Books & Zines

“DIY Conspiracy” creators discuss the joy and freedom of running a zine

13 mins read

“The unbroken spirit of the anti-authoritarian and Do-It-Yourself punk culture.”, says the official word. With a whole lot of interesting columns, reviews, interviews and reports, DIY Conpiracy Zine follows exactly this pro bono path of delivering us high quality independent thoughts, with some of them being pulled out from the acclaimed Bulgarian zine “Tigersuit” run by Miko, and some of them developed by Angel, who’s been writing for I Just Wanna Be A Better Man, RawkNRoll, HeathenHarvest, and a few other magazines. Being in constant search for more members of their network, they are open to all comments, suggestions and contributions that help them spread their wings even further and produce more valuable content on an international scale.

Check out Mirko’s “Tigersuit” (the fourth issue is still available!) and dive into my interview with him and his buddy Angel. Enjoy!

DIY Conspiracy Zine logo

Hey guys! Thanks a lot for checking in with this interview! How are you?

Angel: Hey, thanks for getting in touch and doing this interview. It’s nice to answer a bunch of questions about whatever you’re into for a change. Especially when most of your daily routine is filled with either discussing other people’s work, asking questions yourself or just writing about stuff you merely care about so you pay the bills ha-ha. That said I guess we’re feeling pretty cool, right Mitko?

Mitko: I’m a bit embarassed to answer your questions but not as much as doing these stupid photos for the interview.

Ok, so let’s learn a bit about your story. What is the first zine you ever read? How did it make you feel?

Mitko: I think it was Combined Effort in 2001. This was a hardcore punk zine from Varna, Bulgaria. Georgi was then playing in a band called CABANI and he is still an awesome guy now but I wasn’t that much impressed by his zine. I thought it was over-the-top and if I was going to write a fanzine it would be much more in-depth and ‘political’. The zine that really got resonated in me was Profane Existence. When I’ve got my first copies of PE I was like this is it! That’s what I’m talking about. HeartattaCk was another big influence on me. I was also reading a lot of zines about politics, insurrection, sexuality and consent, queer and feminist zines, anarcho-primitivism, etc. I was very critical on the hc/punk zines or records and I really didn’t like the Youth Crew stuff.

Angel: It was a pretty poorly written black metal zine, whose name I don’t even want to remember as I was more put off by the execution of that piece of crap and was left kinda puzzled how such a badly approached magazine can claim to be an alternative of commercial media. I’m coming from more different musical background and it took me a while to get into the punk / hardcore zine scene, I probably have read 1/8 of the zines Mitko has, but I’ve been more of an Internet guy.

However, huge eye openers for me have been issues of 325, Communique1 and Greece’s Our Lives of Burning Vision. I also love zines dedicated to the lifetime of a band, which are so full of memories, I love those about 7 GENERATIONS and CHAMPION.

When did you begin writing and what magazines hosted your debut articles?

Mitko: When I first started listening to underground music around 2001-2002 there were still tons of zines from all around the world. The Internet wasn’t that big and we had a dial-up connection with 1 or 2 kbps and enormous telephone bills. Since the beginning I was more interested in buying zines than records. I was living in a relatively small Bulgarian town and it was exciting to exchange letters with like-minded people abroad and receive zines, even in languages I don’t understand. Most of the zinesters I was getting in touch with were interested to learn about the Bulgarian hardcore punk scene, so the first articles that I’d written were Bulgarian scene reports for zines in Russia, Czech Republic, Slovakia, France, Philippines, Lithuania…

Angel: I started writing news pieces and interviews for a few Bulgarian metal e-zines around 2003-2004 maybe. Luckily all that stuff has disappeared from the internet as of today ha-ha. Never been involved in the old school way of writing zines, as I told you, I love the Internet and it’s my favourite outlet. My only involvement in real zines are few pieces that I wrote for Mitko’s Tigersuit. Few years ago, when I actually started writing professionally it was for two local newspapers. However, nowadays I mostly write online content.

