Zine-ophobia

"I have a business that I make my living from," says the glass blower. "I don't want to make my living off the magazine. That's when you start feeling pressure to be an asshole, that's when you're really in danger of losing a certain edge. . . . I have a certain sense that human beings should be not so selfish, and not so materialistic and self-indulgent, and I put that in there in language that people will find more interesting than if I was some Bible-pounding lunatic."
@rule:
@body:Judging by Brian Marsland's zine, Things, he is in no danger of feeling pressure to be an asshole. Unlike the above-mentioned periodicals, his contains no advertising at all. There are no reviews of anything, no articles, no poetry, no editorials. But so what? The only rule in the zine world is that there are no rules.

Things is a small, unscheduled chapbook of Marsland's comics and art--simple, bold, funny stuff that owes as much to the stick-figure school as it does to the economical work of painter Paul Klee, one of Marsland's influences.

"One reason I do it is just for fun, and also so I feel that I have a showcase for pictures I draw," he says, surrounded by his paintings and cats in his Tempe apartment. "It's like making my own art books, and I just can't see ads in it. You wouldn't have ads in an art book."
In one respect, Things serves as a great big plug for the work of its creator; Marsland has sold paintings through interest sparked by the zine (music fans may recognize his work on the covers of the new CD and single by the band Beats the Hell Out of Me).

But this is no stuffy "Art" project. He recently put out a short pamphlet titled Hooker, available, like Things, at area record stores and through the mail. It contains large, mutant figures accompanied by text loosely based on the William Shatner TV show T.J. Hooker. On page four, you'll find a crude drawing of a head sprouting wings with this scrawled observation: "Everybody's trying to come to terms with their sexuality and Shatner's just there to set the pace . . ."

Marsland's only explanation is, "I liked it [Hooker], so I milked it for all it was worth."

He earns his living making prescribed paintings for an art factory in Phoenix. Not the most stimulating work, but Things and the art it pushes are what matter to Marsland. "The stuff I do for them I would never do myself," he shrugs, "and they would never take the stuff I do, anyway."

@rule:
@body:CP: Favorite veggies?
J: Oh most of them except for corn. Corn really sucks.
M: Green peppers.
CP: Favorite cooking shortening?
J: Huh?
K: Olive oil.
J: Yeah.
--Excerpt from Cactus Prick's interview with members of the band Janitor Joe

There is a twentysomething guy reclining on his bed in his room in Tempe, sipping a beer he made himself. He leans forward and picks up a copy of Cactus Prick, a zine he made himself. He wishes simply to be called Melmo.

From a glance at the cover, you can see that the overall design is ransom-note-derivative, a cut-and-paste orgy of drawings, lettering and photos of rock n' rollers taken by Melmo himself. You can read about groups such as Pain Teens, Jack Germond's Third Chin, Janitor Joe, House of Large Sizes and other bands and CDs inside, because the underbelly of the punk scene--mainly local--is what drove Melmo to create Cactus Prick three years and seven issues ago.

At $2.50 per copy and $3 post paid, he makes barely enough to cover mailing and distributing the 300 copies per printing. So what?

"I have no ads at all. I'm anti-ad," he says. "I'm not here to make any money off it; it's a hobby. I'm anti-break even. I've got other things going on in my life. I like to have fun, and I'd hate to be strapped down to this little bastard. . . . I think if your life revolves around a zine, perhaps something's wrong."
The bedroom is tidy; there are framed band photos and posters on the walls and the obligatory computer stationed on a desk. Cactus Prick may not be his life, but it certainly seems more of a consuming hobby than, oh, collecting barbed wire. Melmo even started Cactus Prick Records about a year ago as a result of "a positive cash flow" from his real job as a software writer, and the label has released three vinyl singles, with another on the way. Once again, strictly local stuff, strictly because he digs it.

The zine's masthead lists 12 contributors (folks like Bugeater, Ratboy, Angel Mark, and T.A.R.D., who "lifts heavy things for cash"), but Melmo maintains a serious, hands-on policy. His initial salvo to readers in the latest issue is a bitingly honest open letter describing what's been up in his life since the last publication date, almost a year ago. He got his master's degree, split with his girlfriend of three-plus years, went camping in Utah.

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