Isnin, 20 Disember 2010
Nizang: A Guide to Malaysia Underground Music Fanzine Culture
Definition and Origins
Fanzines or zines in short is a nonprofessional publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon such as a literary or musical genre for the pleasure of others who share their interest. The term was coined in an October 1930 in a science fiction fanzine done by Russ Chauveent and first popularized by science fiction fandom and later adopted by others.
Origins of Punk Fanzine
In the USA on the other hand, one of the first punk zines was ‘Punk’. It was created by cartoonist John Holmstrom, publisher Ged Dunn and “resident punk” Legs McNeil. They published 17 issues between 1976 and 1979. Covers featured such artists as Lou Reed, Patti Smith and Blondie.
They were the first ones to write about punk rock. ‘Punk’ was a vehicle for discussing and examining the underground music scene in New York, that later be called punk rock. In 2006, the magazine was revived and current issues are still being published.
The first punk fanzine in the UK, ‘Sniffin’ Glue’ was founded by Mark Perry in July 1976 after witnessing The Ramones’ live performance in London. He showed the first album of The Ramones to the managers of Rock On music stall in Soho Market and asked whether he can find a magazine that writes about it. The managers answered with a no and asked him to start one on his own. He went home and did just that.
Inspired by the song ‘Now I Wanna Sniff Some Glue’ from The Ramones first album, the first issue was put together using children’s typewriter he had received on his tenth birthday. The headlines and titles of the columns and interviews were written using black marker pen.
His girlfriend at that time, Louise took the master copy to her workplace and did fifty photocopies of it. Rock On music stall bought all fifty copies and ordered more and helped Mark establish other sales outlets for the magazine.
Being the first and the only punk fanzine at that time, Sniffin’ Glue soon found a ready market amongst fans of the emerging British Punk movement with bands like The Damned, The Clash and The Sex Pistols.
The third issue featured photographs for the first time and by the forth issue, Sniffin’ Glue was attracting advertising. So Mark left his full time job as a clerk at Williams and Glyns Bank. Despite commercial success, he never changed the initial amateurish typography and design style of the fanzine to celebrate the do-it-yourself (DIY) ethic that was predominant in the early days of Punk and continued until today by the DIY hardcore and punk musicians and followers.
At least fourteen issues were published. This includes issue 1 to 12 inclusively, issue 3 ½ for the 100 Club Punk Festival special and Sniffin’ Snow for the Christmas 1976 special. He continued putting the fanzine out monthly and it lasted for a year.
The final issue of Sniffin’ Glue was published in August/September 1977 and included a free flexi disc of Alternative TV playing “Love Lies Limp“. By that time, Punk was rapidly becoming mainstream and rather allowing the fanzine to simply become just another magazine Mark decided to end Sniffin’ Glue. Despite short-lived, it gave a very strong impact and inspired many other punk kids to start their own fanzine.
Underground Music Fanzine in Malaysia
Fanzine is quite a strange word for most Malaysians but the term is widely used by the ‘underground’ or independent music followers here, especially for punk and hardcore music genre.
“If your scene is f***ed, then f*** you. It’s your own fault.” That was the reply by the oversea kids when the local kids complaint about how the local punk rock scene has nothing to offer back in year zero. It’s they themselves who have to start something. Not waiting for the others. So they started their own bands and also writing fanzines.
The first ever punk fanzine to come out here is believed to be ‘Huru-Hara’ (meaning “chaos”) which was done by Mamat Hitam from Kuala Terengganu in 1986. It was written in Terengganu slang but was never distributed on a large scale, only shared with friends around him.
There were tons of underground music fanzines during the period of 1996 to 2002, so many that you don’t know which to buy and which not to.
This phenomenon was supported by Blasting Concept, a column which is published in The Sun newspaper from 1994 to 1998. In 1994 it was on every Saturday, and later on changed to every Wednesday. The column is written by Joe Kidd who also put out one of the first underground music fanzines in Malaysia called Aedes since 1987.
“We first heard about fanzines from the punk coverage by British weekly music papers such as NME, Sounds, Melody Maker etc. That was round 1979/80. So later when we started writing to kids overseas, we asked our pen-pals to send zines over from US, Europe or England. And they did. So the earliest punk zines we got include the more pro-printed ones such as Search & Destroy, Maximum RockNRoll, Flipside (California) and also Raising Hell, Across the Great Divide etc. (UK), Artcore (US), Linea Diritta & TVOR (Italy), etc. Our friends who were studying overseas also helped, especially my friends who were in Wollongong, Sydney and also Perth, they both send us a lot of punk zines”, remembered Joe Kidd.
