Will you be touring in support of the new album? Yeah, we're going to tour the US in March-April and hopefully Europe in May-June. What's next after the tour, will you be working on a new Milemarker album or taking a break? We haven't really planned that far in advance. There has been talk of recording a Milemarker album, and we do have a few new songs, but so far its in the abstract stage. For now we're thinking about the current thing, which is the Challenger record coming out. We try to do things one step at a time. Both Al and Dave are known for your zines, Burn Collector and Media Reader. What do you feel is the importance of zines and what are some zines you think every one should check out? I work at a store in Chicago that stocks tons of zines and so it is really hard for me to point to any one zine that everyone should read. There's sort of something for everyone out there, I think. That's kind of the beauty of it, cheap reproduction technology combined with freedom of press equals increased exchange of ideas, which is more important than ever now. Howard Zinn (author of A People's History of the United States) has a new book out, and he devotes a chapter to the importance of "the pamphlet" in the history of the United States. The federalist papers were basically zines. People tend to think of their small exertions as not having much impact, but there are plenty of examples where something very modest has impacted people far out of proportion with its circulation or initial sphere of influence. In some ways, maybe the web has taken over for the printed pamphlet, but I do think there is still something powerful about an actual physical object, the inherent idea that someone cared enough to make X number of physical copies, fold and staple them, get them out into the world to be read and passed on. How did you get into making zines and what have you learned in the process of making them? I got into it because I saw people doing it, and it seemed like an easy way to communicate something about yourself to people. I started out making them just to hand out at shows, so that even if you didn't get a chance to talk to everyone you wanted to, you'd still have some sort of interaction, maybe start a conversation which would continue in correspondence. I'm kind of surprised to find myself still doing it years later, and getting so much response from it. I try not to take it too seriously- people sometimes refer to me as a "writer" but I feel like, hey, I'm just a guy who makes zines. At the same time, I know people who really want nothing more than to be a writer, and spend years getting rejection letters from publishers and literary magazines and becoming embittered by the whole process. This makes me feel kind of guilty, because I feel like I'm enjoying phenomenal success compared to my relatively small effort. I get letters all the time from people who seem to have been effected by something I wrote, and have even been told I'm someone's "favorite writer" once or twice- which seems totally crazy to me. But, it goes to show, I think, that you have to just get it out there, in whatever format, without worrying about the legitimacy or how it looks on your resumĂŠ. With zines, and with bands, I stand by the DIY principle, not as a matter of ideology, but as a matter of a matter of practicality. For anyone that doesn't know, what are each of your zines about, and where can we purchase them? Dave's Media Reader is a political/cultural criticism magazine that generally consists of articles, interviews and political graphics. Most issues are free. My Burn Collector is a personal zine which is basically me rambling about whatever is going on with me at the time. We both make and contribute to other magazines as well, and our stuff can be found at stickfiguredistro.com. Otherwise, you can get stuff direct or reach our band at challengermusic.com.
Interview with Jessica Hopper
What kinds of things did you do when not playing shows? Slept in the van, wandered around exhausted and wide-eyed, ate things with squid in them.
How do the fans in Japan compare to the fans in the U.S.? About the same -- marginal familiarity with us.
For being such a new band, how did you get the chance to go to Japan? Denali broke up, and that opened up their slot.
Did you bring all your gear on the plane? Guitars -- we backlined everything. Thats standard in Japan. Clubs have equipment for the bands to use.
Was their anything you learned about Japan during your stay there? I think to say I learned much about Japan, or it's people would be presumptuous, or at least terribly American of me, to feign understanding simply by observation. The things I learned are debatable -- other than experiential things, like Sushi in the 7-11 is better than at home in Chicago and it costs about 2 dollars. That people are very hospitable, that we were hosted graciously. That the temples are beautiful and the freeways are epicly frightful.
Are there Japanese bands the could be big in the U.S. or any bands that really impressed you? Nissen non Mondai, three women, from Tokyo, who were really frenetic and primalist. Kind of a kin to Turing Machine or This heat. Do you think it would be easier being a band in Japan or the U.S.? US by a long shot. In Japan, from what I understood, you rent practice space by the hour, use equipment there, or in the club. It's harder to get around, not many people have cars or drive.
What kind of experiences did you take away from this trip? Immense culture shock. I handled Japan the worst out of the whole band, really.
Published on May 18, 2009
This issue of Swimmer's Ear features interviews with skateboarder Jesse Reed and bands Challenger, Despistado, and Sparta. A special feature...