amazing. The basic concept seems to be the same, with interviewees asked to respond to set questions in words and pictures, but this time it’s all printed on black stock. Lovely, silky-looking black stock with text reversed out in light silvery grey. I bet my greasy fingers will make it look horrible in no time, but for now I can enjoy the pictures.