Though the conversation of the place of print publishing seems to have been ongoing for some time now, it seems clear the indefinite ‘change’ is finally here, a kind of rapture for the media. Print culture finds itself in an almost contradictory state – media has finally and indisputably shifted its primary means of consumption online, now tailored to the endlessly scrolling generation (it occurs to me as I type even Sang Bleu’s main method of communicating is though digital media). Yet the magazine stand has reached saturation and, save a select few titles, seems littered with mediocrity, a constant and reductive cycle of idea and imagery printed in a desperate fight for acknowledgement. It seems fair, then, as the nature of this media is forced to evolve, to question its purpose; if we strip the whole process back, what lies at the core of printing when magazines are no longer media, their purpose no longer a means of communication?
The first in an ongoing series exploring independent publishers in the original sense, the final few occupying the world’s now empty and archaic-seeming photocopy shops, is Kiddiepunk aka the press/label of Paris-based Australian Michael Salerno. Beginning in 2002 Salerno and co self-publish a range of zines, film and music, all centred on a core aesthetic that seems to embody the spirit of what it is to be, as the name suggests, a kid. The label’s latest release is the follow up to 2012’s Teenage Satanists in Oklahoma, a 24-page, A4-sized zine, printed at the local ‘photocopy joint’, whose upcoming issue #2 is previewed with a slideshow-style video of its pages to the sound of Norwegian Black Metal act Burzum, pretty accurately summing up both the subject matter and production of the project.
Salerno spoke to Sang Bleu about Kiddiepunk and the upcoming release:
Can you tell us a little bit about Kiddiepunk, where did the name come from?
Kiddiepunk is a small press/label I run that publishes limited edition books and zines, sometimes records, and also produces film and video projects. The name came from the first zine I made in 2002 titled ‘Kiddiepunk #1’.
I came across your work via the first Teenage Satanists in Oklahoma – is it exactly as it sounds?
Yes, unfortunately it is exactly as it sounds.
How did your photographing them come about?
Satanists are funny people, you’d think they would be kind of private and I suppose some of them must be, but I’ve found that most of them are like babies, you just need to know how to talk to them. Before you know it, they’re showing you all sorts of things you never imagined.
You’re about to release a second edition, why did you decide to continue the project?
I made the first issue pretty much just to amuse myself. I thought it was funny. But although something about the idea of this thing seems to lend itself to repeat offences, shall we say, and I wasn’t certain that I would do another until only recently when I felt a pull to do so. Maybe I’ll team up with some huge company like Condé Nast and then it can be the type of thing people could buy at the local supermarket or 7-Eleven. Or Kmart. That would be ideal actually.
Its publishing seems to wholeheartedly adhere to that zine aesthetic, what is it that makes you choose the local photocopy joint over a printer?
Something like ‘Teenage Satanists in Oklahoma’ works perfectly with the kind of aesthetic that a shitty photocopy provides, so it kind of makes sense to be printed in that way. It’s also a lot more immediate. I can make something in the morning, print it in the afternoon and have it for sale that night. When I started making zines, photocopying was really the only option that I had available to me. [However] Kiddiepunk publishes things printed in all different ways, from photocopied zines, to perfect-bound books, to using risograph printing or whatever, so I’m not exclusively into photocopying. It really just depends on the project. These days it’s quite easy to find high-quality printing at an affordable price, and it’s nice to just sit at home and wait for the printer to deliver the stuff to your doorstep, especially when you’ve spent years doing everything by hand, but there’s still something to be said for actually doing it all yourself and having something that’s hand-made. Now it’s not really a necessity, I’ll do it for aesthetic reasons now.
What do you think is the place of independent print publishing now media has fully shifted onto the internet? For instance, I came across your images because of Tumblr; what is the purpose of printing for you?
Well, I like Tumblr and the general affluence of images that we have access to, but I also really like to hold things in my hands and you can’t do that with a jpeg yet. It’s nice to have something on your bookshelf. Plus I’m a bit of a collector. All the zines I make are limited edition releases that aren’t usually available for long, there’s a nice feeling to owning something like that. It gives you an edge in life, a little perk in your step.
What was your intention when you set up the press/label?
Kiddiepunk’s always had a pretty specific vibe and everything we do has to fit in with that vibe. All of my work is centred on childhood. It’s a very specific and focused vein that I’m mining so you’re not going to find anything that isn’t related to that from Kiddiepunk, whether the release is by me or anyone else. That kind of narrow approach is something that I like, a way of working that interests me. I have no real interest in being a “publisher”, what I have as my central focus is a particular mood or feeling. You only want to put things in there that can all live together in some way.
What has influenced the work? There’s obviously quite a specific history around zine publishing, what was your first experience of or introduction to that?
My first introduction to zines was when I was pretty young, maybe around 13 or so and probably came from punk music. A lot of the bands I was listening to at the time were making zines, so I probably first got interested in them from these sources. I guess there was an aesthetic that I was attracted to. Then I started getting involved in the zine community in Melbourne a little bit, some of my friends were making zines. I never intended to keep doing it. It’s kind of like a bad habit, really. For some reason, I can never seem to keep my hand out of the cookie jar for long. I also still bite my fingernails, which is another bad habit.
How does that interest in printing and the handmade translate into your film production?
I’m not sure… I guess if there’s a common ground it would be in the approach. I figured out pretty early on that if you want something done, you really should just get up and do it yourself. I’m not one to wait around for someone else to decide they want to help me do something. Plus, I like to work. I’m fairly insular. I just like to make things, and I don’t concern myself too much with the outside world. So with my films, at least up until this point anyway, it’s the same deal. There’s no real crew or anything. I work on them the same way I work on anything else. That is to say, I pretty much do everything myself. So maybe that’s something that I’ve taken from making zines, although I’ve been making films and video works in some form or other for a lot longer, since I was 7 or 8. I don’t know, it’s probably just my personality. I’m kind of exactly the same as I was when I was a kid. I was doing the exact same things then as I am now. Maybe one of these days I’ll get a life.
Teenage Satanists in Oklahoma Issue #2 is available 13th March at www.kiddiepunk.com