U N D E R G R O U N D
A FEW QUESTIONS FOR OUR COVER ARTIST TWIN CITIES BRIGHTEST // DANA MALTBY
Can you please explain light paint/writing? Light painting usually refers to using a tripod and a long exposure time, usually 1 to 5 minutes long. Basically the camera sits still on a tripod, and when the shutter is pushed you run out in front of the camera and start waving lights around such as glow sticks, fireworks, LED lights, hula hoops, flashlights, and anything else that glows. There are many different kinds of light painting photography such as light writing, light drawing, surface painting, camera movement, lens cap trick, and my favorite: LAPP or light art performance photography. LAPP is using lights in perfect harmony with a location to create a visually stunning and intriguing photograph that is mysterious and professionally executed.
What is the connection between urban exploring and light painting? Light painting works in perfect harmony with urban exploring because half of the locations to be explored are very dark naturally, such as tunnels, caves and building basements. Also, light painting is a way for people who may not have the best camera equipment to transform these creepy and dark locations into vibrant bright photographs with relative ease. In tunnels and caves especially, the only light available is that which you provide yourself, making shooting photographs 100% up to the shooter. This 2 MPLSzine // UNDERGROUND
means complete control, which on the surface is almost never going to happen considering ambient light from the moon, street lights, and other factors. Who are some Minneapolis artists you follow currently? Ectro or Jake Saari from Duluth is my favorite light painter. He just gets super wild and I can’t even explain how radical he is in this short time. Reluxx is another local explorer who isn’t really a light “drawer” but he lights up some amazing locations quite frequently. Above the Norm, Loon Life, 1sweetkat, and Light the Underground all put in work also. Do you shoot film/digital/both and why? I started out shooting on a Canon Digital Rebel and have had three cameras total. Digital is great because you get the results instantly and can make adjustments over and over to get the shot. It also works great for the lens cap trick, which is when you shoot a picture, put the lens cap on without stopping the exposure, and moving the camera somewhere else and removing the cap to expose for longer. Basically it’s an in-camera double exposure. Trouble with digital, though, is that it’s digital. You get digital noise and dust on the sensor and you need all kinds of batteries and cords and memory cards and there are corrupt files and all the fun things that come from digitizing a
visual image. Film is great because the colors are phenomenal, you can shoot on a piece of film as many times as you want, and nobody else really does it!
the locations are close together because it just saves time, and also cameras get digital noise after about five minutes, especially with a high ISO.
Thoughts on the Minneapolis urban exploring/ tunnel scene?
With my film double exposures, I’ve been following these guidelines.
We have a great urbex scene here in the Twin Cities. The cities were built on St. Peter sandstone, making it very easy to tunnel into. We also have the Mississippi River cutting right through both cities, so storm drain tunnels occur very frequently up and down the river. Action Squad was ahead of their day--their website still looks ’90s. But these days with the interwebs, anyone could creep around the Net enough to get started, and then all you need is Google Maps and a pair of shoes to find some stuff.
Step 1 - Shoot subject roll (people, graffiti, cats, buildings, etc.) Step 2 - On same roll, shoot background (patterns, grass, metal, rust, sky, etc.) Step 3 - On same roll shoot “Magic” (shine lights at film through various tricks)
Can you explain your multiple exposures? What’s the technique/process behind it? So my digital double exposures, or cover the lens trick, involve two tripods and two locations. To decide what the picture will look like, I do test shots. Let’s say the first part is a circle of paint cans--I’ll get that all centered up and such. Next I’ll step into let’s say a tunnel with another tripod and try to visually align the center (of the paint can circle) with this new composition. After some tests and multiple tries (looking on the camera screen to see if I’m aligned), I’ll go for the real shot, which uses both locations and the lens cap while walking between the locations. It helps if
Describe your perfect shooting day, night or scenario? The first and most artistically driven mission is out by myself climbing into a drain in the daytime with some beers, music and a wicked good idea to attempt, and then getting the shot. Mandatory jumping around dancing, screaming and slamming beers occurs before exiting location. Second, and usually more exciting, is being with a couple of friends without much gear and finding the coolest urbex location ever. It’s a feeling that anyone who has done it has experienced. Especially if you stumble upon something amazing without ever hearing about it or seeing it.
