Naarm-based zine Magnetic Visions: “I put it out and I found that it was a really freeing process because it allowed me to be connected…”

Handmade collage by B.

Zines are really important! Good ones burst with life and can capture a culture, a scene, community, document a time, and share ideas and stories in a way that conventional publications can rarely, if ever; they offer an alternative narrative to the mainstream. There’s a genuineness, imperfection and sometimes awkwardness on their pages we resonate with. They’re written with unfiltered voices and self-expression of someone finding themselves (aren’t we always?), navigating the world and exploring their local creative community, likes and dislikes. They spread music, art, thoughts, feelings, information and perspectives. Anyone can make a zine. Making zines hones your skills or teaches you new ones you might not have known you had! Making one can sometimes save your sanity. A zine gives creative freedom. It can help you use your voice. A zine most importantly connects people.

Through making Gimmie zine this past year, we’ve connected with so many amazing creatives throughout Australia and the world! One of the coolest is Billy who creates Magnetic Visions zine, a predominately music-based print zine from Naarm/Melbourne. He also makes music: Disco Junk, Billiam, Collective Hardcore, TOR, Dot Com, Aggressive Hugger, GDU and Under Heat Records. We love his passion for music and compulsion to share it—a kindred spirit.

A few weeks back Gimmie’s Editor Bianca sat down for a chat with Billy, they did an interview collaboration! Billy interviewing Bianca can be found in the new issue (#7) of Magnetic Visions, which also features interviews with Alien Nosejob, Lassie, Girlatones, Cool Death Records and more! Bianca interviewing Billy is below.

It’s important to support each other! The more people making interesting, unique rad stuff and expressing themselves creatively the better!

How did you first discover zines?

BILLY: A while ago Strangeworld Records had a flood and they needed to get rid of a lot of the water damaged 7-inches so I went in there and bought quite a few. Richie who runs Strangeworld Records threw in a couple for free. One of them was Meat Thump which is the band ran by Brendon Annesley who made Negative Guest List zine. I ended up contacting Matt who put out the Meat Thump 7-inch to ask if he had another cover for it, because it was completely destroyed from water damage. When he sent the cover, he sent a few copies of Negative Guest List. I remember being completely blown away by them, the journalism and the whole formatting of zines. I developed a curiosity about them and I’d find a couple at Lulu’s and eventually I discovered Sticky Institute in Melbourne. From there I learnt about zine culture. I’ve probably learnt the most since doing Magnetic Visions because it’s put me in contact with a lot of people that know a lot more than me.

Nice. I used to have my earlier zines stocked at Sticky back in the early to mid-2000s.

B: It’s a really great place! I don’t think I’ve asked to stock there but maybe post-pandemic I should see if I could get a few put in there.

Totally! Do it. What inspired you to take the plunge and start making your own zine?

B: Initially it was just meant to be a one-off thing. I’ve always wanted to do a comp tape with a zine, so I put together five or so of my friends’ bands; I interviewed them and I put an exclusive track on a cassette. I put it out and I found that it was a really freeing process because it allowed me to be connected to music without actually making music. I sat on it for a bit and I started working on issue two during February, as that turned into COVID time, I plunged completely deeper into zine making, making it properly, properly publishing it and trying to put in as much effort as possible as I can to make it as good as I possibly can.

What are the zines that you really enjoy?

B: Negative Guest List is the main one, which ended in 2012 when Brandon died. I absolutely love Distort from the issues I’ve been able to get, there aren’t that many. There’s a zine in Europe called Rat Cage which is starting up at the moment that I really like, it’s focused on European hardcore and post-punk. Of course I love Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine! A friend of mine runs a zine called DST that I really like that’s based in the US, its half writing like short stories and half interviewing bands.

Do these zines have any similar qualities?

B: I like really good interviews, I like interviews that are very conversational and have good graphic design. I’ve always loved the visual appeal of a zine, making it as visually appealing as possible because you are paying for that physical visual aspect.  

Is there a difference for you reading a zine digitally vs. reading print?

