Nathan’s Zine Review: 99MM, Jerk Store, Throat Culture

IMAG2717_1“You! Hands on the hood! Now!”

That’s Police Officer no. 1. He has just exited his squad car with one hand on his gun and the other pointing a firm finger in my direction. This comes just moments after he had driven said squad car across an opposing lane and up onto the curb directly in front of me where it has screeched to a stop just inches before crushing my legs.

“Sir…whoa…wha…what’s going on?” And then, “Ouch, that hurts!”

That’s me. I have just had my hands cuffed behind me and they are now being aggressively pushed up towards my shoulder blades. He’s pushing well beyond my allowed range of motion and into what I think must surely be ligament-damaging territory.

He asks me what I was doing in the train yards. I reply quickly, “Taking photographs.” But that’s only half of the truth.

“Just taking photographs huh? We’ll see about that.”

Now he’s digging through my messenger bag. And I know very well that he’s about to find the other half of the truth.

With joyful enthusiasm he slams the contents of my bag on the hood of the car. “Then what’s all this?”

A Ziploc baggy of colored charcoal, two Krink K-73 bleed through markers, and what suddenly seems like an inordinate amount of Markal B paintsticks stare back at me. After what feels like three hours but in reality is probably less than fifteen seconds I tell him that I’m an artist and that I always carry my art materials with me. Again, this is not exactly a lie.

We are now joined by Police Officer no. 2 who’s arrived on foot, having just left the train yard. He’s informing Officer no. 1 that the rail worker who called me in could not provide an accurate description of me and didn’t actually see me drawing on any train cars; only that he suspected I was.

Sensing defeat, Officer no. 1, with an irritable smirk on his face, asks me, “So if we go over to the yard I’m not going to see any graffiti on those train cars?”

Feeling confident given officer no. 2’s lack of incriminating evidence I reply, “Well actually, yes, you will see graffiti on those train cars.” Then, after a slight pause for dramatic effect, I add, “And that’s what I was taking photographs of.”

This of course leads to a circular discussion about just exactly who is responsible for the graffiti that I was photographing, and more importantly, is it me. I continue the trend of speaking in only half-truths and repeatedly state that it wasn’t. Eventually they decide to let me go.

Before I am completely cut lose I am pressed with the question of why I was photographing graffiti. With a cocksure smile, I tell them it’s for my zine. Predictably, the question gets asked:

“What is a zine?”

And that’s where this story ends. But it’s also where this week’s zine reviews begin…


When he’s not touring or releasing a seemingly endless string of musical output as half of the art-noise-party-punk duo Japanther, Ian Vanek somehow finds the time to put out his cut & paste graffiti collage zine 99mm. Each issue is half-size, black and white laser print on colored paper, in editions of 50. One of the more unique things about 99mm is the binding. Instead of staples, it’s held together by a hand-sewn spine. The stitching is so clean that even if it is done via a sewing machine, at 50 copies, it’s the type of DIY assemblage that I fully appreciate. 99mm typically comes with a price point to offset the cost of printing, which is done via Hey Zeus publishing. I paid for my first copy but have since been able to acquire them through trades.

At 30-some issues, Ian’s been making 99mm since his teenage years. Surprisingly I didn’t become aware of it until a couple years ago. The first one I got my stubby fingers on was issue #27. In addition to the black and white ink there’s also red, which contrasts nicely with heavier-weighted neon green paper that it’s printed on. The issue opens with a page-length rundown of Japanther’s 2012 summer tour, in which Ian talks about painting walls in Detroit, river rafting in Ohio, playing Chaos in Tejas with Joyce Manor, collaborating with the Night Shade puppet collective in Portland, meeting the singer of Pennywise (which in the summer of 2012 was probably still Zoli Téglás of Ignite, as Jim Lindberg had not yet returned I don’t believe), and playing with The Coup in LA.

IMAG2721_1On top of all the graffiti collages that are made up of flicks from the same 2012 tour, the issue includes a goofy interview with graff writer CASH 4, a battle of the bands-like contest review from the Czech Republic, and a handful of blurb-length record reviews.

Issue #29 is printed on neon orange paper and includes a considerable amount of written content. There are pages upon pages of graffiti collages. Included is a train car throwup by fellow zinester and graff writer BOOKMAN, who also goes by READER, READ MORE BOOKS and a million other names.

There’s an interesting essay by Ian titled “Endless Space and Endless Performance” in which he writes about the mental and physical difficulties of touring, the delicate balance between live performanceIMAG2723_1 and downtime, and the components by which he judges a successful show – tragedy, comedy, isolation and rejoicing.

There’s also a record reviews section that covers 29 different records, with only a sentence or two dedicated to each. Ian understands you don’t always have to go long to adequately sum up a record’s essence. Take for example his review of the Hard Girls / Summer Vacation split 7”: “Southern California screaming out of tiny foreign car. Soulful energy focused in short bursts of driving punk.”

The issue also has graffiti flicks from Portugal and Spain, random bits of poetry, non-graffiti-related photos from Sara Golden, and information about a photo project by Kelly Nipper titled “Tessa Pattern Takes a Picture.” In addition there’s a one question interview regarding The Hunger Games with none other than Patti Smith. (Spoiler alert: Patti loves it.)

IMAG2724_1Subtitled Truck Zine, Issue #30 breaks from the 99mm mold as it is only quarter-size and stapled. Each page has a photo of cube truck graffiti from Philadelphia, Chicago, Seattle, Paris, Vienna, Madrid and various boroughs of NYC. There are journal-like entries accompanying them that make it a quick but entertaining read.