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LETTER FROM THE EDITORIAL DIRECTOR As we planned the Underground issue, we talked a lot about what “underground” means. What does a band, a show, an artist, a gallery, a club, a movement need to be truly underground? Is “underground” the same as “indie”? Has the word been watered down, even ruined, by its use as a marketing term? I think with any kind of secretive or below-the-radar or not-quite-legal trend or movement or community, there’s the worry that any exposure will destroy it. That can be true in a very literal way--people don’t want their after-hours clubs or exploring tunnels to be invaded by the cops--or in the slower sense of cultural rebellion being co-opted, packaged and sold. This underground thing USED to be cool before it got too big. All these other people don’t understand what it was like BEFORE. I came across that idea in a quote from Tavi Gevinson the other day talking about her online magazine for teen girls, Rookie, and about its relationship to riot grrrl, the DIY feminist movement. Tavi said, “One thing about riot grrrl is, one of the reasons it disbanded, [is] you had some grrrls saying, ‘We should share this with people, we should do these interviews,’ and then other people say, ‘No, we’ve created this safe space, we don’t want people to ruin it.’ So with Rookie we decided we should do the former. We should share our message and encourage our readers to create their own little communities and spaces.” With MPLSzine, while we always want to respect places and communities that prefer to stay hidden, we want to share and show and build. Sharing people and art and stories, avoiding being insular, facilitating connections between creative people--that’s what we’re about. This project is about to go on hiatus, and we’re not exactly sure what the coming year holds for us. We’ll be working on making it better, on reaching out to more people, on forging connections with other Twin Cities organizations and publications. No matter what form this thing is in when it comes back, though, we’ll be working to amplify unheard voices, share art that’s below the radar and outside the mainstream, and celebrate what’s beneath the surface of the city we love. To get involved with our next step and to offer feedback and ideas, get in touch at hello@mpls. co. We’re eager to hear what you have to say.
Sincerely, Colleen email@example.com 4 MPLSzine // UNDERGROUND
UNDERGROUND - OCTOBER 31, 2013
CONTENTS COVER BY TWIN CITIES BRIGHTEST // DANA MALTBY LAYOUT BY BETHANY HALL & AMANDA REEDER BACKGROUND PHOTOS BY ANDREW CASEY
PHOTOS BY CLINT MCMAHON
NOTES FROM THE MANMADE CAVE UNDERNEATH MINNEAPOLIS’ PILLSBURY MILL
PHOTOS BY TWIN CITIES BRIGHTEST AT THE LATE NIGHT, MUFF-FEATURED PICTURE SHOW ALEX LAUER CHECKS OUT THIS YEAR’S MINNEAPOLIS UNDERGROUND FILM FESTIVAL.
PHOTO BY TYLER LAUER
MPLS KINK AMINA HARPER INVESTIGATES THE CITY’S KINKY SIDE.
PHOTO BY MATTHIAS MICHLITSCH
COMIC BY JASON LOEFFLER
HOW TO THROW A DIY SHOW SEASONED HOUSE SHOW BOOKER GUNNAR KAUTH SHARES HIS SECRETS.
PHOTO BY LIGHT THE UNDERGROUND
I HOPE YOU’RE INTO SOME WEIRD SHIT AARON KING INTERVIEWS INDIE COMICS RISING STAR ANNA BONGIOVANNI.
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photos by Clint McMahon
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Notes from The Manmade Cave Underneath Minneapolisâ€™ Pillsbury Mill By Bill Lindeke
Some time ago I went spelunking along the river in downtown Minneapolis. It was an arranged situation, a friend of a friend knew that I would enjoy whatever it was I would find under ground. So I left my house one summerâ€™s night, carrying along only a flashlight and some watershoes. I met my guide in a park along the riverfront, by the only waterfall on the Mississippi, and she led me down the stairs along a dark path cut into the damp bluffs. There are strange islands in the river between the banks, small pools and juttings, cloudy shorelines always remaking themselves. We went to one in particular, a large pool facing the riverbank cliffs all inlaid with odd stone works and ruins of ramparts and forgotten barricades, almost doorways, and we waded in. Hip-deep in the middle of the pool there was a great noise, a loud watery smack placing my already alarmed armhair on edge. I turned to glance the ripples along the river pool, and the just disappearing dark blot of a beaver body. A classic alarm call tail. We waded through the pool toward stone walls set into the Minneapolis cliffs, shining flashlights along the surface of the hip-deep riverwater, slowly moving. Before us was a door, a dark cave, the entrance bearing a few old wooden planks, a raised platform just above the water, a classic Indiana Jones path into the earth beneath the city. We went inside.
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I am reluctant to tell you what can be found under ground, in the heart of the city below the sidewalks of old Main Street. You might call it a cave, but it’s a human creation. All along the old river, underneath the crumbled factories lie large industrial chambers, deserted and full. If you walk along the wooden planks perched over the riverwater, you find damp rocks before you, old urban rubble along which you scramble upwards to a half-closed metal door. On the other side is a dark chamber with a man-made waterfall, a hole in the ceiling and the floor ten feet across, through which water still constantly pours, dropping down from old canals carved into the earth. You find the ruins of the old engine, the underground city that fueled the factories that brought so many people to this place, factories that have become little more than symbols and stories. Underground, the past remains.
black water lingers, a thin layer remains, a remnant twitch of adventure, the tremble placing a sole too far upon half vanished pines, barely picking my five toes to move them half an inch at first and then more and longer steps balancing as a misty gymnast underground. And yet the memory is mostly a sound. There is a river of forgotten energy lost beneath oil and bricks, a constant clear deaf sound that noone can hear, a sound all around invisible but drifting up somehow from the underground, rising through tree branches or seeping under walls to lingering in damp drains. Nobody hears it any more, but once you do, the life on the surface is remains uncanny, almost empty, haunted by a towering secret that can’t be told, unbelievable, and because this sound is years beyond words. Maybe there once were words, but they’re forgotten now, silent and unpronounced by electric tongues.
