In a very big way, that's exactly what zines are. The editorial ethos of the zine world is to convey information in a manner both informal and entertaining--to get across all the poop that fits, almost like a phone call through the mail. People involved in this subculture seem to be friends, or at least they are familiar with everybody else's paper. They run ads for each other, review each other, even reprint articles from each other. A brotherhood in the name of Kinko's.

Grind's history is typical--a mixture of no money, no experience and loads of desire. The Butterfields moved from Seattle to Phoenix in 1989, became bored, hatched publishing plans in April 91, and by that September, had 1,500 copies of Grind sitting in their living room. Which, of course, sounds a lot easier than it was.

"We did it on nothing," says Jason. "We just laid the issue out--I took about ten regular sheets of paper, folded em in half and stapled em, then started gluing things on. Then I'd take the staples out and figure, well, page two will go with page 39 or whatever. Then we saved enough to get it printed."
The couple began dropping off the free paper at local record stores and other heavily frequented hip spots, but now sell most of their 3,000 copies of Grind on consignment to distributors in the States and in Europe. (Out-of-state readers pay $2 per copy. And although the zine is supposed to be published quarterly, deadlines can be somewhat organic; in one instance, ten months separated issues.) "I've found that people who get it locally for free don't respect it as much as people from around the country that buy it," says Jason. "One of our distributors is based in Texas, and we get a lot more mail from Texas than we do from all of Arizona."

Sherri adds, "We get mail from other countries and all over the United States, but we never hear from people here."

Thanks to ads placed by record labels--from majors to independents, the music industry is keenly aware of the growing zine demographic--the couple say that Grind actually breaks even, a rarity in zinedom. And unlike many of their peers, the Butterfields have dreams of reaching into the unheard-of realm of profit. "We're not counting on it," Jason admits. "But it'd be nice. I don't want to be a mailman for the rest of my life."

Paid advertisements? Profit margins? International distribution? Aren't those notions suspiciously mainstream for an underground publication?

Sherri cites the L.A. zine Ben Is Dead--once humble but now $4 a pop and circulating upward of 20,000 copies--as an example of what not to do. "We totally admired them, but now they're so commercial they've lost everything they set out to accomplish. You start depending on that money coming in, and then you're afraid of saying what you mean. I don't want us to be some big ad for corporate rock."

Though financial Armageddon is always around the corner in some form, the passion-over-profit zine ethic stands true. "Overall, it's totally worth it," Jason says. "I just think, what would I be without the zine? I'd just be working, probably ten years older than I am, I'd be just like everyone else my age. I don't think I'd trade it for anything."

Sherri puts it in simpler terms: "We still don't write worth a shit, but it keeps you busy."


--Disclaimer in Wide Awake

There are two rooms on the second floor of Blake Ford Hall's mother's house in Phoenix, and to call them untidy would be like calling Hitler a jerk.

One is a bedroom--there is, in fact, a bed among the debris. The other room contains, among other things, a legless kitchen table, an ancient Apple computer with a keyboard missing the number 3, mounds of paper, a battered copy of the Rolling Stones album Their Satanic Majesties Request and a book titled Shamanism and the Esoteric Tradition.

This is Blake Ford Hall's office.
These two rooms are the nerve center of a zine titled Wide Awake, and though they might seem too chaotic to produce anything more than grime and headaches, to Hall and his staff of five, they are a yeasty bog of creativity.

Hall, 25, is a student, a fully ordained reverend in the New Age Community Church of Phoenix and self-proclaimed "Editor and Nocturnal Emissionist" of the three-year-old publication. The zine is 600 photocopied issues strong each quarter--the biggest readership being out of state--and is filled with information on topics from paganism, sex, psychedelia and music to New World Order and conspiracy theories.

Where some zines are fairly linear in their subject matter (guess the thrust of San Francisco's Taste of Latex), Hall tries to cover as many bases as he can. "I may look like a hippie or whatever, but I've got a mind, and I feel that most of the people in my age group do, and a lot of zines aren't supplying what we want," he explains with the kind of zeal that makes for a fine reverend.

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