Yeti / Social Music Records & Tapes
For almost ten years, issues of Yeti, a book-bound ‘zine, have been trickling out into the public and finding those with an interest in the cultural developments and histories from the margins – be it music, art, film, or literature. This range of subject matter reflects Yeti’s editor, and long-time ‘zine writer, Mike McGonigal’s “need to create little worlds” with each issue. With Yeti #9 soon to be released, McGonigal is also set to unleash his latest project - Social Music Records & Tapes – his new label, which is kicking off with an ambitious yearlong subscription series. Mike was kind enough to take some time out of his busy schedule to answer some questions about both of these labors of love.
Someone once described it as "a general interest magazine for people with marginal interests." I like that; can't really think of anything much better.
In terms of what's covered, it's not that different, really. The ways that it's different are more indicative of the times. To do a 'zine today is more of a throw-back kind of thing. I'm not talking "death of print debate," either. But even a 'zine like Chemical
Imbalance, which I started in 1984 when I was sixteen, and I was doing an awful job because I didn't know any better (awful writing at least on my part, laying the thing out with tape and printing it out on a dot matrix printer or using my mom's IBM Selectric for text, never proofreading, etc.) -- it served actual, functional purposes that a 'zine today very probably never could.
When I printed a tribute to d. boon in an early issue of Chemical Imbalance -- either the second or third issue I forget -- this one woman thanked me because she was a Minutemen fan. She didn't know he'd died. And this was a full six months later! Nowadays, we all post updates on our profiles within minutes of somebody dying. And the culture has changed to where d. boon would get a NY Times obit today.
I never liked writing record reviews, or printing them -- but it was really crucial back then, one of just a few ways people could find out about releases. There were records that would never get written about anywhere else, back then.
I started Yeti a year after moving to Seattle, WA to work as a music editor there. I was recently divorced, had a bit of extra cash for the first time in years, and I just wanted to do this thing I love doing. I really, really like to edit and compile -- records, books, magazines. I have this need to create little worlds, partly in an attempt to impose a semblance of order onto my own world.
We never have theme issues -- partly because I am far too flakey and disorganized to pull that off. Some of my favorite magazines do/ have done themes -- Cabinet magazine, for instance, or Evergreen Review #13 (the 'Pataphysics issue) or the themed 'zines (sex, drugs, crazy things that kids write) that Tuli Kupferberg did for his Birth Press imprint in the '50s and '60s. Often, unintended themes do creep up; I usually only notice them after the fact, though.
The biggest influences in terms of both design and content would be book-bound 'zines from the '90s: Badaboom Gramaphone, Halana and most of all the very great and sorely missed Sound Collector. I chose from the outset to use illustrators for each article, to give a uniform and hopefully interesting look. I've been lucky as hell in terms of getting awesome work from people for free (mostly -- this is a labor of love). After the first issue, which didn't have a uniform design, I realized I needed to impose one. Unconsciously, the main design influence is probably textbooks from the late '70s and early '80s -- the way the chapter headings look and all of that is totally like a textbook from my youth. It took someone else to point this out, naturally.
I'm afraid that it is nothing more than a rarefied thing at this point. But the people who purchase it do seem to enjoy it a lot. I like books; I enjoy them for a lot more than simply "information." I can't wait to read the three I just got today -- two of which are Richard Stark's "Parker" novels. My friend Luc Sante (who we've published two books by, which I'm very proud of) wrote the intros to three or four of the reprints in this series and that got me started on them. Even if Kindles are awesome, I do not need one. I'm not on planes and trains enough, and I do not believe that the convenience of digital media outweighs the awesomeness of analog stuff. I've had two computers die on me with many mp3s carried off to 00100101110 heaven -- and I mourn the loss of them, but when I had a minor flood wreck about 60 of my LPs while I was away from my house last winter -- shit,
I'm still crying over my Charlie Pickett and the Eggs “Live at the Button” LP, you know?
