In the age of information overload and with magazine publications falling off the radar into the bottomless paper shredder of doom it is difficult to imagine why anyone would want to venture into the world of publishing at all. Marc Thomas, creator of a new online magazine Journal of Plastik, is optimistic, for his zine at least. We caught up with Marc via e mail to find out why he decided to launch a pop culture focused webzine…
Cat On The Wall: First up, why did you decide to set up and run a zine?
Marc Thomas: In the past I’ve written heaps of articles for a couple of Christian magazines, Politics magazines etc. I started the magazine to broaden my horizons. I’m a bit of a ‘give it a go’ kind of person. The magazine seems to have taken off.
COTW: You publish on the internet rather than produce a printed zine, why?
MT:I publish on the internet because mostly my skills lie in designing for web and making things look nice and clean on a monitor as opposed to on paper. Designing for print is always tricky and it’s expensive. However, in future, I would love it if a print version of the magazine could be put out once in a while. We’ll see.
COTW: You use a quote from Andy Warhol on the home page ‘I want to be plastik’, at least you think it’s a quote from Warhol. What does that mean to you and how does it relate to the Journal of Plastik?
MT:Well, originally, I had seen that quote on a poster for an art exhibition in Berlin and thought it looked good. A year later, when I started Plastik, I needed a name and thought, “Warhol embodies my ideas about pop culture, why not Warhol?” As it turns out, I have taken the quote grossly out of context. The idea is now that, if culture is what you make it, there is nothing natural about culture – it’s plastik. The ‘k’ is just kitsch.
COTW: The title of the magazine states that it is ‘the alternative magazine of pop culture in Cardiff’. Why did you choose to limit the location of the magazine to Cardiff? There are quite a few pop culture related magazines based in Cardiff both on and offline, why do you think that is?
MT:Well, when Plastik started, I was fairly ignorant of the magazines of Cardiff. I had read Buzz a lot and I had heard of Kruger – that was all I knew of in terms of magazine. I thought it was an original idea, and to a certain extent it was. We’re more interested in writing opinion articles and features, although, we’ve review a lot.
In terms of the location, South Wales is where I live at the moment and you need a niche – Cardiff is undergoing an evolution of sorts. It’s becoming a really interesting place to live so it seems logical that lots of magazines have sprung up to cover this change. In fact, the media is part of the change. It’s vital to Cardiff becoming a city of culture.
COTW: Journal of Plastik uses illustrations to accompany some of the articles. Can you tell us about the artist/s, how did you come to work with them? Why do you use illustrations?
MT:Hannah Wretham? She’s my fiancée – nepotism, I know. She studies fine art. I was saying that I was wanting to get some illustrations a la Daytrotter. She said she’d be thrilled to do them. Whenever she has time, and I’m publishing, she does and illustration. I guess we use them because it’s often times a bit more interesting than a picture – also, I think the soft style compliments the website.
COTW: There is a growing following of the magazine on Twitter, however I’ve yet to find a facebook page. Is using social networking as a promotional tool important to you, has it helped in gaining more readership?
MT:Social networking is utterly important today. We’ve got a facebook page, but it’s not visible to anyone – the age of facebook has passed. There are so many more interesting social media now. Twitter has been responsible for a large number of hits and regular readers. I’m always pleasantly surprised to see the traffic figures!
COTW: You use Spotify for the distribution of your mixtapes. Why Spotify?
MT:We’re a new magazine, just a half a year old actually. We don’t have the relationships with agents and labels that some of the older magazines do and as such we can’t guarantee being able to get to use the tracks we want to each month – but with Spotify, we can. It’s such a good idea, a library of music.
COTW: What is your view on the future of zines?
MT:The future of publishing and zines. It’s a bit bleak. The art of the prose piece is largely an artefact of a time gone by. The great social commentators are long gone and only a few aging relics remain (New Yorker for example.) Now we’ve entered the age of the 50 word review, most people only getting into writing for magazines because they want a copy of the next big thing’s new album before it’s released or whatever. I hope it doesn’t carry on going in the direction that it’s going – but I do hope PR people still keep sending us the albums, because they’re awesome.
COTW: What does the future hold for the Journal of Plastik?
MT: Well, we’ll really have to wait and see. Hopefully we’ll get more writers, more readers, but really in the long term, we’d like to become a central part of the scene here in Cardiff. It’s really just so exciting to see all the bands coming, poetry readings becoming more popular, theatre being produced in bars, magazines popping up all over the place. We want to be a part of that.
Interview by Jo Whitby