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IZM Interviews: Russell Barker (Lunchtime For The Wild Youth)

Issue 2 of Lunchtime For The Wild Youth

Hi Russell! Happy International Zine Month! How is life going at the moment? For people who don’t know you, can you tell me a bit about yourself?

Life is good, but rather different than before! I live in Oxford with my family (wife and 2 kids). Oxford is a wonderful place to live, a small city with lots of creative stuff going on, but also close to the countryside. We moved here almost 20 years ago and I almost immediately immersed myself in the great music scene we have here. Over that time I’ve been a promoter, run a record label, written reviews, managed a band (poorly and briefly) and now I’m writing zines. I’ve also recently become a trustee of the Young Women’s Music Project.

Your zine Lunchtime For the Wild Youth is a music memoir zine that you make with your daughter on illustrations. How did you originally come up with making zines together? What’s the process, how do the two of decide what Robyn will be drawing for each issue? You’ve made an impressive number of issues already – do you have a favourite so far?

I’d been meaning to do one for a while, then finally got around to it. I loved the music zines I bought in the eighties and thought I should do something similar, just from a distance of many years. I decided it should be produced in a similar style to those old zines, so gathered the things together I needed. I already had a manual typewriter from Freecycle. So it’s a proper cut and paste affair. The notes are all handwritten, then typed up. The only bit of technology used is where I scan them into a computer to print off.

Initially I was going to make it on my own, but when I was writing it Robyn asked me what I was doing and went away and drew a picture of me listening to music. So that became the first cover. The first issue was all about albums from the eighties and I was going to be text heavy, so this gave me the idea to get some more drawings in there. I started fetching the covers of the albums I’d written about and asking her to draw them and it all fell together. Then we had to work out the commission rate, obviously. She’d have been 7 when we she did those first drawings, she’s almost 11 now. We’ve kept an old school cover price at £1 too.

The first issue of Lunchtime For The Wild Youth.

The name is from a song by the Chesterfields that features on an album in that first issue. The non-rebellious nature of it and the reference to youth made it seems perfect. Tales of a well-spent youth as I once called it.

Nowadays I get on with writing the issues and leave her a pile of pictures/album covers to draw. For the covers I sometimes request something, other times I leave it up to her.

The majority of the 28 issues so far have been about gigs I went to. I had a gig book with tickets in that went as far as 1998. I’m currently collating the list as we go since then, using ticket stubs, reviews and diaries. I’m sure I’ve missed loads though. We’ve also had issues on eighties albums, 10” singles, a colouring book, a Xmas special, an Australia issue, animal songs, lost nineties albums (featuring guest contributors), a split zine with Lights Go Out, gig programmes and badges.

I love the cover of the Australia issue, Robyn cut up coloured paper into a Walkman. It’s on the shirts we wear at zine fairs. That might be my favourite issue too. I’m currently writing issue 29, which is gigs from 2003. Starting to wonder if I was ever in. Having said that, looks like I went to even more in 2004!

Have you made other zines at all, if so can you tell me a bit about them?

Nothing before Lunchtime for the Wild Youth. There were two one offs in the midst of Lunchtime issues. Recovery Position was 4 pieces of writing I did, 3 of them fiction. In Loving Memory Of The Spam Obituaries was a collection of spoof obituaries that we did on a blog years ago. We’d take the names of senders of spam email, then write an imaginary obituary for them.

The kids both have their own zines. Robyn has a comic called Book Fountain, which has 4 issues. My son Joe, who is 6, has one called Ghost Zine, which has 2 issues. Lots of drawings of ghosts basically. He came to sell them at the shows we put on, he’s quite the hit in the Oxford DIY scene.

I’m guessing you’re a fan of music zines generally – do you have any favourites or fond memories of any particular zines?

Russell at Somerset house for Process! zine fair.

I’m lucky enough to be old enough to have bought some in the eighties, which I was reunited with a couple of years ago from my mum’s loft. So there were great things like Are You Scared To Get Happy?, Kvatch, Especially Yellow, Rox, so much good stuff.

Every now and then one would pop up for a short while, Wrap Yr Troubles In Dreams and others from the early days of Indietracks. Then I discovered the All Thrills No Frills Music Bill zine that Fliss did. It was fantastic, made me want to make zines (although it took me a while to actually do it!) and changed the way I write about music. It’s now much more anecdotal and personal than analytical.

There was a great one called Chisel Tip in more recent times. Really miss that one. Currently there is some great stuff being made in terms of music zines. Lights Go Out, Gadgie, Mazie, The Screever, Vinyl Dyke, Back of the Gig, Thirsty and Miserable, Chewn! Zine. Add to those Pint-Sized Punk, made by 10 year old Arlo in Bristol, which is ace.

Pre-Covid you were putting on all-ages matinee shows in Oxford. I’ve seen a growing number of purposeful all-ages and child-friendly gigs happening in Manchester too. Do you think there’s a growing thirst for all-ages shows at the moment? (I ask as someone who saw a fair bit of live music as a kid and in my teens myself, but after that lots of gigs seemed to be 18+. I can’t be sure if that was a general trend or if I was just going to different kinds of venues) How have your shows been received so far?