Behind the underground waterfall, in old cavern rooms beneath the old mill, we turned off our flashlights and let the dark sound of the falling water So no one knows what’s below the city except yourself, bounce off the wet walls and wash over my ears. walking through half-lit faces with smiles and talking Thunder. always as if this is the surface is the only world. But underground, I know now there is more. Today, I can remember the underground city swirling and mixing, the lingering smell and feel of pushing And I cannot forget. two legs through water and mud. The feeling of
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Images by Twin Cities Brightest // Dana Maltby
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At The Late Night, MUFF Featured Picture Show
I went on a horror binge at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival, and this is what you missed. By Alex Lauer 16 MPLSzine // UNDERGROUND
What if I get stabbed and thrown into the back of an unmarked van? What if they take me to a rundown house in the middle of nowhere? What if they cut slits in my abdomen and pull my intestines out with their shit encrusted fingernails? I shove a couple more kernels of popcorn in my mouth and look away from the screen for a second—come back to reality. I’m in a movie theater, I’ve got enough popcorn for a double date, no tall person that I would hate for something they can’t control is sitting in front of me—everything’s fine. But oh my god I could definitely get murdered on my way home tonight. That was less than 20 minutes into my first night at the Minneapolis Underground Film Festival (MUFF). I was watching Angst, Piss & Shit—a short film about two serial killer lovers—and would have definitely fallen into a state of mild psychosis if the film was any longer. I guess I should have been prepared; before the films started a bearded man with gauges and a microphone announced to the audience, “If you don’t like blood and guts, you might be at the wrong screening.” qThat man was Mark Hanson, the Director and Senior Programmer of the festival. MUFF, which just finished its sixth run, is not simply a horror fest though. It prides itself in featuring an array of low-budget and independent films—from local to international, experimental shorts to feature documentaries. Some of the standout films this year were United States of Hoodoo, which explores African-based spirituality, and Murder of Couriers, a documentary about the lives of bike messengers. With this much diversity happening 12 hours a day for four days, it would have been impossible for one person to cover the entire festival. So I chose to attend the Late Night selections, a series of horror and sci-fi features and shorts that played at 10pm every night. I was particularly excited to see some new takes on the genre since all the mainstream horror movies I’ve seen lately have been utterly uninspired. All of the films in this series were making their Midwest premier at this festival, so a lot of them are still on the festival circuit and could make their way back to Minnesota theaters. From a man who kills when he hears disco music to a combination of Evil Dead and The NeverEnding Story, I’ve picked the films that will stand the test of time and the ones that will most likely be killed in the first scene.
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The Survivors (the best of the fest): -The Demon’s Rook (James Sizemore, USA): This is the best new horror movie I’ve seen in a very long time. It makes use of practical effects and campy horror to the level of Evil Dead while also infusing fantasy elements that hold as much magic as The NeverEnding Story. Don’t get me wrong, this movie is not for the kids, but it’s so much more than the excess amounts of blood and gore. Even the musical theme that carries through much of the film’s score is on a professional level—equal parts haunting and entrancing. The story follows Roscoe, a man who was trained in magic by an elder demon ever since he was a young boy. When he reaches manhood, he accidentally releases three evil demons who find their way to the human world. The majority of the film involves the demons killing their way through hicks and sexuallycharged young adults while Roscoe tries to stop them. See this film any chance you get. This is the direction I want horror to go. -Perfect Drug (Toon Aerts, Belgium): Out of all the films, this one caught me the most off guard. Like Baskin, this film was packed full of insane ideas, but all of these were executed perfectly. Basically, a group of D-rate thieves start drinking neon liquid out of test tubes that they stole for a drug kingpin, and then everything goes nuts—like crawling-into-thebody-of-a-decapitated-person-nuts. It’s worth it just for Misha Downey’s perfectly ridiculous leading performance. -Manifold (Anthony Scott Burns, USA): This subtle black and white thriller was a much needed breath of fresh air in the midst of all the technicolor blood. Burns lays out the story of a man developing facial recognition software alongside an investigation into what appears to be a mass suicide. The connection doesn’t become much clearer in the end; instead you’re left with one of the best cliffhangers in recent cinematic history. Fortunately, this was picked up to be turned into a full-length—so be on the lookout for it. 18 MPLSzine // UNDERGROUND
(the worst of the fest): -Discopath (Renaud Gauthier, Canada): No matter how much I want to like this film, I can’t recommend it. The sad thing is that this is the film which originally drew me to the festival this year. While that may make me biased because I had lofty expectations, why shouldn’t I have lofty expectations for a 70’s throwback slasher flick about a guy who kills when he hears disco music? This was Gauthier’s first stab at writing and directing a feature, and it shows in all the wrong ways. Instead of choosing either a tongue-in-cheek approach to the genre or a serious replication, instead the film lies somewhere in the middle. Overacting, farcical cops are set against legitimately disturbing scenes that involve the naked killer torturing a teacher—and it makes for jumbled, ineffective mess. Not even Rémy Couture’s special effects could save this one. -Baskin (Can Evrenol, Turkey): The tactic here seemed to be, “Let’s think of the most disturbing things we can, put them all in a house, then have cops show up and try to escape.” This has potential for a featurelength film, but it’s too short to have any sort of compelling story and ended up being a flat gore fest. A live goat falls multiple stories and splatters on the roof of a van; a blind, mutant cannibal chases the protagonists; there’s a room full of naked, tied up people; the more they put in, the worse it gets. It didn’t help that the darkest scenes look like they were brightened up in iMovie.
