Longform

Zine-ophobia

Page 5 of 5

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.

You won't read an editorial like this by the editor of U.S. News & World Report because he's not allowed to write one, and that's the beauty of zinedom: It's one big, happy family. "It gets me off, clipping and pasting and associating with other people who do zines," says Melmo. "There are some people who I feel like I know who I've never seen before. It's beyond pen pals."

The cosmic message of the zine revolution is not that, as a reader, you'll necessarily glean stuff more intelligent or perceptive than you might get from a mainstream paper, or even from an alternative rag like the one you're holding right now.

What you will get are unfettered opinions, gloriously whacked nonsense, a different viewpoint. And it may be coming from a bedroom in the house next door.

KEEP PHOENIX NEW TIMES FREE... Since we started Phoenix New Times, it has been defined as the free, independent voice of Phoenix, and we'd like to keep it that way. With local media under siege, it's more important than ever for us to rally support behind funding our local journalism. You can help by participating in our "I Support" program, allowing us to keep offering readers access to our incisive coverage of local news, food and culture with no paywalls.
Peter Gilstrap
Contact: Peter Gilstrap