I think there is more of an acknowledgement that they are needed nowadays. I mean, why should kids not be allowed in just so the adults can have a beer? Ours came about as Robyn wanted to go to some gigs and there was a distinct lack in Oxford for all ages. And the ones that were didn’t finish until really late, so didn’t totally understand kids. One of the venues we went to an all dayer at, even has some bizarre rule that under 18s have to leave at 9pm. Nobody could explain to me why. Top tip – if you encounter this, stay in the room after the previous band finishes and sit on the floor at the front. Just before 9pm the room starts to fill up, security is on the door and can’t see you and you can stay. Anyway, I digress.

So, as usual, if something doesn’t exist, you make it yourself. Making them accessible for kids makes you consider other accessibility issues. So we needed a venue that was wheelchair accessible, had some seats if you needed them, a quiet room and toilets we could make gender neutral. And we found it in the wonderful Deaf & Hard of Hearing Centre.

We did 3 shows at the end of last year which went reasonably well and were good fun. Not so many kids, but I’ve not worked out the best way to market it to younger people. We made and gave away programmes for each gig in which we interviewed the bands and filled the rest with articles about good causes, such as Attitude Is Everything and Solidarity Not Silence.

As everything with 2020 it went a bit pear shaped this year. We had to cancel the 4th show, then they announced they were selling the Deaf Centre at the end of March, at which point Covid hit anyway. Hopefully we’ll be back, who knows when though.

Russell’s daughter Robyn at Process! zine fair.

Do you have any tips you can share – on making zines, or encouraging kids to get making them themselves?

The beauty of zines is they can be about anything, so just write about what you love. There’s always at least one person who will want to read it.

We ran a family zine making workshop at Brum Zine Fest last year. They asked me, I said yes without thinking. I don’t really like public speaking and had no idea what to do. In the end we just got lots of materials and started by telling people what we do, showing them zines, then we just got on with it. The workshop was supposed to last an hour, but it was probably twice that in the end we had such fun.

Think that’s a long way of saying, have a box of old books and magazines, pens, paper, pritt stick and scissors. Wheel them out for the kids and let them go for it! Don’t be afraid to make mistakes too. Talent isn’t necessary. I did some drawing on a flipchart at that workshop to prove that point.

Can you share some of your favourite things from the zine world?

I love the whole zine community! We did a lot of zine fairs in 2018 which I loved, just getting to meet lots of interesting people. It’s a very diverse community too, which is great for Robyn to see. Brum Zine Fest was just amazing, but every zine fair has been great in its own way. Big shout out to all the people who put so much time into running distros too.

We don’t sell many zines, but I actually enjoying trading them even more. If you see us at a zine fair and wonder if we will trade then the answer is always yes. I love reading anything. I’ve built up a lovely little network of friends, so every time I have a new issue I post it to these 10 or so people. It has the lovely plus that they send me theirs too and who doesn’t love surprise post?!

Do you have any recommendations you want to share? What inspires you?

Oh wow, where to start! Here’s a bunch of albums and EPs I’ve been loving and playing loads in recent months:

Fresh – Withdraw
Stella Donnelly – Beware Of The Dogs
Gia Margaret – There’s Always Glimmer
Arborist – A Northern View
The Humdrum Express – Ultracrepidarian Soup
Girl Ray – Girl
Aphra Taylor – The Night Dances
Fightmilk – Not With That Attitude
Junk Whale – Junk Whale
Max Blansjaar – Spit It Out

Hell Hath No Fury Records is an amazing label and has put out great stuff in recent times by Basic Bitches, Breakup Haircut, Peach Club, not to mention their fab compilations.

I saw Hollie McNish and Vanessa Kisuule do a great poetry show at the start of the year, so go and see them if you get a chance.

Aside from reading the zines I mentioned already, you should check out Same Heartbeats too. Ground is a really good comic I just discovered. If you fancy a beautifully made music magazine, then try Goldflake Paint.

I’ve taken over the box room as a place to keep all the creative things and make the zine. I’ve started decorating the walls with posters and pictures from gigs I’ve put on, events I’ve been part of and the like. So this is a good source of inspiration for when you’re working on something, reminding you that you can do stuff, and are surrounded by incredibly talented people.

Russell and Robyn at Process! zine fair

Do you have any projects you’re working on right now that you’d like to tell people about?

It’s mainly new issues of the zine really. There will be plenty more gig issues and issue 29 is a good way done now. I’ve just interviewed the guy who promoted the gigs at Kidderminster Market Tavern, so there might be a promoters issue. There is a list of other issues I hope to make at some point.  One about REM and my visit to their hometown of Athens, GA. One about band shirts. There’s a bunch of Idlewild and Wedding Present drawings that Robyn did ages ago that need some words. Two of the Idlewild ones are actually photos she took using me as a model, then printed off and drew on the pictures to make the album sleeve.

Is there anything else you’d like to promote? (could be your work, someone else’s, or a cause you’d like to bring attention to, and/or your social media or website etc)

You can buy the zines at Trades are very much welcomed too, just contact us via social media, see below. If you don’t have the funds, but would still like one, contact me and I’ll sort you out. Feel free to ask me via Pen Fight if it feels awkward to contact me directly.

Search for us on Instagram and facebook. We’re on twitter as well – @RussellBarker12

Do check out the other zines and causes and other stuff I’ve mentioned, they are all very worthy of your time!

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IZM Interviews: Russell Barker (Lunchtime For The Wild Youth)

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