Wednesday, July 16, 2008

A DAY IN THE LIFE OF A WOOFAH CONTRIBUTOR

Now, a lot of young writers out there often ask: What does it take to work on a prestigious publication like Woofah? I can only get work on Fact, Plan B and The Wire - surely there's a way to nudge my way up the career ladder?Well, far be it from me to slam the fire door in your face and watch your ambitions turn to ASH - instead, I will attempt to demystify the whole process of working on a fanzine.

Each issue starts off pretty much the same: I make my way to Woofah HQ in Stoke Newington, where the wild foxes roam, armed with a pen (I recommend the Gel-X Rollerball 0.7mm Pilot Pen - a bit pricey, but not too bad if you can find your way around a work stationery cupboard) and a bit of paper.

When I arrive, I'm greeted by an emaciated woman and child, sobbing as they pick at a can of cold baked beans. "Alright, *****, is John about?" I enquire. She nods, choking back a tear, and points the way to the 'creative suite', marked by a "DO NOT DISTURB" banner. As I push my way inside, leaving the kid a 10p coin to buy a pack of Space Raiders, before she completely wastes away, I encounter a mountain of press releases, CDs and vinyl, strewn all over the carpet. John Eden is sprawled across the sofa in his "Anglicans Against Fascism" T-shirt, noisily devouring a mutton jalfrezi, swigging Red Stripe, and barking at the mag's dubstep editor, Paul Meme, down the blower.

I try and clear a spot to sit amidst a pile of Cutty Ranks 12"s, but just end up knocking over a pile of rare Belgian fanzines (Crass, 1982. ZINE: So Panny, wurt is zur favourite colour? RIMBAUD: I thought we were here to talk about the Falklands...ZINE: Wurt does lurve mean zu you?). Eden shoots me a filthy look and slams down the phone.

I suddenly notice there's another Woofah contributor in the room, submerged beneath a sea of page layouts, and scribbling down a review. "Oh, hello ****," I say, but he hears me not. "I suppose you wanna drink?" Eden scowls, before reaching for his RAVE KLAXON. "*****!" he screams. "Bring a glass of Red Stripe -and use one of the small glasses. This is business, not a jolly."

So, anyway, we sort out who's doing what. Or that's the general idea. The phone's constantly ringing, another contributor claiming (s)he can't hit deadline cos a giant fox pissed on his/her laptop. Oh, that reminds me - a bit off-topic, but bollocks to Islamic terrorism and 42 days- you spoilt little brats don't remember the years when Britain faced a REAL fucking nightmare:



Anyway, we eventually sort out what I'm meant to be reviewing. This is a pretty straightforward process, and will provide all you budding students of hackery with a valuable insight into the universal working relationship between 'the editor' and his minions:

JOHN(clutching pile of records): AH...STUDIO ONE QUADRUPLE BOX SET? MINE!! I'LL REVIEW THAT!! "BEST OF GENERAL ECHO"? THAT'S REALLY RARE! I'M REVIEWING THAT ONE!! "ALL JAPAN REGGAE DANCERS CERT-X DANCE-OFF" DVD? I CAN WRITE ABOUT THAT ONE!! IT'S MINE!! LOOK, STEVE BARROW ADDRESSED IT TO ME, NOT YOU!! JAH SCREECHY REPRESS 7"? I'VE BEEN AFTER THAT FOR YEARS, IT'S MINE!! MAXI PRIEST RETROSPECTIVE?? I'LL REVIEW THAT, I BLOGGED ABOUT HIM BEFORE ANYONE ELSE, IT'S MINE, MINE!!

So, anyway...the stuff he doesn't want gets mailed out to the contributors, and I pick up my material for review - let's say it's a copy of Songs for Reggae Lovers. It's now that John snickers and announces that he wants me to write a review of the CD from the perspective of someone who's just listened to it while - I don't know how to tell you this, poor reader - while...PORKING A COUPLE OF ESCORT GIRLS.

"I'm not doing that," I tell him.