Other movies shown: Angst, Piss & Shit (Fredrik S. Hana, Norway), Grasshopper (Ryan Roy and Michael Usry, USA), Green Eyed (Nathaniel Lindsay, USA), LFO (Antonio Tublén, USA), The Last Video Store (Timothy Rutherford and Cody Kennedy, Canada), The Rambler (Calvin Lee Reeder, USA) UNDERGROUND // MPLSzine
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Images by Tyler Lauer
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MPLS Kink Story by Amina Harper
I wouldn’t consider myself a member of the local kink community, but if I have enough of a foot in the door to write this piece I would say it happened completely by accident. Stumbling upon this subculture happened the way most endeavors do; I know people who know people or I’m researching a project and kink just happens to be the main focus. Basically, I’ve learned a lot by proxy and while all this information is fascinating none of it 22 MPLSzine // UNDERGROUND
was obtained through salacious means. So, I hope you don’t expect any stories about secret rendezvous’ or titillating underground sex parties like in the movie Eyes Wide Shut. But if anyone reading this is seriously looking to learn more about the local BDSM scene and how to become involve I think I can point you in the right direction with 3 little tidbits of info.
1. MPLS does, in fact, have a kink scene. As does every state and country in the world. It’s a community that is very welcoming and yet very protective of its members. There are workshops discussing Minneapolis kink history and panels hosted by Patrick’s Cabaret, BDSM beginner’s brunches at the Chatterbox Pub and social organizations like the Knights of Leather. There are educational course and classes ranging from pole dancing to two handed flogging and role playing. The objective is to provide information on how to be kinky while also being safe and having fun. I think we all know about the Saturday night dungeon/play space parties at Ground Zero, but a lot of that seems to be more about entertainment (which is perfectly fine). BDSM is a lifestyle and if you would like to learn how to participate in these local activities go to msdb-mn.org and sign up for their mailing list. It’s a great way to stay in touch with Twin Cities kink, attend events, and get your knowledge on.
2. The MPLS Kink community is a creative community. Recently, I’ve been working with friend, Kyle Sharpe, to develop her new line of beginners BDSM toys titled Love Craft. She asked me to design an illustrated instruction manual detailing the products’ ease of use and versatility. Kyle has been a member of the kink community for a while and she states that within the practice communication and empathy should always come first; it’s important to listen to and care about your partner or else no one is going to have fun or feel safe. The toys themselves are beautifully crafted in smooth silks and soft furs so that
they are gentle for those just entering into BDSM. With Love Craft the leather, lace, whips and chains synonymous with the kink aesthetics are replaces by deep, sensual colors and textiles. I know this sounds like a shameless plug and it totally is because since that poorly written atrocity known as Fifty Shades of Grey got published there are droves of people entering into BDSM completely green. And if there are more tools and instructions for beginners to ease their way into it without feeling intimidated then perhaps the stigma behind kink will dissipate and be replace with understanding.
3. There’s a place to go for answers to MPLS Kink questions. At this point I could be a shameless mascot for the Smitten Kitten, but they have a great selection of books and instructional videos about kink and how to participate in it safely. The last time I was there I found a book on the art of shibari (traditional Japanese rope bondage) and completely ate it up as it features models of different races and body types. They also have your standard whips and paddles, O rings and hemp rope, adorable blindfolds and most importantly tools to teach you how to use all that stuff. Not to mention, the staff knows a great deal about where the local kink is at… it their job, after all. I suppose I could’ve presented you with an entry into my own personal adventures in kink, but I’d much rather encourage you to go out and find your own kinky adventure. Hopefully, this info has imparted unto you the tools that will give you knowledge and confidence to tie up, dress up and play, and to be respectful and compassionate while doing so. UNDERGROUND // MPLSzine
photo by Matthias Michlitsch
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27 Comic by Jason Loeffler
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DIY How to booking Throw a DIY Show like a pro Tips by Gunnar Kauth Photos by Elise Pfau
I’ve been booking house shows since the moment I moved back to the Twin Cities after a year at liberal arts college in Indiana. When I was studying in the middle of a small, corn field covered region, we had little to no opportunities for shows of any kind to take place. One weekend, my friend Holly had her friends in Solid Attitude from Iowa City come and play her living room. They played about 15 songs in 15 minutes and my life was changed forever. I decided to drop out of school, move home, and convince friends to let me use their living rooms to host local bands. I linked up with Mickey Davis (also from Iowa) and together we started the Upstairs Neighbor Collective. For 2 years, we’ve hosted several shows a month and continue to support the scene in every way we can. Below are 5 tips to making house shows happen, no matter if you’re on a busy urban street, or in a barn in rural farmville.