In Blasting Concept, he mostly exposes, promote and document local and sometimes international independent music acts, review independent gigs, small DIY bands’ demo tapes and also local fanzines complete with the contact address so the readers can contact and buy the stuffs themselves and even trade or swap their DIY stuffs with each other.
The typical underground music fanzine contents are columns by the editor(s) and the contributors, interview with bands or other fanzine makers, music and fanzine review, artworks, poetry, band photos, gig report/reviews, underground music scene report from other places or states, flyers/advertisement and also classified ads. The interviews are done mostly via mail or e-mail and on very rare occasions using the face-to-face live method. If mail method were used, sometimes the bands will also include their photos and band biographies in the letter for the fanzine editor to use.
The main issues written in underground music fanzines are about the underground bands, the current local and international socio-political situation, the ethics and ideologies especially for punk and hardcore music followers the personal life of the editor(s) and most of the times written in a rambling style.
Popular issues during the late 90’s include poseurs in the scene, DIY music vs. independent music vs. mainstream music, human rights, friendship over ethic, pro-life vs. pro-choice, racism, sexism, homophobia, feminism and against money-greedy record companies.
Music fanzine editors are often them who are really fond of the independent music scene. They have a lot to share and write about the scene. Most of the time, they are also very active and know a lot of the key people in the scene. But this is not necessary since the first idea about fanzines existence is that ANYONE CAN WRITE.
A fanzine might have one or more editors. We’ve seen fanzines with one editor, two and three editors. There are also fanzines done collectively, with more than three members. Examples of collectively run fanzines are My Friends and the Pit, which is a newsprint fanzine from Johor Bharu and also The Coalition, done by some Terengganu boys. Another one should be mentioned is Callus fanzine which was done by Callus Collective which was also done in newsprint format in July 1999.
The members of a collective zine might be all writers or divided into different tasks such as typist, designer photographers for example.
A lot of fanzines during the 90’s are using cut and paste method for the layout since most of them are still not used to using computer software to do it. Anyhow there are fully computerized layout fanzines.
Fanzines that was written using hand, which sometimes are very ugly and hard to be read were normal during the good old days and this phenomenon can still be seen until the year 2000. Typewriters were also a common tool used to type fanzines.
Photographs from newspapers, magazines, internet and self-taken photographs were cut and paste using scissors and glues according to the related articles in the fanzines or just to fill in the blanks or empty pages.
Most of the fanzines were copied using photocopy machines and most of the editors will find and know where the more suitable places to copy them are. Low price and good quality copies are what they were looking at.
Punk and hardcore followers still buy the fanzines even if the layout is chaotic and the photos are blurry. To them, the messages that were tried to be conveyed are more important than the outlook of a fanzine.
The term ‘cut and paste’ is also used to describe the act or method of ripping off other people work from sources like the internet, newspapers and magazines. This is an act or method that is been criticized and avoided by most editors.
Malaysian music fanzine editors used either Malay language, English or a mixture of both for their fanzines. Sometimes, for the English written fanzines, the grammatical errors are out of hand since they’re done by amateurs but some of them, including some of the readers claimed that broken English is punk. For example the widely used quote ‘punk not death’.
There are various music styles, ethical stances and political beliefs in the underground music scene hence producing fanzines with various different directions in their own unique ways. Most fanzine choose to write about any of the underground music genres but some of them choose to only focus on certain music direction for example hardcore and punk zines, grunge zines, punks and skins zines, metal zines, etc.
There are also fanzines that only concentrate on writing about straight edge bands only and other issues associated with it like hard-liners, animal rights and ‘veganism’. Other straight edge fanzines are more open-minded and feature non-straight edge bands and people too. Examples of straight edge fanzines to come out were xForumx, Maximum Think, xTill The Endx, xThinking Straightx, Detonate the X Mind, xSelf-Disciplinex, xStandpoint of Mindx, etc.
Riot Grrls fanzines are mostly done by girls in the scene and mostly feature girl bands themselves. Among the main issues are feminism, girls in the scene and woman rights in general. Among the more dominant ones are such as Grrrl:Rebel done by four editors in Malaysia but were using a Kuala Terengganu address. Other names worth mentioning are Emo-C that was done by three straight edge girls in Terengganu.
Anyhow, some girl editors don’t concentrate on girl bands and don’t even call themselves riot grrrls. One household name for girl editors is Fida from Kluang, Johore who put out 90’s Choice. She wrote a lot about feminism, scene politics and also socio-politics and interviews a lot of bands and fanzine editors from all over the world.
Skatezine is the term used for skateboarding fanzines. Not many skate-zines came out from the local scene. We had Sandwich Skatezine who started it all and Most Wasted Skateboarding. These fanzines also feature music stuffs in them but mostly related to skateboarding itself. There are also fanzine which combine skateboarding and music by the likes of Punctual and earlier issues of Mosh. Some other fanzines also tend to include contents on skateboarding.
