"There is a sense of permenant documentation in physical objects like zines, books, records, and flyers that I think is missing in online blogs, Facebook invites, Bandcamp-only bands and the like," Michael D. Thorn opines to me. The contributing No Echo photographer and writer is waxing on why it's important for zines to exist in 2018. The reason we're on this subject is because Michael just dropped a new issue of Razorblades & Aspirin, his superb photo zine.
"I think hardcore punk should be documented and there should be a physical record of it. I feel its important for punk to create and control its own media both good and terrible, and to document itself as it exists at a given point in time. To me, there’s something about being able to hold onto things and find stuff from way back when that can trigger both memories in those that were there and hopefully inspire those who weren’t."
The latest edition of Razorblades & Aspirin — which is named after a song by English punk band Leatherface — -is 60 pages, 5.5x8.5 (half sized), black & white, and printed on 100# matte paper. The zine features Michael's shots of such bands as Krimewatch, Generacion Suicida, Infest, Wolfbrigade, Foreseen, and Turnstile. He also recently released a limited edition issue of the zine (#4.5) that sold out within a few days.
Michael shoots so many shows, so I find out how he goes about choosing which pics he includes in his zines. "I typically edit my photos the same night I shoot them—it’s a weird obsession. I have to get it done right away so I don’t forget to do it nor forget moments when images were captured. I typically have about 10-15% of my images from a given show I feel are good enough to share. From there, I trim down to those I’ll potentially put in the zine. My goal is to put the zine out every three-ish months so I’m looking at maybe 2-300 images I’m picking from? Then, I just start dropping things into a 120-page layout, which then gets cut down to 60 pages—then I have friends look at that proof. Sometimes, I’ll do as many as 3-4 different versions of an issue before I’m happy with it.
"Some of the best feedback I get is from photographer friends who aren’t really into punk but are able to comment on it from a more objective ‘art’ perspective. I’m highly critical of all my work and toss things constantly even while I’m in the middle of shooting a show. I feel you have to be."
I always tease Michael on his view that metallic hardcore really isn't hardcore, so I ask him if it's important for him to love a band in order for them to be included in his zines. "Eh… As you are well aware from our conversations, I am very opinionated on what is and isn’t good and what is and isn’t hardcore. That said, I think overall ‘culture’ of hardcore is important to document, regardless of my feelings on a band’s sonic output. I’d say that I do like 80% of the bands in my zine but at the same time shooting bands I don’t like and trying to make good photos of them fun and sometimes a little easier than bands I like as it allows me to focus more on my process as a photographer and not get caught up in the excitement of it all.
"Like I loathe metal and metallic hardcore and bands that play slow but I go to those shows all the time because of the challenge of creating compelling images of something I hate."
His feelings about metallic hardcore aside, I was curious about some of the other zines that inspired Michael to do Razorblades & Aspirin in the first place. "I can’t really name a photozine that inspired me, to be honest. I think, in general, I came into punk in an age where zines and zine culture were really, really important. Shit like Warning, xXx, Straight Edge, Touch & Go, Suburban Voice, Cometbus, Change Zine, Engine, Bullshit Monthly, Rumpshaker, and so many more were ways of sharing information and documenting both the scene and the creator’s take on hardcore."
So, would Michael ever consider doing an all-portrait issue? "Certainly. I think about this all the time—like that book Matinee that just came out—where you have someone using the same sort of techniques that Richard Avedon did to document a bunch kids hanging outside of early New York hardcore shows. I have access to my partner’s 4x5 camera, why not shoot beautiful portraits with it? But its like all the other projects I want to do (the punk/chef zine, the punk and their dogs zine, the early 2000s flyer zine, the Columbus, OH flyer zine, the zine that’s just kids in distress after getting stage dove on zine, etc.) I can’t find the time. So yeah, some day…"