I still remember the first zines I picked up, back in the mid-’90s. I used to walk to Hungry Ear on Ke’eaumoku Street after school to buy used CDs with my lunch money. I had never been to a punk show; I think my curfew was probably 10pm, and in those days punk shows didn’t even start until midnight. So I used to look through the flyers in the store, wondering what bands like B.Y.K,. The Hell Yeah Bowlers and the Tantra Monsters sounded like. One day, stuck in between the poorly photocopied flyers for the shows and the glossy ads for The Dungeon, I saw a tabloid-sized booklet with the title painted on it in nail polish: Inferno. Once introduced to the world of zines, I began to see local rags everywhere. I picked up Fuddy Duddy in the bathroom in Kuykendall Hall and it made me laugh out loud. The interviews and reviews in SKA-Doodle and later, Genki Zine, from Jelly’s Market City taught me a lot about music and local bands. O.G., E.F.G. Effigy, Play Jury, Gazing and H.I. changed names all the time, but the content was somewhat similar–completely offensive and so captivating. Zines became my Easter eggs.
Zines have worked their magic in the local punk scene for years. One purpose is to advertise local talent–Otto, editor of The Universal Show Zine, believes that ‘zines really help build up everything–shows, bands, community…Zines are amazing things!’ He has been a local zine editor and promoter for over a decade. Another purpose is to serve as a community sounding board. The letters sections in some issues were filled with irate or encouraging notes about political events, hate and love mail to local bands and scenesters, comments on previous issues. Lani, ex-editor of Banal, recently wrote her masters thesis on the punk scene in Hawai’i. ‘Zines are a way for the youth to express themselves in a way that’s a counter-narrative to dominant views in Hawai’i. Zines are one of the only forums that youth can use to comment on the world around them. Zines give the average person the ability to represent themselves, to share experiences, and perhaps even build a community founded on the common feeling of displacement and adolescent discomfort, discontent, marginalization, etc.’
Some zinesters produce their magazines for completely different reasons. Nimz, the 16-year-old pen behind Le Starfishy says that she started her zine because ‘I had too much random stuff that I wasn’t sure what to do with.’ Her first issue was a compilation of linocut prints, pen and ink drawings, magazine collages and teenage angsty ramblings put together in a pretty, handmade package. Doug Upp, who’s been writing zines with various titles for more than 10 years, says that he puts his zines out when ‘I feel like there’s something that needs to be said. I like to talk about stuff going on around town. Other people like to glamorize the mainland too much. Hawai’i people have such an inferiority complex. I’ve heard people say that it’s like we’re all crabs in a bucket here, pulling each other down. It’s stupid! I want to push the scene up instead.’
Talking to zinesters in Hawai’i, you’d find that they all have at least one thing in common–Zine Fest. Otto’s been pulling off the punk show-styled event at least once a year since about ’98–at different venues every time. Every year, zinesters, comic artists and other editors-of-sorts pull together last-minute issues to pass out at the show, and you’re guaranteed to head home with a stack of engaging new reading material. The zines in Hawai’i seem to be moving toward more artsy, handmade types of things, and leaving the realm of messily photocopied punk zines. Some people with inflated egos even call their rags ‘chapbooks’ and charge unreasonable sums for them. But you’ll always find some kids giving their work away for free. Look out for more information about Zine Fest 2006, Jan. 27 at Pipeline. You might not find zines on the flyer table at Hungry Ear or being handed out at punk shows anymore, but Zine Fest proves that the local zine scene is still alive, if not well.
I ask Nimz about what zines influenced her and she rattles off a bunch of Mainland titles: ‘Cometbus, Avow, Duncan Piss...’ When I clarified, and asked for local zines, she looked confused. ‘Until I went to Zine Fest, I didn’t even know people in Hawai’i were making zines.’ Otto’s yearly events are credited with motivating zine editors the way a deadline does–‘Have to get it done by Zine Fest!’ If it wasn’t for his shows, many kids wouldn’t even realize that zine-making in Hawai’i has a history: heroes and villains, old-timers and one-hit-wonders. The kids who attend local punk shows nowadays don’t need to bother with photocopying and distribution–if they have something to say, they can just type it into their MySpace blog for all their friends to read. The day I attend a punk show in Hawai’i and am handed a hand-stapled booklet by some scruffy little kid is the day I begin to have faith in the new crop of scenesters. Says Nimz: ‘When I gave a copy of my zine to my friends, they were amazed. They had never seen anything like it before. They said, ‘It makes me want to do one now!”
Noe Bunnell has been creating a zine called Kytzyl off and on for about 10 years. She’s been involved in the local music scene in various bands for almost as long. She is currently a 6th grade teacher who doesn’t get out much.