1) All ages, all the time, no
questions. Everyone should be welcome at shows, and if you find yourself creating an uncomfortable space for people 13-17, you’re doing everything wrong. Encourage pot smokers to find a spot in the backyard that’s discreet. Encourage drinkers to BYOB and be responsible for their own actions. Safe spaces are thriving spaces.
2) Get friends to help
soundproof, set up, clean up afterward, and host bands on their couches. Check bathrooms and bedrooms for anyone who is too intoxicated to enjoy themselves. Stick together and communicate.
3) Tell your neighbors you’re hosting a show. Agree on a time for when the music starts, and when it ends. If they tell you no, find a different house to host the show at. 4) Encourage mixed bills. Have a metal band as the headliner? put an emo band an electronic act on the bill. Make worlds collide and inspire others to collaborate outside of the genres they work within.
5) Collect money for touring bands. NEVER post the address on an event page (use email), always invite a photographer, a filmer, and an awesome iPod DJ. Have one of your artist friends make the flyer and hang it in local businesses. Introduce yourself to everyone at the show you’ve never met, tell them about more shows coming up and demand they come to the next event. Pro tip: ask bands if they have all of the necessary equipment to make their show happen. Get a PA system by any means possible. Invite touring bands back and tell them to tell their friends about your shows.
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photo by Elise Pfau UNDERGROUND // MPLSzine
photos by Elise Pfau
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I Hope You’re Into Some Weird Shit An Interview with Anna Bongiovanni by Aaron King
Anna Bongiovanni: I guess, like, the basics would be that I’m from Fairbanks, Alaska-basic basics--from Fairbanks, moved down in 2007, majored in comic art at Minneapolis College of Art & Design. Aaron King: But you were in school in Alaska.
AK: People come begging you for comics.
AK: And you had a cartooning class?
AB: Yeah, I had a, like--there’s one cartoonist in Fairbanks, basically. [laughter] There’s more now, but way back when I was a kid, there was one, and his name is Jamie Smith, and he does comics for the newspaper there, and the university, and he basically-anything, that’s, like, illustrated is by him. And he started teaching a cartooning class, and I took it in high school, I think, and then I--it was for high school students, and I was like, “This is awesome,” and so I took it every summer, basically, and that was the only cartooning thing.
AK: So do you feel like there’s a Minneapolis scene? And is MCAD--
And then I went to the University of Alaska Fairbanks and majored in elementary education despite the fact I hate kids, and I didn’t take a single education course while I was there for, like, a year and a half. Comics were all I could think about. It’s all I did in my spare time. Like, I tried--I just did it all the time, and my folks were like, “You like it so much, maybe you should actually major in it,” which is how I ended up at MCAD.
AK: But do you think it’s Minneapolis-specific? Do you think it exists because of Minneapolis? Or is there something Minneapolitan about it?
AK: And then you graduated in... AB: 2009, mm-hmm, and I’ve just been selfpublishing minis and stuff since then as well as anthologies and whatever. AK: Whatever.
AB: Mm-hmm. AK: What was the transition like from being a student into being a self-publisher? AB: A big part of it for me, at least, was going to conventions and meeting people outside of MCAD. As for if Minneapolis has a comic scene, the answer is a resounding yes. Like, it’s obviously got one.