B: Digitally I have less of an incentive to read it. If I buy a zine I’m more inclined to read it because I’ve spent money and there’s an investment in there so I might as well get as much out of it as I can. I also find I’m able to get more value or enjoyment out of something on paper because I put more of myself into it.

What are your favourite and least favourite parts of making a zine?

B: I’ll start with least favourite, it can be very intense trying to put something together that you think you’re truly proud of, hoping people will buy it, that’s not particularly fun. I’ve had a lot of trouble dealing with that and at times the zine has been quite taxing on me. I think I’m a lot better at it now. I’ve figured out the main parts.

The best part is being able to be involved with so many music scenes around the world and being able to talk to artists that I absolutely adore, in a somewhat conversational way is absolutely fantastic!

Yeah, it’s pretty cool getting an insight into people who make stuff that you admire and appreciate.

B: Yeah, I did an interview with Jake from Alien Nosejob for the next issue. Even though I’ve talked to him a bunch this was the first time that I think I felt really comfortable really talking to him and it was absolutely incredible!

Amazing! I can’t wait to read it.

B: It’s really good. It’s a good issue, I’ve also done an interview with Lassie and Silicon Heartbeat—awesome bands.

I love all the zines, they’re all really good.

B: Thank you, it’s good that people are actually seeming to enjoy them. I didn’t really know there was much of a zine market until I started doing it, I had no idea that people would actually consume and enjoy them.

For me growing up in the ‘90s zines were such a normal thing, there were lots of them and there was a vibrant zine culture.

B: Yeah, back then I guess it was more essential to have zines. That was the only way to publish things on somewhat of a budget.

Yeah. I used to have friends that would have access to photocopiers and I’d get to photocopy my zines for free a lot of the time.

B: That’s what I’ve been trying to do at the moment. I started off printing them at school but they put the hammer down on that so at the moment I’ve had to go through Office Works.

Here in Brisbane there’s a really great place in Fortitude Valley called Visible Ink, it’s a Youth Arts Hub and you can go in there and photocopy your zines for free. They have lino printing resources and a badge maker you can use too. Do you stand there and photocopy it yourself or do you leave it with them and get them to print it and come back later to pick it up?

B: When I’m printing the final version that’s what I do but when it comes to designing it and all that, I’m usually just there getting specific things or trying to get a specific paper stock that will stick better to the background and all that.

I’ve been there! I love doing zines with a coloured paper cover, I’ve done full colour and A3 folded and A4 folded sizes.

B: I think right now at the moment doing just A4 black & white is the best for me because colour printing is so expensive. For this issue I might do colour covers just for fun, I like the way it looks.

It’s always good to keep trying different things and evolving.

B: Plus colour covers stand out more when everything else is in black & white.

Yes. What’s something that making zines has taught you?

B: I don’t know? I guess it’s taught me how to put together a complete artistic product. I’ve done albums before but I feel like putting together a zine is a lot more than just releasing an album because you’re involved in every aspect, asking every question, cutting out everything, paying or the printing and all that. I hadn’t really had much experience doing that until making a zine. I’d done tapes but some part of them I was able to rely on other people, this one, a zine, was all me. The main thing it’s taught me is to create a completed product.

Do you set deadlines when making zines?

B: No, not at all but they’ve all somehow been finished! Since issue three they’ve all come out, one a month or at least thirty days in between them. I sort of want to slow down but no matter how many brakes I put on like, I’ll only do one interview a week, or don’t work on it during this time period, I always manage to at least finish one by the end of the month. There’s no deadline but one forms naturally, I guess.

That’s how I felt when we started doing Gimmie, it’s been six months now and I’ve done over 100 interviews up on gimmiezine.com, I think there’s 113 maybe at this point.

B: That’s pretty fantastic!

Yeah, I just started and kept going. I love interviewing so much and I like making the art that goes with each interview. I love sharing new bands and music with people.

B: Yeah, it seems to be going pretty well so far.

