Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Street Press (1999)

I've always enjoyed writing about music. When I was a teenager I tried putting together my own metal 'zine. I interviewed a band, ripped into another's live show and drew a comic to go along with it all. It was hand-written. It never ventured outside my bedroom.

In the mid-nineties I applied - and was surprisingly successful - in getting a gig on the Tertangala, the University of Wollongong's student paper. This was a little controversial as I wasn't a uni student. Nonetheless, I was grateful for the opportunity and throughout the next four or five years built up my skills and made many friends, some of which I still maintain contact with.

During this time IMM, Zonk, Bulb and Pulse all came and went. I'm not sure what forces were at work but leading into the year 2000 my time at the Tert was coming to an end. It might've been the Howard Government's Voluntary Student Unionism which saw funds cut to zero, or maybe it was the Young Liberals getting a foothold on the SRC. Whatever the impetus, I thought I'd try my hand at being an editor of a street press - despite not being university educated.

Necessity, they say, is the mother of invention. And as my idea was bigger than my resources, I had to get creative. I had no computer so relied on the Tert's equipment after hours. I had a few contacts and so was able to rustle together some interesting subjects to interview. I pilfered the Tert's unused review items, and badgered my mates into writing some articles.

At home I was living on struggle street to the point where I only had incoming calls on my phone. Living close to a public phone situated at a train station, I'd time my outgoing calls according to the train timetable to ensure quiet and call the record labels, book publishers, advertisers, printers and interviewees from there, never letting on that they were doing business with some upstart with zero financial backing.

Finally, I filled any blank spaces with professional ads scanned from the likes of Drum Media. I figured the advertisers wouldn't mind getting some free space, and made the publication look authentic. Smoke n' mirrors has long been a phrase I've stood by.

I was, and remain, a minimalist when it comes to design. Choosing a simple name I then laid-out the magazine in a simple, but effective cut n' paste style, using typewriter font.

All things considered I am quite proud of my achievements, despite not getting past issue #1. The content was varied, focusing on music and politics, with a healthy look at art, literature, lifestyle and even sport. Thumlock appeared on the cover (though a printing error saw their name left off), there was a Feldeen and Phial feature, I interviewed Dropkick Murphy's, there was an expose on the steel strapping plant proposed for Haywards Bay, Ben Langford wrote about the republic referendum which was a hot topic at the time, Al Turner looked into the tattoo and piercing culture, I covered the anniversary edition of classic Australian film Stone, Mez Breeze dissected multimedia art, Manuel Sharrad of Infusion interviewed Pound System, I reviewed a Machine Translations & Vvovo show and I even interviewed surfer Ralph Riddell despite not knowing my goofy from my regular stance.

I used the first issue to push for some financial support from various organisations, but alas, it wasn't to be. I was soon offered a position with major music retail chain, Sanity. Being a young man with hungry mouths to feed I abandoned the idea of Street Press and took the easy route. Unfortunately, it turned out to be an expensive lesson, with the retailer dumping me at first opportunity. Not because I was failing in my performance, but rather because I raised a few too many issues the Union may have been interested in. Within six months, I'd been shafted.

But I got my own back. A few years later I was working at Telstra Directories and whenever someone called to be put through to their local Sanity store, I'd instead provide the number of Brett Blundy - Sanity's CEO who gave the direction to fire me and who foolishly still had his private number listed. It was a small victory. A greater victory was to come by finding financial stability and contentment without their shitty job.

Twelve years later and I have acquired a rewarding full-time job outside the music and media industries, a fully functional computer, and a phone with outgoing services.

Download the one and only issue of Street Press in fabulous pdf format.

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