Issue #31 is a whopping 28 pages. It’s aesthetically pleasing on the eyes, as it’s printed on neon pink paper with royal blue stitching. The majority of the graffiti photos are from Europe and like previous issues are primarily tags, hollows and throwups. I presume that much like me Ian is moved more by the everyman facet of graffiti than the skillful art-driven aspects of pieces and burners. That being said, there is an awesome full-page illustration by Oakland’s famed graff writer GATS. A flick of his work also appears later in the zine amongst the densely populated collages.

Ian penned two interesting pieces for this issue about the yin and yang characteristics of graffiti. “On the Other Hand, There’s Always This” is about using graffiti as a coping mechanism; how finding an alter ego, and developing its narrative can help even out the everyday pains of conformity. Perhaps revealing a bit of pro-wrestling fandom, he asks, “Is (your persona) babyface or heel?” In the accompanying piece “Another Day, Another Dollar” he theorizes that the endless battle between Los Angeles’ graffiti writers and buffers actually stimulates the city’s economy.IMAG2726_1

The rest of the issue is comprised of photos from Sara Golden and well-known train-hopping graff writer SWAMPY, a section about herbs by Jenn Su that is titled “Potential Potions,” and short record reviews of The Hive Dwellers, The Shivas and Can Of Beans.

Word is a new issue is set to drop very soon.

99mm contact info:

IMAG2735_1Jerk Store

Jerk Store is a punk rock zine from Australia. It’s been running for quite some time now but I hadn’t obtained a copy of it until just recently via the Sorry State Records distro. It’s half-size and black and white on off-yellow paper. It’s really clean-looking as opposed to the ubiquitous cut & paste punk zines that I normally read. It was likely laid out with some sort of desktop publishing software and pro-printed. Although the author Alex does mention in the intro piece that all the typing was done on a typewriter, which is praiseworthy because there’s a lot of written content. Layout wise it’s very much like a smaller version of Maximum RockNRoll Magazine – nice photos, clean lines, and an impeccable attention to detail.

Issue #13 begins with an intro piece in which Alex illustrates the difficulties of producing a zine. It’s fairly common practice for zine writers to introduce a new issue by talking about how it almost didn’t happen, or how it could be the last one, or how making a zine is generally a thankless task. I’ve probably written something similar a half-dozen times. After all, if we can’t vent our frustrations in our own zines, then where can we? But rather than dwell on the barriers too long, Alex shifts his excitement to talking about all the new records he’s been listening to since the last issue. He includes new albums by Mind Spiders, Night IMAG2737_1Birds, Joint D≠, as well as the Amdi Peterson Army discography.

The issue has an interview with Finnish anarcho-punk band 1981, some cool live show photos, a few pages of well-written record reviews, and a non-fiction piece by Sam North (also known as Sammy Thrashlife). But the best part by far is the Daylight Robbery Australian tour diary. It’s written by the Chicgo band’s drummer Jeff Rice. Jeff goes into great detail about the food he ate, the places he slept, the people he met, his off day excursions, the venues, the audiences, and the bands they played with. It’s written in a way that makes you feel as though you were right there with him, drinking home-brewed beer in the hills of Hobart, eating fake meat pies and playing mini-golf in Melbourne, or watching hardcore bands that remind you of what it’s like to be a kid.

Jerk Store contact:

IMAG2729_1Throat Culture

Throat Culture is an adorable punk rock perzine out of Chico, CA. It’s half-size and photocopied in black and white on colored paper. The two issues I have are light blue. I’m not certain that this is the color it usually is, but I’ve heard from fellow zinesters that it’s always printed on colored paper. It’s done in the archetypal layout of a punk zine. Choppily cut blocks of text that are either typed on an actual typewriter or on a computer in a typewriter-mimicking font are pasted over eerie art patterns and heavily distorted photographs. The colored paper really adds to the overall aesthetic and lends it a trademark-like value.

One of the more intriguing aspects of Throat Culture is the author’s voice. Even though I’ve participated in a few postal exchanges with Robert, I’ve never been able to get a grasp on his persona. Sometimes I think he’s a typical teenager who’s making a zine about the stuff he digs. Sometimes I think he’s surely an adult who’s pretending to be a teenager. And other times I just think he’s just a normal dude that happens to write in a youthful and exuberant manner. Take for example this handwritten account from issue #13:

So yesterday I got hit by a serious asshole while I was walking. He hit me with his car while I was walking on the sidewalk and he was leaving some store. I went to talk to him and he drove away too fast for me to get his plate number.  He was with his child and wife too. I’m okay, but he hurt my heart. He is a jerk.

In the same issue there’s also a humorous handwritten list titled “Here’s a List of Things I Hate.” Some of my favorite items include “spideIMAG2733_1rs (so scary),” “throwing up,” “Pepsi Cola (Mountain Dew is good though)” and “mean dogs.” Let’s be real here, throwing up sucks and Mountain Dew is dope.

The majority of Throat Culture is made up of Robert’s reviews of cassette tapes and 7” vinyl. He mostly reviews punk, though much of it leans towards the garage end of the spectrum. You can tell when he likes something because he says it’s “SOO GOOD.” And if he really likes it he says it’s “SOOOO GOOD.” In addition to how many Os he uses to denote the goodness of a record or tape, his reviews are fairly amusing. He summarizes the Youthbitch – I’m In Love With Girls 7” by saying, “This is to die for…or go to jail over.”

“This is to die for…or go to jail over” may as well be Throat Culture’s mission statement. I’m enamored with it.

Throat Culture contact info: @ObahShaquille on Twitter

Follow Nathan G. O’Brien on Twitter at: @OMG_NOB

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Nathan G. O'Brien

Nathan G. O'Brien has written for Maximum Rocknroll Magazine, Scene Point Blank, Verbicide Magazine, and Tight To The Nail. He lives in Minneapolis, MN.

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