"Oh, go on!" the satyr cackles. "It'll be really funny. You can write, "As Freddie McGregor launched into his 2002 slow-jam update of Susan Cadogan's 'Hurt So Good', I rolled off Crystalle and mounted Debrina....bloody hell, I wondered, did Freddie ever have to pay £50 for a hand shandy? Cos he bloody sounds like he needs one"

"That sounds terrible!" I counter. "Why can't I write about something serious, like the fact that somebody got stabbed at the T in the Park festival, but if it had been a grime event there would have been a press outcry?"

"Cos we did that last issue!" he snorts. "Go on, do the call girl piece. It'll be dead funny."

"No!" I yell. "Anyway, I wanna have a word with you about my rate. I don't think 2p per 1,000 reflects my journalistic worth - any chance of raising it to 5p?"

John turns white and starts gasping. He squeezes the RAVE KLAXON like a man possessed. ***** comes running into the room, with a giant bamboo fan, and begins to cool him as he clutches his chest and whimpers..."OH...MY SOUL...MY SOUL...HE THINKS THIS IS BLOODY PLAN B MAGAZINE..."

"Oh, fuck it, keep it at 2p!" I snap, storming out.

************************************

Then it's review time. I sit down and immerse myself in 'Songs for Reggae Lovers'. I fix myself a vodka and orange and open up a Word Doc. I consider my fonts, and then opt for Arial. I'd rather boil my eyeballs in a casserole dish than use Times New Roman. Then the phone rings.

"Hello," says DOPPELGANGER. "Apparently I'm drawing a cartoon for your piece. You banging two escort girls while slagging off Chuck Fenda and Sanchez. How big do you want me to do your fuckstick?"

"Oh, for God's sake!" I cry. "I'm not doing the call girl fantasy thing, it's ludicrous."

So, I down another vodka and orange. And another. I'm screwed for inspiration. I get out my small statuette of Lord Ganesh, the elephant-headed Hindu god of hacks. I raise a glass to his health, and plonk some dry pasta by his feet. Suddenly, an idea takes hold. I start bashing the keys. 15 minutes later, I've got a pristine piece of copy. I attach it to an email and bung it over to Woofah HQ. Job done.

Now, I can't pretend this is how ALL Woofah contributors operate, but it's probably close enough. Suffice to say, at this stage, I now bow out of the whole process. Eden and Meme spend a few months shifting columns and paragraphs around a bit, nagging the living bejayzus out of the designers, leaving half the layouts on the train, adding a bit here and there, binge drinking and swearing, engaging in Wiccan rituals, watching the "All Japan Reggae Dancers" DVD with the lights out - as editors do. I check my Paypal account and confirm a new deposit of £0.02. And then it's all quiet on the zine front, until the next issue comes around.

So, I hope I've cleared up a few myths about fanzine publishing. Of course, I'm just a humble scribe, so if you want more information you'd be better off asking the editors directly. But don't imagine that it's all hanging round in fancy bars, surrounded by groupies, being offered hard drugs by Greensleeves Records' A&R department. It's a bloody hard slog - like joining the SAS of zine hacks. Still, cheer up - the new one's coming out soon! Presuming the inDesign documents haven't been wrongly mailed to Whipsnade Zoo's admin department (AGAIN...)

WOOFAH 3 - OUT SOON - DON'T MISS IT!

(PS - I know, I know...a bloody 'cat show'??)
Comments:
You get paid?

(impersonates Peter Kaye doing his 'garlic bread?' routine):

Red Stripe?

In a glass?

I'm still waitin' for my fucking badge....
 
I would send you mine, but I was forced to return it for 'inappropriate reference to Shaka'
 
See? Scratch a pagan anarkid and there's a Felix Dennis underneath, just desperate to do all your crack and shag your missus
 
Badges?

There's badges!!!???

No one told me.

The bastards.
 
down tools i reckon Kek....

leave it to them London folk and their fancy badges...
 
I warned him about the badges...I said, "Don't neglect the road crew"...cruellest irony is that Estelle got sent one, and she can't even read...
 
It's all fun and games when you're part of the inner circle; parties by his pool, quaaludes, rare Misty in Roots 12s, but when he tires of you, by god, when he tires of you...
 
Rabies - I took it as all part of getting us kids to hate and fear Europe and all those other nasty rabies infested Johnny foreigner places. Just substitute 'Euro' for 'Rabies' and things haven't changed all that much really. I do hope the cat show went ahead though
 
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