Nathan’s Zine Review: Hug It Out, Tinted Windows, Bacon In The Beans

Zine Pile 1“What is a zine?”

This is probably the question I get asked more than any other. And not surprisingly so, as outside of a handful of subcultures and art-minded channels, zines, despite a history that is believed to date back to the 1930s, aren’t exactly at the forefront of public consciousness. There are numerous places around ye olden Internet to find in-depth breakdowns of the history and culture of zines, including a more than adequate Wikipedia entry, so I’ll spare you lengthy details and instead answer the question the way I always do.

In the simplest of terms, zine—oftentimes stylized as ‘zine—is a shortened form of the word “magazine.” Hence its proper pronunciation: zeen.

Zines are self-published works that more often than not are smaller in size, both content-wise and by measurement, than standard magazines. They’re largely duplicated with a photocopy machine and, aside from a dwindling number of distributors, they have a miniscule circulation when compared to normal periodicals. Distribution channels often times consist of trades through the mail or hand-to-hand exchanges at art shows, concerts, parties and zine fests.

Another way to define zines is to say they are like blogs on paper. Now I realize that there are some people that are going to hate that statement but it doesn’t make it untrue. Before the advent of blogs the existence of zines served a very similar purpose. It was a way to get your voice, whether it be visual or written or a combination of both, out into the world without the following traditional channels. You didn’t have to be an artist or a photographer or a journalist by trade to spread your gospel.

The first zine I ever laid eyes on was one my mother gave me when I was very young. It was an art zine that was filled with collages and spooky line drawings. As I slowly thumbed through the visually mesmerizing pages, I had the same type of hey-I can-do-this realization that’s birthed a million punk bands.

I wrote my first zine in junior high school. My friend and I, both being somewhat artistic—he more than me—and heavy into professional wrestling—me more than him, decided it would be cool to make our own wrestling newsletter. Using standard notebook paper we drew pictures of guys like Nikolai Volkoff & Boris Zukhov and wrote small paragraphs about “Hacksaw” Jim Duggan’s debut on WWF Superstars. It lasted all of one issue and nobody saw it except for us but boy did we love it. Fast forward through a few ill-fated attempts over the years to the present day and I am a full-fledged zinester. I read, make, trade, buy, sell and actively seek out zines.

So the purpose of this column will be to shed light on some the zines I’ve acquired.

Before we get started, I’d like to get a few simple logistics out of the way.

On size: In the interest of keeping things simple I’m going to steer away from using terms like “digest” or “A4” and instead use these three size indicators: full-size, half-size and quarter-size. Full-size is anything that’s standard letter paper size (8.5×11) and above. Half-size will be used anytime letter, legal (8.5×14), tabloid (11×17), or similarly-sized paper is folded in half. And quarter-size is will reference those zines that are half the size of half-size.

On binding: Unless I mention otherwise, it’s safe to assume the zines are bound via staples through the spine.

Cut & paste: This means the imagery and layout was amassed through the use of scissors and adhesive and not with desktop publishing software.

DIY, in case you didn’t know, stands for Do It Yourself.  DIY is at the core of zine-making and is synonymous with the very idea of zines.

Seeing how the first zine I ever made was a professional wrestling-themed I figured I should start my first ever zine column with this one…

Hug It Out

Hug It OutHug It Out is a pro-wrestling zine out of Washington, D.C. which I obtained through a trade with one of the authors. Although pro-wrestling makes up some of the content of other zines I read, Hug It Out is actually the first zine I’ve ever received that is dedicated exclusively to wrestling. It is half-size, photocopied in black and white on white paper, and with a cover printed on off-yellow paper. The layout style is cut & paste with background images that appear to have been crudely manipulated via photo imaging software.

As described in the intro page, the authors Pierce and Fil finished the debut issue on April 3rd of this year, just three days before WrestleMania, and were still assembling it up until a half hour before they had to leave for the airport to fly to New Orleans to see ‘Mania.

The zine kicks off with a humorous piece called “Tight or Not Tight” in which the guys show clips of wrestling to casual fan Greg Mazur of D.C. punk bands Aloners and Gauge Away who weighs in on whether he thinks they’re tight or not. In response to a video of New Japan’s Kazuchika Okada’s now-famous ring entrance alongside a giant mechanical raptor he says, “Real tight. Could be tighter, but logistically impossible.” And later in reference to Corporate Kane he says, “I wanna go on record saying that Kane without a mask is the most un-tight thing ever.” I concur on both accounts.

One of the things l like about this zine is that both of the authors are passionate about wrestling but have very different voices. Pierce is clearly the bigger wrestling fan while Fil comes from a punk fanzine background. Pierce penned a lengthy and affecting piece about the lead up to this year’s WrestleMania that largely echoes my own sentiments (and probably that of most smart fans), in which he details the oft-tumultuous relationship between fans and the WWE brass, as well as the roller coaster of emotions that coincided with and ultimately influenced Daniel Bryan’s Yes Movement. Four pages later is Fil’s column called “Wrestling Moments That Made Me Cry” in which he writes archetypal punk fanzine blurbs about Mick Foley’s portrayal in the film Beyond the Mat, Edge’s retirement, and a Match Of The Year candidate between Sami Zayn and Cesaro from NXT.