What’s the story of how DIY Conspiracy Zine started? Did you have any influences that led you to this project? You seem to have a group of fluent English speakers over at DIY Conspiracy. Was the zine always available in this language alone? Have you thought of pressing printed versions of your zine? Does DIY Conspiracy have a history of printed editions?

Mitko: I think it all started in 2005 when my friend Jordan, wish him all the best because he recently became a father and started Dead Men Records, asked me if I want to do a hardcore punk zine called Straight From The Inside together with him. He was very much into straight edge hardcore at that time and I was into punk, crust and zines like Profane Existence. We did some excellent interviews and articles for a very short time but we sucked at doing the layout. At the same time our friend Itzo printed the first issue of his zine Katarzis (Bulgarian word for Catharsis). The first few issues of Katarzis featured Bulgarian translations of the book “Days of War, Nights of Love“. So we decided to create a website and publish both the stuff from our non-printed zine and his CrimethInc. translations. Together with Itzo and some other friends we were just getting into dumpster-diving, food liberation, stencils, Really Really Free Market, Food Not Bombs, we were writing for Indymedia Bulgaria, handling out leaflets about vegetarianism and activism. Straight From The Inside became a name for our gig collective and label.

So basically DIY Conspiracy was a webzine in Bulgarian language started in 2005. In September 2010 I moved to Sofia together with a guy called Filip we published 4 issues of Tigersuit Zine. DIY Conspiracy was still going pretty well online at the time when we were issuing Tigersuit. Unfortunatelly we have a really small scene and you can’t distribute more than 50 copies of a hardcore punk zine in Bulgarian language. I had a big stacks of zines on my shelves, so we decided to do our fourth issue in both Bulgarian and English, opening the door for a wider distribution. The fourth issue was a success and I’m really happy that it came out. Then both of us joined a radical book publishing project called Anarres Books, so we became book publishers instead of zine publishers.
Check this video from the Tigersuit #4 promo below.

Looking at the site stats of DIY Conspiracy I wasn’t very satisfied, because there was too little traffic coming from Bulgaria. Most of the hits were coming from other countries and they were using “Google Translate” to read the articles. So then I talked with my friend Angel and we decided to relaunch DIY Conspiracy in English. I was very excited to do this together with him, because we were already booking shows together, he was a fluent English speaker and already into writing stuff for various media outlets. Filip was the best possible person to do Tigersuit Zine together with, and Angel is the best guy to work together with for DIY Conspiracy Webzine.

So how many people are involved and where are you based?

Mitko: The location doesn’t matter. Basically we want to have people from all over the world writing news, reviews, scene reports and conducting interviews with people and bands on an international scale. In reality we found only a guy called Matthew from Austin, TX, who joined us a while ago.

Angel: That being said, one huge downside of online media outlets, especially when they’re done pro-bono is that people don’t take their part serious enough even if it’s actually not so hard to come up with an interesting and unique piece by just browsing through your friends from bands’ Facebook profiles.

What is some of the overall goal of the zine? What’s your mission?

Angel: We want to spread the word about people who are living an alternative lifestyle, who are creating something new and worthy. We’re not judges, but we do appreciate or criticise as opinions are what matter in communication and spreading a certain idea and not blatant advertising or copy-pasting press releases for already hyped artists, events or causes.

Besides promoting new names we also really enjoy digging long-forgotten pieces of writing from old zines and books, which we’re sure will never be digitalised. See, DIYconspiracy is mostly an internet project mostly, but still we’re placed somewhere on the digital edge, as we don’t care about clicks and traffic (even if they have been pretty inspiring lately), what we do care is the essence of words, the message and impact of sound and art in general. And yes, that’s why we throw events from time to time, so we don’t really lose touch with the real world.

DIY Conspiracy

You have an affinity towards “my kind” of hardcore punk and a lot of artists and music that coincides with my tastes. What’s the key for chosing this particular content?

Mitko: I don’t know, I think we are just nerds listening to a broad spectre of underground music and we are not focused on just one single genre or aspect of the music.