AB: I think so. I think for the cartoonists that are here--I think some are born and raised here, some are transplants, but a lot of them call Minneapolis their home. I think Midwest experience influences their work. I can see it. I don’t know. And I can’t necessarily say for sure what the difference between the Minneapolis comic scene is from, like, the Brooklyn comic scene. I can say that Minneapolis has one, and it feels really closeknit and tight. Like, everyone knows everyone, and cartoonists are the nicest people in the world, I think? They can be real douchey,
but they can also be super, super nice and supportive, and everyone knows the projects that everyone else is working on. AK: Do you think there was some sort of--did MCAD act as a hub for that, or did you-AB: For me, yes, because that’s where I came from, but there were undergrad cartoonists and people self-publishing before MCAD’s comic program got established. AK: But now those people end up at MCAD. AB: Yeah, they’re at MCAD, or they end up teaching at MCAD, like Zak Sally. I don’t know. AK: Can you pick out anything specific in your work that is influenced by being here? Are you making anything here that you wouldn’t have in Fairbanks? AB: Yeah. I feel like Fairbanks influences a lot of my work visually, especially when I’m drawing, like, woods or outdoor scenes, which is, you know, pretty prominent in a lot of my comics. AK: In your “dark” comics. AB: Yeah, but I think Selfies--totally Midwestern. It’s based in Minneapolis. And a lot of the personal experiences that I draw about are because I could think about them-dwell on them--here in the Midwest, while in Fairbanks, I feel like I would have been emotionally stuck. [laughter] I don’t know. If I hadn’t moved out of it, I wouldn’t be probably growing as a person. Probably a lot of--Yeah. No. I can’t say a lot. [laughs] But sometimes, a lot of people who stay in the town that they grew up in--and this is not universal, but I have seen it, where they--it’s mostly in Portland. [laughter] Shit. I love Portland, but I hate Portland too. A lot of people are born and raised there, and then they stay, or they leave for a few years and then go back, and they just feel emotionally stuck, or, like, I don’t really see them growing as a person. 38 MPLSzine // UNDERGROUND
AK: Are we talking about as a person or a cartoonist? AB: Oh. I’m talking about just people. AK: Okay. AB: No, this is just blanket statements coming out of my mouth. [laughs] AK: This is good. This is what people like to hear. AB: No, they don’t want this. AK: All the people in Portland-AB: I know, they’re just like, “What the fuck, man?” I have a lot of really great friends in Portland too, though. AK: Not for long. AB: Oh, god. [laughs] Well, fuck. [laughs] AK: So if you look at “underground [comics]” as a genre, it’s normally white dudes from the ‘60s... AB: Mm-hmm. AK: ...which is sad that the term for the mode of production got attached to specific era. Do you ever feel like an underground publisher, and what does that mean to you? AB: I don’t know. I’ve never really thought of it. I don’t know if I can give myself that label. I would like to think of myself, maybe, as an underground cartoonist, ‘cause it is--I mean, a lot of people in Minneapolis who are selfpublishing do it the same way. It’s a big doit-yourself culture, which is probably what I feel more attached to than, necessarily, underground comics, is creating something that’s important to you and sharing it. Yeah. AK: So do you think that difference of views contributes to--underground back then meant cheap paper and black and white, and
now the people here--we talked about Will Dinski screenprinting and coming up with these elaborate, folding things. AB: Yeah, I would be interested to see what he says about it, you know? Like, how he thinks of himself as an underground cartoonist, or if he just thinks of himself as an artist. I think the Minneapolis scene--I think the artists strive to make something more beautiful. Complete. AK: An object. AB: An object. Yeah. And I feel that’s what comics are, and that’s what I was taught at MCAD, and also kind of how I always felt, really. They could be these beautiful little things. AK: Do you feel like that, at all, is a reaction to webcomics and how, ten years ago, it was all, “These are the future!” AB: Yeah, absolutely, ‘cause it was a whole-not like a scare, but it was--[laughter]--it was a thing that people talked about, was, like, “Print is dying. Print is going out.” And it was a reaction--was to make these beautiful, handbound torture. [laughter] I don’t know. They felt like torture when you’re making them. You should see--do you know The Princess Book? AK: Yeah. AB: You should have seen my first rendition of it. [laughs] It was so stupid to make. It took, like, an hour to make every single one, and then I sold them for five bucks or $10, and I was like, “Here you go. Oh, you know. It’s just this thing.” AK: When really they should have been $20 based on the time you spent. AB: They probably would have been. I probably should have sold them for $25. But it was a fight back, to be like, “I think this is important. I think looks are important.” And 40 MPLSzine // UNDERGROUND
I think the act of reading it in such a way is great. It’s necessary--at least, necessary for my existence, so I’m assuming and I want it to be necessary for everyone else’s. AK: Well, it’s funny, because you see all these people who are doing pamphlets, and you get them in the mail, and that’s huge now, and I wonder if that’s a reaction to webcomics. AB: Yeah, I think it’s a reaction to webcomics, and I also think that it’s something with the mail system too--about getting letters and getting important objects in the mail. Everyone loves getting mail. Postcards. AK: My mailman--actually, I wasn’t there, but my roommate was there, and he’d been delivering all this stuff, and he’s like, “Are you Aaron?” to my roommate. He’s like, “No, no, he lives here, but he’s not here right now,” and the mailman was like, “Oh, I just noticed he was getting all these comics, and I used to have comics until my wife made me throw them away.” [laughter] AB: Oh, no! AK: And I wish I had been there to talk with him. AB: I would have been like, “No, you don’t have to be that way! Don’t let anyone change you!” [laughs] AK: Right? Sometimes during the day, if I’m not doing anything, I’ll just sit outside, and I’m never there when the mailman gets there, but I want to be there. AB: I will watch for the mailman. My blinds are open only so I can see the mailman approach, ‘cause I never want to miss a package. I cannot. [pause] So many tangents. AK: We had also talked about the comic tribes of Archie versus superheroes and where people come from, and you had mentioned manga being a big influence for you. Not necessarily an artistic influence, but as, “This