As is commonplace in zines, there’s a reviews section. The guys give their opinions on the David Shoemaker-authored book The Squared Circle: Life, Death and Professional Wrestling, another wrestling zine, and thrift store finds like VHS tapes of Randy Savage matches. Toss in an interview with a fellow wrestling fan, a centerfold of a Billy Kidman moonsault  and wrap it all up in classic DIY-looking layout, and you have a great debut zine. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing more issues of Hug It Out.

Hug It Out contact info:

Tinted Windows

Tinted WindowsTinted Windows comes out of San Carlos, CA. It’s the brainchild of DJ Eons One, which is the hip-hop nom de plume of celebrated Spazz guitarist Dan Lactose. When Eons isn’t on the wheels of steel with Grand Invincible or wielding axe for Deny The Cross he’s creating these little skull-filled cut & paste gems.

Tinted Windows is photocopied black and white on white paper. And with the exception of issue #9, which is a two-sided newsletter-like layout that accompanies Eon’s Revenge of the Crate Goblins 7”, it is quarter-size and done in the rare but always welcomed mini-zine style. Mini-zines are created with one sheet of paper (in this case legal size) that involves cutting a slit in the middle and laying it out so that one side will be an eight page booklet when it’s folded while the other side will be one large page or poster when it’s unfolded. Eons tells me he learned how to do mini-zine method in the late ‘80s from a Washington-based cartoonist named Brian Horst.

One of my favorite things about Tinted Windows is that while it’s small in size it’s also jam-packed with mindfuck ephemera assemblages; a wildstyle layout that pulls from all corners of Eon’s varied interests. Issue #6, which took two years from inception to completion, has a dope graffiti piece, a Shed Dwellaz skull and dagger pencil sketch, and news clipping about the famed “Book Bandit” Stephen Blumberg that’s titled “The Whole World is Your Shoplifting Zone.”

In issue #7 you’ll find Cyclops-eyed octopuses, Nancy Reagan talking about the gun she keeps near her bedside for protection, and an ‘80s vert skater with the tagline “Wild Brain Drops + Dada Freakouts + Ether Telegrams” running below him.

Issue #8 is my personal favorite based solely on the inclusion of a story about a dude from Peru called Coach of Death, who as a teenager in 1990 carried a binder full of skull clippings with him and wore the same Sarcafago tee shirt every day at school.

Tinted Windows contact info:

Bacon In The Beans

Bacon In The BeansBacon In The Bean comes from Thousand Oaks, CA. Like Hug It Out and Tinted Windows, I acquired it through postal trades with the author. Its title is a reference to the “Porkgate” incident of a few years back (when it was discovered that Chipotle’s vegetarian pinto beans had pork in them) and is a reflection of BITB creator Dale Johnson’s peculiar sense of humor. Dale has been producing zines since he was a BMX-riding inhabitant of the suburban Southern California cul-de-sac life that he describes as being very much like the 1979 cult film Over The Edge. B.I.T.B. is a DIY punk style zine through and through. Half-size, photocopied black and white on white paper and cut & paste as all get out. Exactly like something a teenager would make, although content-wise it’s much more involved.

One of the best parts of Issue #2, which arrived unstapled and is subtitled The Metal Issue, is a seven page roundtable discussion titled “The History of Ventura County Heavy Metal.” It’s sort of an unofficial oral history of a scene that dates back to the mid-‘80s as told by the people that were there.  It’s really interesting to hear about Noxious, Malicious Intent and Morbid Truth playing in gymnasiums as well as Mammon and Fatal Error that had members that would go onto to play in acts such as Pulley, Unwritten Law and Papa Roach. They even delve into straightedge hardcore a bit, discussing Strife, Still Life and so on.

Other highlights from issue #2 include an interview with So-Cal D-beat band Discrown and a humorous tale titled “Prostitution & Pizza Delivery” in which Dale showcases his knack for unique non-fiction storytelling. There’s also a reviews section that covers records and zines, and a full-page Doomryderz collage done by DJ Eons One.

North American Yob, which is the subtitle for the third issue of Bacon In The Beans, is held together by a singular staple midway down, through the cover rather than on the spine. I’d be lying if I said this isn’t irritating. I’d also be lying if I didn’t admit that I pulled that staple out and redid it the normal way. (I’m not afraid to manipulate art so that it works for me. I once made a remix of Enter The Wu-Tang: 36 Chambers that cut all the skits out. Blasphemy, I know.) Despite the shoddy assemblage, it’s all quality content.

There’s a healthy dose of material from outside contributors. This isn’t surprising, as Dale has contributed some stellar material to other zines including Aggro (and even my own). Mark Rodgers wrote a lengthy piece about Still Life’s 1993 album From Angry Heads and Skyward Eyes. Greg Gilday of Long Beach, CA supplied a story called “Metal Again” in which he walks the reader through his recent re-interest in heavy metal after all but abandoning it during his punk years. And there’s an excellent and detailed travel journal about Hellfest ’09 in Clisson, France by Suree Cleveland. The issue closes out with a piece by Food Fortunata of the long-running zine Ear of Corn.

Bacon In The Beans has been on hiatus for a bit but Dale tells me a new issue is on the way soon.

Bacon In The Beans contact info:

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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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