Angel: We’re predominantly covering punk and hardcore but you can see a lot of experimental stuff as well, even hip-hop, black metal, post-metal… you name it. In the end of the day it’s music that matters, not the genre names.

Is there one subgenre or a label that you prefer more than others? Considering the whole punk scene, what entertains you the most?

Mitko: I don’t know, different artists have different approach, lyricism, message and atmosphere in their music. As Efrim Menuck from Godspeed You! Black Emperor puts it: “You make music for the king and his court, or for the serfs outside the walls”, punk scene or the whole DIY underground for me is the subversive art of those living outside the walls and that’s what entertains me the most.

Angel: I find it harder and harder to full enjoy standard guitar+drums+bass+vocal music. Lately I prefer smaller bands, with musicians who switch between instruments, who limit themselves in terms of gear in order to focus on their ideas, in order to come up with something you can’t really see nowadays. However, I don’t close my eyes for anything just listen and either replay or skip. But Mitko will have to agree that we all enjoy Ebullition, Topshelf, Adagio, Consouling Sounds, Sige, Hydrahead (RIP) and many, many small one-man armies going against the stream of shitty music business.

Apart from the music, are there any topics you think need to be covered more in zines and web-zines?

Mitko: I think most of the webzines that came out recently are focusing so much on sheer entertainment. Cvlt Nation started out as a great website with reviews and interviews but now it’s something like a metal version of Buzzfeed or Bored Panda. There’s so much useless crap out there. Or when I see one of my favorite bands interviewed somewhere and they are asked some really stupid questions. If you want to write about something or feel some topic is more important than others, get a research on that topic and do something meaningful. Personally, I’m a fan of science fiction and I think you can learn a lot about creativity and thinking outside of the box from the sci-fi fandom and fanzines. I think my favorite Bulgarian fanzine is one about Stanislaw Lem.

Angel: We need more food-related content everywhere, but not simple vegan or vegetarian propaganda, just tasty stuff that will make you drool and bail on work so you go back home and cook. We need more literature reviews, as kids nowadays should really get back to reading as internet may be a cool place, but the way people write on it makes me puke. We need more DIY advices, not only for nerds that like to build stuff, but just simple tips&tricks how one can make their life more conscious and eco-friendly.

Ok, so what are some of the cons of running a zine? How tough is it to finance such an undertaking?

Mitko: Doing a 100+ pages full-print magazine as it was the case with the last issue of Tigersuit is extremely costly. Releasing punk music on vinyl, touring with your band or publishing radical literature is also expensive. The biggest cons, in my experience, are that you’re becoming a total nerd spending your whole time listening to music, reading stuff, writing, contacting band members or influential people and often times feel disappointed how much of an idiots are they once you get in touch with them.

Angel: Doing an online zine is also as hard as that, because if a person buys a printed zine and doesn’t like it… well it’s already sold and paid. However, if you’re a lousy writer your e-zine will quickly disappear in the endless depths of the web. It’s costing less money tho, but the time cost is pretty much the same.

As a zine publisher, how do you measure success?

Mitko: As a zine publisher the biggest success is when I have the printed stuff in my hands. It’s success every time when you do a great interview or write about something you care about. It’s really empowering to do interviews with some of your favorite bands and artists. When you do something unique and do it yourself. As a book publisher with Anarres is somewhat different, because our books are being sold in the mainstream bookstores and it’s success when they are available to as many people as possible, it’s not just something that’s coming out of your passion for a subculture of dropouts and freaks.

What’s the joy of doing it?

Mitko: It is the joy of doing it.

Haha, fair enough :) What is your vision for DIY Conspiracy over the next couple of years?

Mitko: More people join in as writers, reviewers or whatever. People from different continents. Also booking more shows of awesome bands as DIY Conspiracy. Doing more zine reading and vinyl listening hangouts, more nerdery, etc.

Angel: Seriously, we need a vegetarian/vegan food columnist and people who are keen on writing seriously.

DIY COnpiracy Zine

Alright guys. Do you have any advice for someone looking to create a webzine? Any tips for aspiring authors and future publishers?

