Punkishippies Founder Tony Gunnarsson on His Greatest Passion
Tony Gunnarsson is a Swede who lives in Hackney, East London and maintains the invaluable blog PunkIsHippies blog. It archives both classic and contemporary punk ‘zines and offers a unique interface between printed artifacts and the technology that now allows a wealth of information to be exchanged.
psychoPEDIA raided Tony’s mind for some gems of knowledge on how his collection started, the ideas behind his site and the future of the fanzine:
How many years have you been collecting?
I have been aware of fanzines since I was at school, from the age of 10 or 11, which was around the same time that I discovered punk music. Since starting PIH I have started to collect ‘zines with more of an intention to make them available online. Many of the ‘zines on the site were purchased at an auction last year where I got 30-40 old, mainly UK fanzines which set me back more than could be deemed acceptable from my partner's point of view! I used to own quite a lot of ‘zines from when I was making them myself and tape trading as a teenager, but sadly my poor mum decided that she'd clear up some of my stuff laying around in her house in Sweden, and they all got recycled. Imagine how pissed off I was.
What originally attracted you to the 'zine format?
I think the initial attraction had to do with it simply being different. ‘Zines belong to a sphere removed from one's parents. Obviously the do-it-yourself aspect was a definite attraction before I had even heard the term or fully understood what it meant. When I was a kid, fanzines were much less about serious music journalism, 'punk constructs' or politics. Put simply, you did not even have to be able to spell to be a fanzine editor. Hands-on layout using marker pens, newspapers, scissors and glue represented a total sense of freedom.
How did you first come into contact with ‘zines?
There was a traveling museum exhibition in my hometown, called "To Be Do." It was about the rise of separate youth cultures and sub-cultures in the decades after the Second World War. The exhibition had this hangout area with a turntable and a bunch of singles that you were allowed to play and there were tons of punk fanzines. Where the curators got hold of these I have no idea. Obviously we stole all we could from that exhibition, and went on to reinvent ourselves based on what we'd nicked.
Why do you think the 'zine has been so synonymous with punk?
It is absolutely the DIY aesthetic of self-publishing, but also fanzines had a significant historical role to play in the development of the punk scene. Punk was an underground subculture, and if you wanted to hear about some band or record, then you could only find out about it from underground fanzines. Bands and fanzines feed off each other. There is also this 'other' fanzine culture: with graffiti artists making little art zines through to serial killer fanzines (Peter Sotos' Pure for example), fringe group political fanzines (neo-Nazis like Combat 18 as well as far left groups and animal liberation groups use fanzines as part of networks) and so on. During the rise of the counterculture in the US from the 1950s there were literature fanzines, or 'small magazines'. These were the breeding ground for avant-garde literature with authors like William S. Burroughs, who published lots of his stuff first in 'small magazines' before going on to revise texts for novels. I am speculating here, but musically punk inherited a lot of that scene, so it follows that the first punk ‘zines could have come from this era and geography.
What originally gave you the idea of archiving 'zines on a blog?
I was using KillFromTheHeart.com a lot, which is a really good punk and reference site. Having observed that there were some scanned fanzines already circulating on P2P networks, I started thinking about making a website that would do what KFTH does for bands and records but for ‘zines.
Has the Internet changed the nature of the 'zine?
Yes, in some ways absolutely. The Internet works to discourage people from making fanzines, as people turn to making online ‘zines or increasingly blogging. I don't think this is necessarily a bad thing. The bottom line is that the vast majority of fanzines get read by so few people, the internet could easily be used to significantly increase readership per ‘zine.