Have you ever had a moment where you weren’t just reading something, but hearing your own thoughts reflected through the words of some smarter, better-written person than you? That distinctive kind of writing that just doesn’t tell you something, but actually speaks to you, to your inner ideas and insecurities? In ‘The Age Of Google’, we’re used to hearing anyone and everyone’s opinions courtesy of personal blogs to youtube comments, but in print form it’s still a rarity.
James Aviaz’s new zine, Everything Is Fucked/Everything Is OK, contains plenty of those rare moments. The chatter usually refined to conversations meandering over ‘philosophical’ topics (often after a few drinks), where we start deconstructing everything we know and don’t know and might be a little bit scared of, take center stage in the zine, a collection of short essays, stories and images that reflected on what is important to us in these ‘post-Internet’ days. It’s an ambitious concept, and one Aviaz knew he couldn’t explore on his own, so he rounded up a group of similarly-talented friends to reflect on something that was important to them their current lives. Consequently the zine is a bundle of goodies that cover topics like networking on the web, absurdist news headlines, and one very cute dog.
To explain some of the method behind the (excellent) madness that is Everything Is Fucked/Everything Is Okay we talked to James about his own ideas about modern life, discussing things on the ‘fucked-to-okay’ scale from Seinfield to social media…
Portable: You describe Everything Is Fucked, Everything is Ok ‘a zine about modern life’, which seems like a gigangtically broad concept. Where did you begin to break down this idea for the zine?
James Aviaz: To the detriment of my mental health, modern life and its associated trimmings are constantly on my mind. Spend more than 10 minutes with me and you’ll be subject to a waffling tirade about ‘that thing I just noticed and its effect on the ENTIRE UNIVERSE’. I’m basically an IRL, more existential, episode of Seinfeld. To be any other way would bore me. How can one not be completely fascinated by the weirdness of living in this age?
We’re living in a time when technology is rewiring human interaction, our climate is in a state of complete chaos, and the Australian Dollar is worth more than the US Dollar. WHAT IS HAPPENING? Everything is Fucked, Everything is OK was created to capture the feelings of my friends and contemporaries on this very question. As such, it’s very deliberate to leave the zine’s scope broad. I want a contributor to feel comfortable pitching up at any point along the ‘fucked-to-OK scale of modern life’.
P: A lot of your online work has focused on music, but there’s a noticeable lack of attention paid to that in the zine. Why did you steer away from your ‘area of expertise’ when developing the zine?
James Aviaz: My ‘area of expertise’ is being neurotic, so I feel like I’ve hit the fucking bullseye with this zine. Sure, my professional writing has been focused on music – I’m a hopelessly passionate music fan and work in the music industry – but my personal writing and study more often pertains to the human condition and modern life. For my own piece in the zine – Just Wanna Be Immortal – I combined my two loves by discussing the power of meditation as inspired by Beatles guitarist George Harrison.
P: What drew you to creating a physical rather than virtual publication?
James Aviaz: My first writing gig was in print, so I’ve always romanticized about the medium; nothing quite compares to seeing your writing in tangible form. When the magazine industry shat itself in the mid-noughties, I moved into online content roles. Producing content for web is a completely different game, one that has become a game of diminishing returns. Content strategies based on appeasing Google with SEO trickery, idiotic link-baiting, and juking the stats with page-refreshing trickery has removed much of the magic.
I’d never really thought about creating a zine until a co-worker, the bon vivant Elliot Aronow, put a copy of his Our Show zine on my desk about a year ago. Immediately I fell back in love with print and thought: ‘Wow! That’s amazing. Now, I want to make one (and have many drinks to celebrate its eventual creation)’.
P: Can you describe the process of putting an independent zine together, and some of the difficulties associated with publishing independently?
James Aviaz: I’d never been in an art supplies store before this project (shock! horror!), so there were challenging moments understanding the best materials to use. Life was made a lot easier after attending my first zine fair – a big shout out to Put A Egg On It for its gorgeous layout and photography – which helped me better design and construct.
As an independent publisher, the onus is on you to make or break the financial viability of your product. I want to make more and more zines, so it’s critical to think about how to recoup costs. This is both daunting and empowering.
Social media, for all its perils, is a great ally for young artists to expose their work to potential fans. E-commerce is now easier than ever, giving zine makers a global platform on which to grow. There’s also a growing appreciation for the tangible artefact – the rise and rise of vinyl record sales is testament to this. That said, one must always be mindful of the shift towards e-publishing – Kindle, iPad. The big winners in indie publishing will have to excel in both mediums.
P: A lot of the content within the zine focus on the rise of social media and the need to ‘be everywhere’ on the internet. Why do you think this topic is now at the forefront of people’s minds when they think about ‘current lifestyles’?
James Aviaz: There’s undoubted bias in the debut issue of Everything is Fucked, Everything is OK towards the topic. Much of the inspiration for creating the zine is predicated on my negative feelings towards social media in its current form. Many of my contemporaries have been on Facebook et al. for half a decade and I feel that general fatigue with the social is setting in. I suspect that we’re on the cusp of widespread backlash, and it will be fascinating to see if contributors in this issue are vindicated in years to come.
P: Your contributors come from a varied background of publishing, technology and filmmaking (to name a few). What were your decisions behind collecting and curating those individual voices to the final product?
James Aviaz: I’m lucky that I’ve been blessed with friends who: (a) have interesting opinions; (b) can write really well. All contributors were given the same intentionally vague brief – at no stage were they asked to write on a particular topic. Then, by chance rather than design, I was given a bunch of phenomenal writing none of which overlapped. THANK YOU, ZINE GODS.
Note: Asking friends to contribute is always advisable at the start of a new project. Only friends will take a rambling, 40-minute call – which should really take no more than 5 minutes – to explain what the fuck you’re asking them to do.
P: Finally, we have to agree with you – your dog is pretty adorable. Any change of an exclusive picture?
James Aviaz: Sadly, Charlie is not my dog! He belongs to a friend of a dear friend. Charlie was my first ever subject for a photography shoot. I photographed him in a dog park just under the Verrazano Bridge in Manhattan. It was one of those hot-as-fuck New York summer evenings and Charlie handled the conditions far better than I did.
Limited copies of Everything is Fucked, Everything is OK are on sale now. Buy here.