Common People by Donna and the later issues of Huh! by Syik and Amishka are examples of fanzines that wrote personal stories and issues. Personal fanzines are coined as ‘perzine’ by some people. Common People wrote about daily experience and expressions, it feels like reading a journal or diary sometimes.
Newsprint Fanzine and Pro-printed Fanzine
The first newsprint fanzine in Malaysia was done by some kids out of Taiping, Perak lead by Ahmad Zahid Khalid called Raincity on their third issue. It was said that he sold his motorcycle to publish that issue which cost him about RM1,000 for 1000 copies.
Among other pro-printed fanzine to follow-suit is Cronically Donut on their 12th issue which used offset printing for it with color front cover. It was done by Norhafizi or better known as Jimbo, one of the household names for the Malaysian hardcore punk scene.
There were also a lot of fanzines published with pro-printed offset printing cover page and normal photocopied pages for the contents. For instance, Roots on their third issue. It was done by Din Akar, a close friend of Norhafizi.
Other Forms of Fanzine
‘Artzine’ ‘photozine’ and ‘comiczine’ are among other forms of fanzine which were produced by the kids. Artzines are those which featured 100% artworks only or mainly artworks in the zine. The artworks are hand-drawn or collage works that later been edited in Photoshop or other editing software. Most of these artworks are associated with the messages behind the artworks and the details, for example in Heartwork fanzine done by Azman and Yus from Kemaman, Terengganu in 2000 that are both playing with the band Kuchalana now.
Another artzine, or ‘artwork zine’ as written on the front page of it, is ‘Hardcore is a Feeling’ which came out in the same year from Kuala Lipis, Pahang. For this one, the artworks are associated with the artist’s name, wordings, expressions and also dialogues. It was done by Hisham and Huzaiba with contributions from friends.
There are also artzine that features interviews with artist and independent bands, for example Corepeps.
Photozine is the term used for fanzines that features mostly photos or 100% photos only. One such fanzine came out from Kuala Terengganu in the late 90’s called Real Choices. But sadly it mostly composed of international bands photos taken from other magazines and internet instead of own photographs.
Keplank! is one of the example of comiczines published here based in Kedah, northern region of Malaysia. All of the comics in it got nothing to do with music at all except for the posters in the comic itself which are punk band posters. Among the storylines of the comics are about killing for hobbies, giant cockroach, and killing an ex-girlfriend.
Split zine and Omnibus
Split zines are when two or more fanzines combined to publish their issues together. For example, Standpoint of Mind did a split with Huh! zine. When it’s more than two zines published as a split, it’s often called as omnibus. An example of omnibus to come out was Doomed in Hell ‘Ugly Punks for Sale’. It features Pang#7, Ugly Smoke Core #2, Apoqohell #3 and xDiriku untuk Dijualx #6.
Thinner version of fanzines, or newsletters as the kids called it were mostly given free at the gigs or any purchase of fanzines via mail. Kids can also get them by sending a 30 cents stamp to the newsletter editor(s). The common size of a newsletter is A4 or A3 folded into two. Examples of active newsletters were Blind Scholar, Ronin Communiqué, and Apoqohell. These newsletters functions the same as fanzines but with limited spaces.
Certain independent record labels also put out their newsletters to give updates about the label, the bands under them and the activities for example Scumbag International that was put out by Alternative Garage Entertainment label. Hardcore and punk collectives also do the same to report on their activities.
During the 90’s, fanzines were mostly ordered and sent using mail and are available at underground gigs. Each state in Malaysia has fanzines including Sabah and Sarawak and the fanzine editors know each other, contacting mostly through mail. The email and internet usage was still very new to them and other Malaysian teenagers by then.
They who wished to order a fanzine will buy a money order (m.o) or postal order (p.o) from the post office according to the amount of the price with some stamps. Some fanzine editors also used the ‘ppd’ system which stands for post-paid, meaning the buyers won’t have to include stamps in their order letter. Anyhow, well-hidden cash is also accepted but the risk is the buyer’s own responsibility. During the 90’s, fanzines were mostly ordered and sent using mail and are available at underground gigs.
There were also some very small distribution labels created by the punk rock kids specializes in distributing fanzines like WCY paper distro from Johore and also Ronin Press from Kuala Terengganu. They mostly recopy the fanzines with the editor’s permission and sell. This makes it easier for kids who love to buy fanzines.
During the early 90’s, it’s normal to buy a fanzine with price ranges from RM5 to RM7. This is due to the amount of pages of the zine they produced. The average of page amounts produced those days is eighty pages. Later in the 90’s, most fanzine came out in 40 pages thick and the standard price is from RM2 to RM3.
The punk and hardcore fanzines are always minimal in price following the hardcore punk ethics which is not to rip-off other people.