Angel: I actually got all of my jobs (full-time & freelance) because of the stuff that I write for various e-zines, because of the shows that I book, because of the music I play. So people, please start taking everything you do seriously as pfff… maybe you really are good enough to be noticed and appreciated.

Mitko: It’s very easy to start your own blog or a webzine. With internet and computers you are able to do whatever webzine or a printed zine you want. In terms of DIY, just don’t do it if you don’t feel the need to. I think it’s more important to build communities outside of the media channels. If you feel like DIY hardcore punk is your thing, just go to shows, start your own bands and projects, cook food for touring bands, be involved in the local community, support your local social centers and people fighting for something good. We’re involved in our local community and use the name and platform of DIY Conspiracy or whatever to book shows, organise movie screenings, vinyl listening parties, zine reading hangouts, vegan feasts, etc. Doing a zine or a website is just a tool for sharing and spreading information when you are already part of something bigger, when you meet a lot of interesting bands and people, when you listen to great music, when you have something to say and it should be saved in an art form on a piece of paper or digitally.

Any printed or e-zines you’d like to share here before I let you go?

Mitko: The CrimethInc. website is always worth visiting. You can also check Green Is The New Red, Because We Must, The Talon Conspiracy if you’re into activism or social issues. :) As for hardcore punk webzines you know there are so many blogs and websites but we all get our information from facebook. I would recommend Greg Bennick‘s webzine Words As Weapons. As for printed zines most of my favorite are no longer in print. Mountza and Keep It Real from Greece were awesome. Hopefully Profane Existence will be back as a full-print magazine. Law&Order from Sweden rules. And there will always be many half-sized zines about different topics. Leave Me Alone from Cluj-Napoca in Romania is one of them that I really like, because it’s about the things I feel passionated about and done by people I love. If you have the chance to see my favorite current bands RUINED FAMILIES or REMEK playing live you should ask them about the zines and great things happening respectivelly in Greece or Czech Republic. :)

Angel: I’d highly recommend that you check Shelter Press and Wounded Wolf Press, those are two small publishing collectives that do very interesting things. I also highly recommend Yo Vegan – a rad food zine ran by Yohanna from xIRONx.

When you first heard about IDIOTEQ? What did you think about my little webzine?

Angel: I was answering a bunch of questions that you were sending to Jordan while we were still playing in our band EXPECTATIONS and until then I’ve keep an eye on the site. I enjoyed it back then and I enjoy it now as well, however, I mostly read the interviews as the news feed is a bit too busy for me to follow and hardcore / punk videos I don’t really like. But thinking about it now it’s really cool that it really grew big and important for just a few years. As I said before hard work always pays in the end.

Mitko: The first thing I checked was the interview with EXPECTATIONS. Then I’ve checked some other stuff and thought you’re doing a great webzine.

Haha, thanks! :) Ok guys. Thanks so much for a bunch of insightful answers! Any last words?

Mitko: Go vegan! Don’t numb yourself into apathy, follow no leaders. Read more sci-fi books, I’ve been fascinated by David Zindell and should recommend you “A Requiem For Homo Sapiens” trilogy (“The Broken God”, “The Wild” and “War In Heaven”). Also Stanislaw Lem, Ivan Efremov, Frank Herbert, you know the classics! Check out for translations in your native language of Viktor Pelevin. Check out Nick Blinko and RUDIMENTARY PENI, learn about CRASS and their legacy. Try to speak Polish and listen to DEZERTER, HOMOMILITIA, SIEKIERA, POST REGIMENT, EL BANDA, APATIA, CYMEON X, MIND POLLUTION, NEXT VICTIM… buy stuff from Refuse Records, read more zines and start your own adventures!

Angel: I’d ask people to buy more music directly from the artists, to help bands tour not just by booking shows, but by simply attending, to experiment with their own tastes in art when needed. To read more but also never forget the 8 and 16 bit consoles, because the Internet is cool, but playing Mortal Kombat on a CRT TV… that’s the real deal.

Cheers! Best of luck with the amazing job you do!

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