Wikipedia defines a fanzine as “a nonprofessional publication produced by fans of a particular cultural phenomenon (such as a literary or musical genre) for the pleasure of others who share their interest.” Over the years, there have been several publications of this type, including Greg Prevost’s Outasite and The Refrigerator.
The Notebook is a classic example of this type of self-published media. Created by Absolute Grey drummer and agent provocateur Pat Thomas, the Notebook enjoyed a 4 issue run before Pat pulled the plug. Pat was kind enough to reply to my email questions about the his fanzine days and the full interview (as well as scanned PDFs of the Notebook) are after the jump.
SM: What compelled you to create Notebook?
PT: The Notebook actually started just a bit before I joined Absolute Grey, I had recently moved to Rochester and was getting immersed into the local music scene, but it was also the height of my interest in the Beat Generation writers like Jack Kerouac, Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, et al. (actually I’ve continued to be into most of those guys still and sometimes do lectures at colleges about them). So it was more about creating a multi-arts magazine than it was about doing a music magazine. I wanted it to have some “writing” in it – rather than just music journalism and I briefly hung out at a place called “Writers and Books” and meant some interesting people there who shared my interest in the Beat writers. Also, I was reading Andy Warhol’s Interview magazine alot around that time – and there was a discussion for awhile about making the Notebook an interview-type mag, but rather than interview famous people, we’d interview, for example, the local gas station attendent and ask him about his job. A kind of a tongue in cheek performance art kind of thing, but I didn’t roll with that idea in the end.
SM: Was Notebook your first foray into fanzines?
PT: Yes, that was first time I’d been involved in that, although I had written many music reviews for my college newspaper (in Corning, New York) and had once written to a punk rock fanzine in Elmira, New York that printed my letter during my college years.
SM: Were you an avid reader of fanzines prior to starting Notebook? If so, what fanzines did you read?
PT: There was this fanzine in college (which I can’t remember the name of) that was kind of a punk rock thing basically (printed in Elmira, New York) and that inspired me that I could do the Notebook. I was big fan of Rolling Stone when it was still a MUSIC magazine.
SM: What would you say were your influences?
PT: Rolling Stone of course, some of the Beat Generation fanzines and magazines that I able to find at the time, that zine I mentioned above from college. Mainly just a chance to write whatever I wanted to write about and not be edited. When I moved to Rochester, I wrote like 1 or 2 record reviews for the University of Rochester newspaper and they edited the shit out of them. So I quit writing for them and decided to print up my own shit.
SM: In the first issue of Notebook, you described it as Rochester’s first “Beat” fanzine. What did you mean by that?
PT: Well, I guess being young and cocky, I meant, here’s a “Beat” fanzine – “Beat” means many things: the Beat Generation, music has a Beat, the Beatles, you name it. But yeah, in general, I hoped to have more Beat Generation stuff in it – but meeting (and interviewing) Allen Ginsberg and having a photo of me and him on the issue of one cover and him providing a previously unpublished poem was pretty cool. And he also wrote to me and sent me a letter of encouragement.
SM: How many issues were you able to put out?
PT: I did four them, all but the last one were given away for free – the last one was sold for like 50 cents, not to recoup the money, because it costs close to a $1 to print each copy, but because I wanted it on the “newstand” at local Rochester record stores, rather than sitting on the floor on the junk pile near the door.
SM: How many issues did you actually distribute?
PT: the first issue, I printed like 100 copies, by the fourth and final issue, I think it was like 250 copies.
SM: The issues I’ve read so far cover a fairly small subset of bands; how did that sit with other musicians in the area? Did you catch any flack from them and how did you deal with it?
PT: it was NEVER a “local” music zine, although we did cover a couple of local bands of course and featured some of them on the cover. so the handful of local bands that got covered were happy, those who didn’t get covered, didn’t bitch to me about it – because they could see (I think) that it wasn’t about local music – except in a handful of articles).
That said, one person did send in a “hate” letter (actually if memory serves me right, that got printed in some other local rag, because the Notebook had already stopped, in which he bitched about me and Absolute Grey in general – a year later, we become friends when he released a really cool 7 inch single (on Jargon Records) featuring an amazing version of the Velvet Underground’s “All Tomorrow’s Parties” – his name was Charles S. Russell (as I remember) and I’d love to know what he’s up to these days – he was an interesting dude.
SM: You worked with some very creative people to put together those issues. Outside of Therese DePrez (who has gone on to be a top Hollywood Scenic designer), are there any other notable memories of the creative types that worked on each issue?
PT: I’m still in contact with Therese, she’s world famous at this point which is pretty cool and I’m both proud of her and honored that she’s bothered to keep in contact with me and we’ve remained friends. She’s great as she pretty much only works on really interesting cutting edge movies, rather than just Hollywood Blockbuster shit. For example, she did “I Shot Andy Warhol”, “High Fidelity”, ‘Summer of Sam”, “Hedwig and the Angry Inch”, and “American Splendor” – 5 of the best movies to come out in the past decade. I’ve lost contact with the woman Lisa Knopf who replaced her as art director at the Notebook – who did some very nice paintings for restaurants and that type of thing as I remember.
Notebook Issue Archives (note: due to Acrobat these are large files):