I like that Yeti is mass-produced, that it's a perfect-bound book you can put on your shelf. I appreciate a lot of cool, handmade-looking things, but the kind of precious + overly emo productions that I see as the dominant way that 'zines are produced these days is not really my thing. If you're going to do something in a limited edition, make it mind-blowing -- at least try to live up to Semina or Aspen, you know? Make it a production, something to boggle people's minds. But whatever, I'm ranting again aren't I? Drag me off this street corner, please.
The most important ways to be relevant these days are to either devote all of your effort to that -- keeping up on blogs, and never ever sleeping -- or to just say fuck it, and do what you really want to do, only focus on that.
Well, the next issue is all done so I can definitely tell you about that.
A few things in the book:
· MARYANNE AMACHER: Two archival interviews with the electronics pioneer
· TULI KUPFERBERG: Reprints from his wonderful self-published Birth Press titles from the 1960s
· ARRINGTON DE DIONYSO: New drawings by the intrepid artist/ musician
· DEAN WAREHAM: Pictures + Words -- Photos and text serving as a kind of tour diary by your favorite member of Speedy & the Castanets
· PIP PROUD IN THE 1960s: Excerpt from Cannanes founder David Nichols' forthcoming massive history of Australian rock on the bizarre, whispery + often revelatory work of Mr. Proud (RIP)
· ROB MILLIS: Groovy article about a collector of Indian music 78s, image-heavy and sweet
· ALASDAIR ROBERTS: Erik Davis on our favorite British folkie
And the CD has rare/ unreleased tracks from PIP PROUD, BOBBY CHARLES, MARISA ANDERSON, HUMAN EYE, SPENCER MOODY, ART MUSEUMS, PUPPY HEARTS, PLANKTON WAT, VIVA L'AMERICAN DEATH RAY, TEENAGE PANZERKORPS, some awesome rare Indian music and a selection of "outtakes" from the gospel collection I compiled, 'Fire In My Bones.'
I wish we could afford to put it out as a book inside a double LP -- maybe someday! The tracks are all begged, borrowed and stolen – a weird mish mash of archival and new material. I spend hours working on the segues, and trying to "balance" the thing -- it's just something I do when I'm supposed to be doing something else. I love doing it.
I guess I want to make sure that I never make money? I just was fed up with finding out about subscription series and small limited pressing records too late, and also that they always cost so much. We're doing three vinyl shipments over the course of 10 months, so that helps keep the cost down a lot. Thus far not many people have signed up; I really need to work on promoting this thing. I'm very psyched about it.
Yes, Social Music is my favorite of the three Smith collections. It's the one with the most sanctified material on it. I was initially going to do the label with Eric Isaacson from Mississippi Records -- the compilation I worked on for them, “Oh Graveyard”, is actually the first release on the label. It was the only name I came up with that he agreed on, also. I like how sort of generic it is, and as a fan of liberal socialist fascists from Kenya I like it on that level too (insert smiley face here).
Oh man, so much fun stuff in the works!
· THE CLEAN/ GREAT UNWASHED: Odditties Two LP (co-release with Exiled Records -- first time on vinyl)
· STEFAN JECUSCO: Portland Purgatory LP (out now! -- visionary old timey music)
· JUNE BRIDES: London, England 1984-86 LP
· JEFF MANGUM: Orange Twin Field Works expanded LP (co-release w/ Mississippi Records -- first time on vinyl)
· WAIT 'TIL I PUT ON MY ROBE: More Rare, Raw + Otherworldly African-American Gospel Double LP (basically the sequel to the Fire In My Bones comp.)
· REV. LONNIE FARRIS: A Night in the House of Prayer LP
· SOME JINGLE JANGLE MOURNING: Worldwide '80s Indie-Rock Rarities LP (co-release with Slumberland)
· READING RAINBOW: 12" EP
· MOTOR CITY IS YEARNING: Detroit Gospel from the '60s + '70s
· ANGLIN BROTHERS: Where the Soul of Man Never Dies
· DEATH BY INDIE: Indie-Rock Rarities Vol. 2, the Shoegaze Years
· BOYD RIVERS: Take Sick + Die Some of These Days
For more information on Yeti go to http://yetipublishing.com/
or to join the Social Music Record + Tape Club Subscription Series go to http://socialmusicrecords.com/
-- David Perron (2 June, 2010)