a zine is born.

Indier Than Thou! was beginning to get lots of free records from the major labels, along with letters asking for special consideration for certain records.  One letter discussed the possibility of a feature story on one of their artists.  Another package, from one of the larger indie labels in the punk business, included a few ad slicks with a nice note stating that the label didn’t have an ad budget, and relied on cool indie fanzines like Indier Than Thou! to run its ads for free, in an effort to help support indie rock.

Keep in mind that there was no such thing as Indier Than Thou! 

It was just a name.  There was no zine.  It had never published, had no circulation, and nary a sample issue was to be had.

Rich had taken to listening to the free CDs he was receiving, putting aside the stuff he liked, putting aside the stuff he thought I might like, and then bringing the rest to Compact Disc World in Paramus to sell.  CD World would buy your used CDs, or allow you to trade them for other used CDs.

It was a pretty good racket that he had going.  He would tell the major labels that he was looking for CDs to review in his zine, the labels would send him CDs, and nobody knew any better.  Once he got added to a mailing list, he received all kinds of crazy stuff – posters, promo trinkets, cassette tapes, all sorts of stuff.   He wasn’t receiving service from every major, but I would imagine that there were two or three sending him things on a regular basis.

But the stuff he was getting from TVT really bothered him.  TVT was by no means a tiny label, but it was an indie label nonetheless, and it bothered Rich to take their freebies.  He thought he was the indie rock Robin Hood, I guess.

“Maybe I should send it all back,” he told me one night.  “I haven’t brought any of their stuff to CD World.  Maybe I should give it back to them.”

“Do you feel guilty about taking stuff from the majors?” I asked.

“Hell, no.  Is it my fault that they haven’t done their homework and found out that there’s no such thing as my zine?”

He had a point.  At that stage in the development of the carefully-crafted marketing campaign that was “alternative rock,” major labels had entire departments set up with the goal of duping college radio stations and indie fanzines into thinking that the latest corporate created, ready-for-MTV monstrosity was “alternative.”  The labels had no qualms pulling the wool over the public’s eyes; why should Rich worry about pulling the wool over the labels’ eyes?  

On the other hand, we were working pretty hard at making sure we were ethical and fair and above board with everything we were doing with Dromedary, giving money to charity and being open about how we were doing things.  I think that Rich felt like he was putting a black mark on that record every time he opened another envelope that had a CD in it.

“I have an idea,” he told me one day.  “I’m going to put out a zine.”

“Umm, aren’t you already doing that?” I asked.

“No, I’m really going to put one out.  I’m totally going to make fun of indie rock.  I want to do a zine about the indie industry.”

“The ‘indie industry’?” I asked.

“Yep.  The whole culture of commerce that’s sprung up around indie rock.  What else could a zine called ‘Indier Than Thou!‘ be about?”

He started to talk about how he was going to put together a snarky little zine that poked fun at itself, the people in indie bands, the indie fans, and the indie labels.  It would call out the college radio payola that we all knew was happening, and also would feature interviews with indie label owners and employees.  The idea was for a zine that would be more of an insider’s look at indie rock.

As if either of us were insiders.

“It’s going to be the first publication from Binky Publishing,” he said, as I recalled the discussion we had that winter about Rich’s Binky.  “I’m also going to run a big ad in it for Binky Graphics.”

“What’s Binky Graphics?” I asked.

“That’s my graphic design company.  I’ll do logos, print ads, and corporate identity systems.”

All this because he felt guilty about taking records from TVT.

There was no such thing as Binky Graphics.  There was no such thing as Binky Publishing, either.  There was not even any such thing as Indier Than Thou!  But that didn’t stop Rich from talking about them as if they were real.  

Jeez, phony bands, phony zines, there’s a lot of phony stuff here, considering this is a true story.

One night at See Hear, Rich was looking at a zine and being critical of the layout.  “Look at the cover of this zine,” he said.  “It’s such a poor design.  Binky Publishing would never put out something that looked like that.”

“Dude.  Binky Publishing does not exist.  It won’t exist until you have zines all over your living room.”  It felt good to say that to someone else.

We hooked Rich up with Jim Testa from Jersey Beat. Jim was one of the first journalists (and at this point, was still one of the only journalists) to give us the time of day.  He had been publishing Jersey Beat, it seemed, for as long as they’d been making paper.  Jim and Rich spoke for a while, with Jim giving Rich lots of advice on the zine business – how to design, how to work with labels and get interviews, how to solicit labels for ads.  He also gave Rich some tips on printing.

Rich, however, worked for a commercial printing company, and opted to print the zine on the copy machine at work.  Sabotage in the American Workplace, and all that.

Sandy and I offered to write for him.  So did our friend Blake, a buddy from WSAM who was doing radio promo for Continuum Records – the home, at the time, of Kid Rock.  Blake eventually left Continuum and started what would become a very successful career in commercial radio in eastern Pennsylvania, where he still works today.

Rich started working up some story ideas, and targeted the release of his debut issue for the fall of 1993, to coincide with the CMJ Music Marathon.  His plan was to camp out at the hotel where the convention was, and hand out free copies of the zine to everyone he could find.

“Best thing about this,” he said, “Is Frank will get off my case.  I’m doing something.”

~ by Al on February 3, 2009.

One Response to “a zine is born.”

  1. […] worked our shitty dayjobs across the street from one another and I started a record company while he started a magazine.  We stayed up all night together, talking half-jokingly about taking over the world, and […]

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