indier than you.

With the first issue of Indier Than Thou! having been exhausted (we kept a handful of copies for ourselves and then gave the rest away to Music Marathon attendees and various indie zine distributors), Rich began to enjoy the fruits of his labor.

First, now that he had an actual, printed zine to show people, many of the labels that had turned down his requests for record service relented.  The first issue of the zine was actually very good, and he suddenly was awash in free stuff from record labels.  This jived well with his disinformation campaign, in that he was a big fan of getting as much free shit as possible.  He continued to sell the stuff he didn’t want to CD World, keeping the good stuff for himself.

He also began getting mail – other zine publishers started sending him copies of their zines, hoping to trade for copies of Indier.  That was a no-brainer for Rich; since he made the zine on the copier at his office and hand-stapled them, he was able to run them off ten or twelve copies at a time and send them off to different zine publishers.  The offshoot of this was that Rich was suddenly awash in really cool zines; the coolest of them, he’d bring to our apartment and leave with us.  We used this to add to our list of cool zines.  This is how we discovered Tail Spins, which became my favorite zine ever.  It’s how we discovered The Probe, a cool punk zine that had its articles and reviews punctuated by nude photos of the publisher’s friends, touring bands, and the like.  It’s also how we discovered Beer Frame, a zine that Rich got through someone who would trade envelopes filled with zines for envelopes filled with other zines.  Beer Frame was, to me, the greatest zine ever made.  We also discovered Pop Sunday Newsletter, Powerbunny 4×4, and Insight that way.

Another cool thing about Indier was that bands began sending Rich their demos for review in the next issue.  Rich had decided that he was not going to review demos, but he also became a de facto A&R guy for Dromedary by listening to each demo tape and sending me the better ones.  That’s how we found this song from a band called Thirteen – we thought it was great but a little too close to Don Fleming’s band Gumball.  This song, “I Dig Trains,” was one of the better hard pop songs we’d heard.

Rich also received packages from two New York bands that we fell in love with immediately; Jenifer Convertible, who were a loud, indie pop band that had released a single on their own label; and Gapeseed, who were an aggressive, math-rock three-piece who had released a 7″ and were about to release a CD on a San Diego label called Silver Girl.

Jenifer Convertible were interesting in that their guitar player, Jim, was also the guy who wrote the demo reviews for Alternative Press magazine.  His review of the Melting Hopefuls demo was what attracted us to the band in the first place.  Oddly enough, Jim was also the member of a band called Tang S’Dang that we played at WSAM when I was in college.  He knew Melting Hopefuls well, and had actually recorded some music with Ray at the Womb.  There was a lot of serendipity there, and it didn’t hurt that the band was great.  

Gapeseed was even better.  They had pop elements to their music, but they were also a lot noisier than anything we had released.  When they first reached out to Rich, they hadn’t quite firmed things up with Silver Girl, and so we thought there might be a chance that we could release their music on Dromedary.  I loved it so much that I didn’t even care that we had no money or no clue how to put out a full-length CD; I just wanted to get it out.  I sent the band a letter, and got a nice response from Mike, their bass player, letting me know that they were going to hold out and release the CD on Silver Girl even though it wasn’t yet firm – that made me like the band even more, because they were being loyal to a small label all the way across the country when there was a label just across the river that wanted to put out their music for them.

The combination of free CDs, letters, zines, and demos generated by the first issue of Indier Than Thou! made Rich all the more enthusiastic about starting on the second issue.  Having read so many perzines, he decided he wanted to do an article on his disinformation campaign – the idea behind it was pretty punk, especially when he was receiving actually useful items like laundry detergent and coupons with enormous savings.  He could actually detect a savings in his weekly budget, as well as changes in his buying habits, based on the free shit he was getting.

When I mentioned the ironic fact that he had become a victim to his own disinformation campaign, his response was “Fuck you.”

He had decided that he wanted to interview Gapeseed in the next issue, and he was hoping that our mutual friend Dave (a talented cartoonist) would do a cartoon for this issue (he had told Rich that he was going to do one for the first issue but never did; Rich shamed him in that issue by devoting a page to the space Dave’s cartoon was supposed to take up by talking about how Dave never did the cartoon he promised).

He also wanted another music industry article.  The article on college radio from the first issue had generated a lot of mail, as had the interview with Gerard Cosloy.  He suggested that I interview the owner of a successful indie label, asking questions that a newbie indie label guy would ask.  The result, in his mind, should be an interesting article filled with advice for prospective label owners, scuttlebutt about the indie rock business, and inside info about whatever label I chose to interview.

After thinking about it for a while, I decided that I’d like to interview Jenny Toomey of Simple Machines Records.  Having gotten educated as to the existence of their Mechanic’s Guide, it was obvious to me that Simple Machines was interested in educating DIY musicians and businesspeople, and was also interested in releasing records that were more than just records – they patronized DIY business establishments (like printers and pressing facilities), worked hard to ensure that their packaging was unique and educational, and were also very politically active in the Virginia area.

Jenny was more than happy to consent to an interview, and we chatted for about an hour, covering everything under the sun from Simple Machines’ upcoming projects to Dromedary’s, the business of retail distribution, the importance of college radio, the indie vs. major debate, and more.

It was a fun interview, and Jenny Toomey was an absolute pleasure to meet.

~ by Al on March 10, 2009.

5 Responses to “indier than you.”

  1. As enjoyable as the last thing I read about this chap! Starting a new zine is a bit like catching a train in a foreign land, you can never quite be sure where it’s going to take you even if you think you know!

  2. That’s the story – I started a label and he started a zine, at roughly the same time. We helped each other out, learned a lot, and made great friends along the way. It’s a great story, even though it’s 15 years old.

    I’m not ignoring you, BTW, I need to get you my address. I’ve got one copy of Indier; I’ll make a photocopy and send it to you, too, if you give me an address.

  3. Sounds like a plan, my address is;
    Andrew Culture
    PO BOX 773
    IP1 9FT

    Email me your address and I’ll send you the latest copy of my own zine Beat Motel, then we’ve made a nice old fashioned trade!

  4. […] Indier Than You.  Indier Than Thou! begins to get some recognition, and copious free […]

  5. […] Indier Than You.  Rich’s fanzine takes […]

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