When Austin Kleon started making zines out of a single piece of paper, and then kept on making them, I knew at some point, I would have to try my hand at it. Despite what those who mean well keep suggesting, not everyone has a lot more time on their hands because of the COVID-19 restrictions. I have gained a bit of time in dropping my commute to and from the office, though. This has opened up some space for creativity and craft.
In love with the cut and paste zine culture of the early nineties, I made my first zine with a typewriter and some photo copiers in 1993 or 1994. With ideas borrowed from some other zines and some amateurish writing, I put together a few issues and dropped them in the found materials spaces at local record stores. Hoping to connect with a kindred spirit or two, I included my mailing address on the back of each copy.
The hand-crafted zines of the era felt right at home with the musical scenes that were emerging at the time. The DIY aesthetic was blooming and cut and paste collages encapsulated that aesthetic perfectly. Some of the pillars of the indie rock scene adorned their album covers with surrealist mixed media collages.
Here are some of the album covers that inspired me.
Pavement – Crooked Rain, Crooked Rain
For the first few releases of their work, Pavement used some delightfully low-fi collages that matched the style of their music. They often threw in pieces of inscrutable handwritten text that resembled their song titles. The covers, like the lyrics to their songs, felt a bit like they were part of some in-joke that you could only hope to be cool or erudite enough to get.
Truman’s Water – Spasm Smash
As far as I know, all of the albums by Truman’s Water had collages as the covers. Dig the Eddie Munster cutout on Spasm Smash, the first wonderfully chaotic album I owned by them. Truman’s Water tore through this album with all sorts of noisy alternate tunings and half shout/half screams. The drones they produced in-between the freak outs sounded completely unnatural in a way that kept the listener off-balance and wondering what was going to happen next.
Sebadoh – Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock
This is another album where the dense collage elements of the cover match the musical contents found within. The edges of Smash Your Head On The Punk Rock were sharp and half-clipped. Soft ruminations on love gave way to nearly impenetrable walls of noise. Temperamental wild-card Eric Gaffney’s off-kilter compositions made this album seem even more like a mashed together bunch of disparate visions.
Kleon’s zines have revived good memories of those albums and rekindled my interest in the cut and paste format. For my first effort in the style of his single paper zines, I’ve decided to focus a bit on gratitude. Instead of asking people simply how they are doing with the changes that have been brought by the Coronavirus, I’m making a habit of what good things have come out of this semi-lockdown. I’m focused on the things I’m grateful for in broad strokes.
I’m very much enjoying seeing what creative endeavors people are undertaking during this time, as well as what is holding their appreciation.