Underground music fanzine editors used flyers to promote their new issue as well as word of mouth. These flyers are also photocopied and the average sizes are between business card sizes to A6. These photocopied flyers will be mailed to other fanzine editors for them to spread to the others and vice versa. In some occasion, the flyers are left uncut on one A4 paper so that the other fanzine editors can make more copies and cut them themselves. This method was also used for underground bands and labels to promote their demo tapes or any other releases and upcoming gigs.
In 2006, Papakerma Press/Records label organized a fanzine fest in Shah Alam, Selangor. This event was to re-promote the fanzine reading culture and also to exhibit some of the local and international fanzines collection. A lot of fanzines were brought that day for the kids to read them all for free.
They also had a forum about fanzine and DIY publication culture with Hishamuddin Rais, Joe Kidd, Zaki and Nizang as panels. It was chaired by Pudin from Papakerma itself and was followed with Q and A session.
In 1994, one local professional music magazine focusing on rock music published its first issue. It gave spaces for the underground music acts to appear in their pages and also help in exposing them. With this occurring, many independent bands and music followers started to neglect the function of fanzines. What’s the use of photocopied, blurry and black and white zines to them when they can read about the bands and music scene from colorful and glossy magazines? There was also other quite similar music magazines coming out at the bookstores and newspaper-stands soon after and even a fully-English one. Some of the magazines also have ex and current fanzine editors as their writers.
In 1997, the first local professional skateboarding music magazine was published. It also features stories and reports about local independent music. The fate of skatezines also went down the drain like music fanzines. And even worse, skatezines were fully vanished from this Boleh-land. However, this skateboarding magazine was started by the ones who used to put out Sandwich Skatezine and also Most Wasted Skateboarding fanzine themselves.
Online Fanzines and Weblogs
With the rapid growth of internet technology, most ex-writers choose to write using weblogs or do online fanzine or webzine (short form for web fanzine). The younger generations of independent music follower also choose to write gigs and music reviews using weblogs or networking sites such as Friendster and MySpace. Flyers of new releases and events were also done and spread online using those sites nowadays.
One of the most visited Malaysian based webzine that promotes independent music, arts and lifestyle is Ricecooker run by no other than Joe Kidd, the guy behind Aedes and Blasting Concept as written before. The URL is http://www.ricecooker.kerbau.com. It’s not only well-known among the local kids, but also worldwide according to the visitor statistic once put on the site. “The last I checked, 800,000 hits per month from all over the world!”, said Joe in an interview with Sireh dan Cengkeh weblog.
There are a lot of positive sides and benefit of publishing your writing online. You don’t need a lot of capital to print it, people can access them for free and also people all over the world can read them. That’s why the fanzine culture is seen as coming to extinction to some. Music fanzines are still out there but the amount, like the Malay saying goes can be counted with fingers!
To some people, they still prefer a printed fanzine than reading them on screen. The feeling is different! You can read a fanzine on a train, before you close your eyes at night and even in the bathroom.
In 2006, a guy by the name Faisal came out with a professionally done book that features writings from ex fanzine editors and also active writers from the punk scene here. The book was published under Papakerma record and literature label. It’s basically a collection of their writings from blog. It also features artwork by Zaki who contributed a lot of artwork for various fanzines including Hardcore is a feeling and most recently, Mantra.
It’s on the National TV!
In 2007, this underground subculture activity is finally exposed on Malaysian TV! It was on of K.A.M.I (meaning ‘us’), a TV series about teenagers’ life and social problems. A bunch of these kids are into the underground music subculture and were making fanzines of them selves named KAMI. The first episode shows the method of how the fanzines were distributed which are through mail and selling at underground gigs. On another scene, it was shown how the girl went photocopying the fanzine she did.
The cut and paste method of doing fanzine layout is also showed clearly in the introduction of every episode’s montage.
A fanzine is anything the editors want it to be. There are no rules and guidelines that the editors need to follow. It’s up to their creativeness and their interest. It’s the most important underground media used to communicate, share ideas and information. It’s not just a punk rock thing, but can be used to express even for a personal communication medium writing about personal matters.
Even though the online version of fanzine is taking over nowadays, it’s hoped that the printed versions will still remain and won’t be lost in time soon. The punk and underground music and skateboarding scene has benefited a lot with the existence of fanzines before the professional music and skateboarding magazine exist in the local scenes.
The fanzine scene has revolutionized a lot since the first ever ‘Huru-Hara’ came out until today where online fanzines are getting more attention by the readers. But it’s hard to say because some writers still prefer the cut and paste-chaotic-photocopied fanzines rather than publishing online. It’s up to the individual; the editors and the readers to choose what’s best for them. Each of them has their own preference.