One of the things I love about your zines is when you write your personal pieces; are you every scared of putting your thoughts out there, committing them to paper? Do you ever censor yourself?

B: Not really, I’m not really self-conscious of putting out my actual thoughts. I often find that I’m just not able to put them in words. There isn’t very much of it in issue six, because mainly when I would write about something I wouldn’t be happy with it, it would feel show-off-y or not correct. I’ve put the brakes on it for issue six but issue seven will have a lot more of it. I’ve been doing some writing on bands I like. I’m doing a big piece right now on probably one of my favourite bands right now, Bis.

I love Bis!

B: I don’t get why more people don’t talk about them. I don’t know if you’ve heard the new TOR single, but TOR is basically my love letter to Bis—I love that band so much!

I’ll have to check TOR out. I’ve seen Bis live!

B: Did they ever tour Australia?

Yeah, they did. I have the ticket stub somewhere here.

B: That’s awesome! I have an old poster I was able to get on eBay that I have in my room, it’s a promo poster for The New Transistor Heroes; it’s probably the coolest piece of art that I own. Mandarin’s art is fantastic!

Agreed! We have a lot of art on our walls here.

B: I’ve got a lot of posters from gigs or prints that I’ve bought from photographers, or flyers.

That sounds like our place. We have a pretty big collection of posters some from the ‘70s through to the ‘80s and ‘90s to now.

B: That’s awesome!

How do you choose what bands you’ll feature in your zines?

B: I pick bands that I’m listening to at the moment or that I think could give an interesting interview. I don’t like to just pick bands that have a record coming out, but that sometimes helps because they have a reason to talk, things to talk about and they’re in that mindset of sharing it. I really just try to pick people that I think are interesting. I don’t try and pick from one particular scene or a particular area of music to follow, I just pick what I find interesting. Issue six has a mish-mash of a bunch of different things: Toeheads, are from Detroit, they’re an amazing garage rock band; there’s an interview with two of the members of Meat Thump and we were able to talk about Brendon Annesley, it was fantastic. I interviewed Jack from Vintage Crop and that went really well. Even Mark Vodka who is this obscure Canadian artists who is probably the closest thing to a second Ramones we’re ever going to get.

Is there anyone you’d like to interview that you haven’t yet?

B: A lot! Usually it’s because I don’t feel comfortable asking them. The dream interview, the one I’ve always been desperate to do is someone from Razar, the Brisbane punk band—that’s the dream! I’ve never been able to find a single interview with them. I consider them to be pretty close to being the most important Australian punk band of all-time. I’m still on the chase for it so if anyone knows any of them send me a message!

ABC put out a punk compilation, I bought it because it had Frenzal Rhomb on but I heard ‘Task Force’ on it and [Psychosurgeons] ‘Horizontal Action’ and it set me on the path towards what I’m doing now.

What’s been one of your favourite interviews you’ve done so far?

B: Issue one I was pretty proud of the one I did with CB Radio and Glue Eater, I think they both turned out really well. Issue two, Mikey Young I was really happy with, same with the one with Spoil Sport Records. Issue three, I think I did a good one with Drunken Sailor and Dr Sure’s Unusual Practice, those were ones I was really proud of. Issue four is where I think I start to get it down and I’m more or less happy with every single one in there, Research Reactor Corp, I was really happy with. Issue five, I was really happy with my interview with The Ghoulies and Hearts & Rockets. The one I did with Australian Idol I was extremely proud of and I still think that tape is the most underrated thing released this year. I’m really happy with everything in issue six, all of those are pretty good.

What makes an interview good for you?

B: It’s having a conversational feel and revealing interesting information. The interviews I really like I feel they show the artist’s personality really well and they’re interesting to read. Not every interview I read is with a band I like but, if the person is interesting to talk to I can get something out of that.

Get MAGNETIC VISIONS issue seven HERE and read Billy’s interview with Gimmie Gimmie Gimmie zine!

Please check out: BILLIAMVILLE.com. Billiam on Instagram. Magnetic Visions on Instagram.