is something I like.” AB: Yeah. I wouldn’t say it wasn’t an artistic influence. To deny it would be to do it a disservice. I don’t lie about how into it I was at the time, you know? Definitely started with Archie. Became seriously obsessed with it. I remember the covers of all 500, 600 copies. The stories come and go. They’re all basically the same. I just need to finish getting a complete collection, and then I will officially be a crazy person. [laughs] AK: Beer’s kicking in. [laughter] I feel, with Selfies--you had talked about writing dumb characters--I’m not gonna say that’s your version of Archie, but-AB: Could be. I don’t know. AK: It’s a short story about friendship and romance, and someone messes something up, and then everything’s sort of okay at the end. AB: It is. I guess it is. Yeah. I didn’t think about it at the time, but for sure. Got the same kind of story arc where disaster happens, but nothing’s really changed, you know? There’s sort of a conclusion, and I imagine that future issues are gonna be the same--probably more of a connection than Archie has. AK: More consequences? AB: Yeah, definitely more consequences, and I’m sure the stories will start leaking into each other, kind of like an actual plot, at some point. But, yeah, started with Archie, and I think it was super easy for me to get into because--I don’t know. AK: Because you’re white bread American? AB: [laughs] I was gonna say because there were girls in it. [laughs] I’m not gonna get into superheroes. I mean, yeah, there were female characters, but I couldn’t connect with them,
and I didn’t necessarily see them as figures I could relate to, versus Betty and Veronica, where I could. All the other characters too. AK: Their foibles? AB: Yeah. Yeah, and I think that is what got me into manga as well. It was just stories that related to what I was going through at the time. AK: Do you think relatable women in comics is still an issue? As much an issue? AB: I think it is. I think Marvel and DC are still targeting little boys. AK: Or 40-year-old boys. AB: Yeah. Like menboys. And I think they alienate a lot of women. And I think they’ve been making moves to try and change it, but they’ve also been making moves and backpedalling a lot, especially this week, with the naked suicide thing. [Google “Harley Quinn naked suicide.” Keep your safe search on.] Just fuck off. Even thinking about it-oh, god. A big--[flies both middle fingers] But that being said, I think that’s changing. I think there’s a lot of women in comics. If you go to MCAD now, the comic classes are predominantly women, so I think that says something. AK: Speaking of MCAD, Barb [Schulz, comic professor at MCAD,] had said that you “have something to say.” Do you think that’s one of the traits that will make you a publishable cartoonist? AB: [laughs] Hopefully. It might have just been her usual thing. AK: She says that to everyone. AB: [laughs] Yeah, right? AK: Have you ever felt pressured to have gender and sexuality be one of the things you have to-UNDERGROUND // MPLSzine
AB: No, never felt pressured. I did that all on my own.
course at MCAD which totally influenced the way I’ve made my minicomics, and I just went overkill with this Princess Book. Then I had to AK: So that is something you feel like is in your drill it, but like I said, I wasn’t any good at it, so comics. I drilled one book at a time, so it was this huge hassle to clamp the paper down and do it, AB: Yeah, for sure, and that was in my comics and actually sewing it was really difficult too, right away. In my Comic 1 class we had a five- because I had to shove it [the needle] through or seven-page comic, and it’s a pretty open it. Really labor intensive. And people were format, and I made it about Adam and Eveflipping through it at conventions, being like, -it wasn’t any good, but it was about Adam “What the hell’s this?” and Eve, and Eve getting her period, being like, “Now I’m useful, right?” So it was always AK: “Those are my babies!” there. I don’t think it was ever a conscious thing to write about. It just... AB: I know! I would go to Springcon--have you ever been to Springcon? AK: ‘Cause you “have things to say.” AK: Yes. AB: I guess ‘cause I have things to say. [laughs] AB: Yeah, and I’d be right next to some guy selling tits and ass, and then I had my AK: Speaking of all the different kinds of Princess Book, hand-bound...[laughs] comics, you have almost almost two specific modes. We talked about your “dark” stories AK: But I think--now someone can be a comic and your humorous, slice-of-life stuff. Do you artist without ever having heard of Jack feel like those come from similar places? Kirby or without ever having read an Archie comic, and I think that’s one of the weird AB: They’re the same place. They’re coming things you see at Springcon. It’s just so weird from the same thing. I think that my style to go there, and it’s one of the holdouts of-has been always evolving. My stories don’t ”Comics as a unified thing, and everyone here always look the same, and I think it’s just me likes comics.” experimenting and trying to find the best way to say what I’m trying to say, and, yeah, AB: It is weird. It’s weird. There are a lot sometimes they can get on the darker side, of really awesome people who go to that and sometimes they’re more lighthearted and convention, and it is an awesome convention. fun. They treat the exhibitors super well. It’s all volunteer-run. It’s great, but it’s an interesting AK: I don’t have any segue from that. experience to be an indy cartoonist, and... AB: We can hit awkward jumps. It’s okay. AK: I think I would like to go back to--we had talked about doing The Princess Book by hand-AB: Oh, my god, that thing was so fucking annoying. It was a 50-, 60-page book that I decided to hand-sew together, which meant I had to drill it to get the pages--and I wasn’t really any good at this. I took a bookbinding 42 MPLSzine // UNDERGROUND
AK: And next to you is a dealer with back issues. AB: It’s just interesting to be sat--I like it, I guess--to be sat next to someone who is doing something very mainstream or very mainstream-looking and then to get the people who are looking for mainstream things, and then they stumble upon your work, and they maybe sometimes just don’t get it.
