Zine it like you mean it

Pub date June 30, 2009
SectionArts & CultureSectionLiterature


INTERVIEW Nestled in the corner of the old New College building, true seekers will find Goteblüd. Matt Wobensmith’s zine emporium keeps the building’s dedication to countercultural self-publishing alive. As characterful as it is small, Goteblüd places shelves of photocopied DIY writings amid a brown shag paneling motif that wittily references the cat-scratch antics found within Ed Luce’s comic Wuvable Oaf, the store’s main link to contemporary publications. Currently the space also hosts "Yes I Am, But Who Am I Really?," a showcase of queer zine and queer punk memorabilia: zines, photos, and letters (including a pissy postcard from Henry Rollins) create a terrific one-of-a-kind wallpaper, while t-shirts for bands hang from the ceiling, as if asking to be filled by new rebellious bodies. After scoping out the show, I recently asked Wobensmith about Goteblüd’s origins, its contents, and its future plans.

SFBG How did Goteblüd come about?

MATT WOBENSMITH I’ve been collecting zines since I was a teen. In the past few years, I’ve heard people say things like "I just threw out four boxes of zines," and I say to myself: That is wrong! Why do people think old zines are worthless? They’re priceless. So I began to take zines off peoples’ hands, and started putting them in storage boxes. After a while, this pastime became more of an obsession as I tried to fill gaps in the collections by actively buying from people. When I found the space, I knew it was time to launch a vintage zine store.

SFBG A book titled Queer Zines (Printed Matter, 180 pages, $25) was recently published. As someone who played a major role in an important period of the queer zine and queer punk movements, what did you think of it?

MW I was active in the queer punk and then homohop music scenes for a while, but that’s kind of history. It’s through this weird zine collecting thing that I find myself faced with my past again.

I saw the Queer Zines book that accompanied the show Printed Matter did in New York City last year. It was inspiring and also satisfying that this era of self-publishing was finally getting more exposure. I don’t know who I’d be without some of those zines!

At the same time, I felt that the queercore phenomenon was different from the larger queer zine genre. It’s focused around music and music culture, had lots of young people, and was connected to a radical subculture loosely based on punk rock. The name of the show is paraphrased from a Team Dresch song: "Yes I Am, But Who Am I Really?" It’s a slight dig at Melissa Etheridge, but ultimately sums up the struggle for identity and purpose and survival.

Also, it’s a scene where women played an enormous role in shaping the dialog and aesthetics. The influence of the riot grrrl movement was not insignificant, either. Some people attribute queer zines to things like Straight to Hell or [William S.] Burroughs, but these zines are far more likely to have been inspired by radical music figures: Black Flag, Throbbing Gristle, the Shaggs, Yoko Ono, female rockers, as well as good old 1980s hardcore. In many ways, queercore was an alternative to an alternative. And it had a soundtrack.

SFBG Looking back at the materials in the current show, what surprises you — what do you see anew now, years later, or wish was more present in current society or social currents?

MW What I really value in old zines is this incredible sense of urgency. There’s some insane, obsessive person trying to reach out and find like-minded people, so they make a zine. It’s a search for kindred souls, and an almost desperate bid for creative and intellectual validation. It can be fun, but is ultimately quite serious. It has a lot of integrity. I love that spirit and dedication.

That same feeling is totally lacking in today’s culture. The Internet has released much of the pent-up need to connect, to find information, to really put effort into communication. Today’s pop culture is also highly self-aware and navel-gazing, and people seem more obsessed with mundane actions of others — via tweets, social networking, whatever — than creating original ideas and taking risks. Old zines have original ideas and risks in spades.

SFBG What kinds of zines will people find in Goteblüd?

MW We try to carry a wide assortment of popular and unknown zines; the more DIY, the better. Though we do have some indie glossies, we carry tons of underground music, pop culture, art, skateboarding, graffiti, lowrider, comic, and experimental zines from the past four decades. We try to focus on older stuff because it’s harder to find and it gets people excited. We are always buying and trading too. I love when people challenge me to find a certain zine for them, and I have it!

SFBG One section of Goteblüd is devoted to Ed Luce’s Wuvable Oaf comics and paraphernalia. What do you like about Wuvable Oaf, and what plans do you have in connection with the comic?

MW Ed’s work, in one word, is fun. It’s also really smart and has no small amount of sharp observations on human behaviors and interactions. It’s a "post-bear" comic, but we hate the b-word. It’s set in a city that looks suspiciously like San Francisco and we all write the stories together. We try to juxtapose big and small, human and animal, and we love to show people in awkward situations. It’s not ironic; it’s loving and earnest.

The comic fits into the store — oddly — as it is an encapsulation of so many different sensibilities. Ed’s constantly referencing his icons of fashion, bad horror movies, and music — particularly Morrissey. I think it’s like a gayer Love and Rockets but that doesn’t begin to do it justice. Our next issue will spotlight our house cartoon band, Ejaculoid, and we’ll be releasing a limited edition record of their music — which is "disco grindcore."

GOTEBLÜD is at 766 Valencia in SF and is open weekends only from noon–5 p.m.