Here at O&O we really do love the printed medium. We love the way it feels, the way it smells, even the way it looks on our book shelves. Therefore we get very excited to hear about local people who are keeping this trend alive.
Therefore when we had a chance encounter in Traveling Man with CJ Reay of Black Lodge Press we decided to ask him some questions and hear all about what got him into the medium to begin.
Could you tell us about Black Lodge Press and how it formed?
Black Lodge Press started as ‘Newcastle Nerd Punx’ back in Newcastle a few years ago. Me and a few friends would make comics and zines and would screenprint t-shirts and things. It was basically a loose collective of people involved in the DIY punk scene in Newcastle who liked to do creative arty things. We also started a monthly guide-zine called ‘Lets Go!’ in which we’d list the best gigs, exhibitions, movies and stuff happening that month, make a ton of copies and then distribute it around the city. Eventually though people moved away and so I took it on and ran it by myself under it’s new name. I basically wanted to set up a DIY record label, but wanted to sell zines and comics instead of records!
How long have you been producing zines?
I’ve probably been making zines properly for about 7 or 8 years now!
Where did your interest in print and zines come from?
When I was little I was super into drawing cartoons and comics, and would often make my own little comic books and photocopy them at the local Spar. So I’ve always been into it, but at the time didn’t have any concept of zines or DIY culture or anything, so I suppose it was when I moved to Newcastle at 19 that I became aware of people making their own little publications and zines and things, and I just thought it was amazing. The first zines I found were within the anarchist community in the city, and were ultra political but also had a humour and artistic sensibility to them. Zines can literally be about anything, and so for putting new or radical ideas out there - they’re a fantastic vehicle for it. Over time I discovered the huge variety there is in zine and DIY comic making, from hand written, badly photocopied anarchist zines to beautifully designed photography zines where you can tell the creator has spent about 2 months trying out different paper stocks to get it just right.
What influences your work?
For years now I’ve been involved in the DIY punk and queer community in the North East, and so the things I create are kinda shaped by the politics and ethics of those communities.
Saying that though, I put out a pretty varied range of zines and comics, and so my influences are also pretty varied! Sometimes I just like to create slightly daft, quite personal zines. Like one of the most recent ones I did was ‘Butt Springsteen’, which is basically a 20 page illustrated zine about Bruce Spingsteen and his amazing butt! It comes out of relating to Bruce as a young queer kid and having a huge crush on him (although I still totally fancy him now!), but also how his music has been important to me through my life. I’ve also done photography zines, as I think aesthetically photozines can be really beautiful. A zine can in effect act like an art exhibition or a photography exhibition, but one that’s accessible to anybody who picks it up, which I think can be quite liberating as an artist; you’re not worrying about where you’re going to exhibit your work as all you have to do is compile it and print it.
I’m a huge indie comics nerd so I love to draw and publish comics too, sometimes these are autobiographical, other times purely fictional. Again with the comics I think aesthetically they can be done in a really beautiful way, and so I’m just as invested in layout and colour and style when I’m creating the comic as I am with the story.
Oh I also do a bunch of Twin Peaks related zines too, as I’m a bit of a Twin Peaks obsessive!
You help publish and sell other artists’ zines and work through Black Lodge Press, how have you come across these collaborations?
I do! I’ve published the work of people who are really great friends of mine and whose work is simply amazing. So I’ve put out comics by Jack Fallows, whose a Newcastle based comic creator, and his recent ‘Axolotl’ series which Black Lodge put out got him shortlisted for The British Comic Awards last year. Jack is just ridiculously talented. I’ve also put out work by Andrew Lips, whose an amazing queer comic book creator and one of my best friends in the world. Their work looks at all sorts of things, such as living as a trans person, parenting and sexual liberation! I’ve also re-published the comic series ‘Just So You Know’ by American artist Joey Allison Sayers, which is a brilliant comic book series about coming out as trans and living life as a woman. I read ‘Just So You Know’ years ago, but you couldn’t buy it anywhere as it only had the one print run, so Andrew told me "You need to contact Joey and you HAVE to republish this comic!".
You moved from Newcastle upon Tyne to York, how does the DIY and zine scene differ?
I moved to York about 8 months ago, and at first I thought "uh oh, this city seems pretty quiet", but since then I keep finding all these awesome people creating amazing zines and building a DIY culture which is really exciting!
In Newcastle there’s an amazing place called The Star and Shadow, which is a wonderful arts space, gig venue and cinema all run by volunteers, and is basically the beating heart of underground and DIY culture in Newcastle. In York there isn’t really a place like that at the moment, and so I think it’s maybe a little trickier to find people into the same things. But, there’s been some great gigs and events recently which I think have started to bring different people involved in DIY stuff together, and new connections are being made all the time. Last month a great DIY music and zine event was held at Dusk, and the opening of the Fleeting Arms on Gillygate will hopefully provide a good space for underground and alternative happenings. A permanent space like The Star and Shadow for people to meet and talk and create together would be amazing though!
Where should people who are interested in finding out more about zines, autobio comics and linoprinted journals look in York?
I’m going to say Travelling Man comic book store on Goodramgate. That’s a very biased answer though as I do in fact work there! But, we have a growing and really nice Small Press section which houses some great zines and comics both from local people and from further afar, plus we’re hoping to put on more events and stuff in the next year which will hopefully connect people from the DIY zine and art scene to those in the DIY music scene and elsewhere too!
Any up and coming artists in York that we should keep an eye on?
From working in Travelling Man I’ve been lucky to meet quite a few. A great young local comic artist who comes in the shop and whose currently working on some exciting projects is Abz Harding. I also love the little handmade zines of local artist Sumena Owen. There was also a great zine put out last year by Emma Swanton and Henry Raby which looked at the York music scene from a feminist perspective and interviewed lots of female musicians and performers from York. And, although she’s based in Leeds rather than York, the comics and zines of Kristyna Baczynski are some of my faves and everyone should check her amazing artwork!
Where can people find out more about Black Lodge Press?
You can see the shop at etsy.blacklodgepress.com, or also on facebook at facebook.com/BlackLodgePress. I also just got on Twitter too, which is a bit scary, but I’m at @blacklodgepress. Also though, just come into Travelling Man. I’m usually there, and I’m always up for talking about zines!