AK: You’re like a missionary.
needs to be reappropriated at some point.
AB: Yeah, for the indy comic world. [laughs] I don’t think that’s really necessary anymore.
AB: I could be--you’re right, I’m probably a little outdated.
AK: Indy comics don’t need missionaries anymore?
AK: You’re getting old.
AB: I guess they do, but--another blanket statement--I want to say that a lot of comic shops are now carrying more indy comics or at least not mainstream comics. What used to be strictly Marvel and DC and then probably an anime section--those shops are now also carrying Fantagraphics and Top Shelf and probably have a minicomic section or local zines. Probably. AK: And it’s funny to still call Marvel and DC mainstream. Those cater to a small, specific audience with a lot of overlap. Chris Ware or Seth or whoever--they New Yorker crowd-might sell fewer copies per book, but I think there’s less overlap between them and more press, and so mainstream--I feel like that
AB: [laughs] AK: But I bet if you met a 12-year-old kid who’s like, “I love comics,” there’s a chance he or she might not have read a Superman comic. AB: Yeah. Maybe. Maybe some weird stuff, I hope. [laughs] I hope they’re into some weird shit. [laughs] AK: That’s going to be the title of the interview. AB: [laughs] “I Hope You’re Into Weird Shit.” That’s the title of my life. [laughs] “My Makeout Lounge and My Archie Library Are the Same Place. Let’s Get Weird.” [laughs] UNDERGROUND // MPLSzine
44 MPLSzine // UNDERGROUND
CONTRIBUTORS Publication Director Chris Cloud
Illustration Director Kyle Coughlin
Editorial Director Colleen Powers
Visual Director Andrew Casey
Layout Director Bethany Hall
Layout Intern Amaanda Reeder
Dana Maltby known as Twin Cities Brightest is a prolific and internationally renowned light painter and artist. He melds Urban exploration and art to captivate his audience through his camera. You can view his artwork via his Flickr page http://www.flickr.com/people/twincitiesbrightest/ Light The Underground started taking photos of graffiti which opened his eyes to the fascinating world of urban exploring. Amidst his exploring he light paints using long exposures and lights to create photographic images. You can find more of his work at lighttheunderground.com Amina Harper is an artist, writer, snack enthusiast, warrior princess and part time alchemist currently residing in Minneapolis. Follow her: https:// twitter.com/aminaharperart aminaharperart.blogspot.com and instagram. com/aminaharperart Aaron King submitted his story late and is thanks the kind folks of MPLSzine for putting up with him. You can engage in passive consumption of his thoughts on Twitter or Tumblr, where his handle is aaronmfking. Alex Lauer is a 23-year-old. He is a founding member of the Stinkytown Illuminati. Follow him at alexlauer.tumblr.com and twitter.com/alexlauer Tyler Lauer is a homegrown creator. He was created deep within the suburbs of Minnesota. Bill Lindeke is a Jane Jacobs acolyte and bicycle flaneur who teaches urban geography at the University of Minnesota and Metro State University. He writes and podcasts at Streets.mn, and blogs at his own website, Twin City Sidewalks. He lives on Saint Paul’s West Side. You can follow him on Twitter at @BillLindeke.
Clint McMahon makes t-shirts for MPLS/STP Clothing and writes codes for a big company. After living in Chicago and NYC, he somehow found himself at home in Minneapolis. Someday he’ll find his island in the sun, but in the meantime he’s going to take a few pictures. Mathias Michlitsch shares his photos at http://www.flickr.com/ photos/77968902@N08. Elise Pfau http://elisepfau.tumblr.com/ UNDERGROUND // MPLSzine
Photo by Andrew Casey
Jason Loeffler is an illustrator and graphic designer living in South Minneapolis. See more of his work at jasonloeffler.net
Be part of MPLSzine! We’re looking for interviews, reviews, reported articles, essays, humor pieces, lists, infographics, comics, photos, and illustrations related to Minneapolis. (That relation can be loose--if the only connection is that you live here, that’s cool with us.) For now, we are not accepting fiction or poetry submissions--we know we can’t compete with the awesome literary magazines this town already has. We want to explore overlooked places and subcultures; make new connections and observations; share your heartbreaking, guffaw-worthy, and inspirational personal stories; and champion the people who make Minneapolis what it is. But we can’t do that without creative types sending us their stuff. firstname.lastname@example.org To get you started, our theme for the next issues is ISSUE publishes March 5 submissions due February 17 If you can’t contribute right away but want to learn more, email us anyway. We’d love to have you join us.
Submit to MPLSzine We are accepting Submissions for UNDERGROUND, publishing in October. If you can’t contribute right away but want to learn more, email us anyway email@example.com. We’d love to have you join us.
Images by Twin Cities Brightest // Dana Maltby
Published on Oct 31, 2013
MPLSzine, a submissions-based collaborative digital publication, is the latest project powered by the forces of MPLS Collective, A lynchpin...