Plastic Knife is an anonymous zine from Melbourne that started in 2007. Other than that, there isn’t a lot on the Internet about the zine (or its maker). That’s why ANDY HUANG was pretty surprised – and excited – when Plastic Knife, the zinemaker, agreed to an interview and was game to do it through the post.
The following is transcribed from letters exchanged between Andy and Plastic Knife.
You’re sort of a legend in the zine world, so you’ve been on the scene for quite a while… How has the zine (sub)culture changed – if it has at all – from the time you started to now?
The first zines I encountered were music zines in the early 1990’s, picked up around Melbourne at Polyester Books, Au-go-go, Missing Link, and at shows at The Punters Club. Often they were A3-folded, black-and-white zines talking about The Meanies. A lot of that music writing has gone online now [and] you can link to songs and video clips, and have a deeper understanding of what the zine was excited about in the first place. I seem to be attracted to zines that play with the zine form. I’ve put out zines that are wrapped around metre-long sticks, stuffed inside bottles that you have to smash if you want to read them, zines that come packaged inside enormous cardboard boxes. I find if I work to the strengths of the medium that [the] zines [that] exist within my zines are the best. It is impossible to replicate a zine wrapped around a metre-long stick on the internet.
How were you introduced to zines and what is it that keeps you making them?
An early zine memory of mine is going to the launch of an issue of Woozy at The Punters Club in Melbourne. I remember walking in to the pub and being confronted by a huge table full of zines and being rather excited. There were all kinds of strange bands playing that night and I remember being confused as to why there was such a small crowd when to me, this was the centre of the universe. At one point, one of the bands thanked the entire audience for coming up to the show – by name! They pointed to everyone in the audience and said, “Thanks to John, thanks to Sally, thanks to Iain”, and when they got to me and my friend, they said, “Thanks to the newcomers.” And I was sold. I think I keep coming back because there is actually no limit to what can be done with a single piece of A4 paper. Each issue, I use it slightly differently and have nowhere near exhausted my ideas yet.
Plastic Knife could be thought of as a collection of short stories, or bits of poetry, or even random musings… How would you describe the zine, and how much of it is autobiographical?
I think of the writing in Plastic Knife as short stories – very short stories. And then there is often a visual component to the zine too. The current issue I am working on [is] a split zine with another Melbourne zine, where all the text will be by Plastic Knife and all the visuals by the other zine. I like to approach it differently each issue.
There is one autobiographic piece in an upcoming issue, but most of my other zine work is autobiographical so I find Plastic Knife [is] a place where I can do something different to my usual autobiographical writing. And it’s a nice escape form my other zines. Maybe a fully autobiographical issue of Plastic Knife could happen in the future – yes, I like the sound of that!
Over the years, you’ve done some pretty interesting/cool/awesome things with Plastic Knife: experimenting with taping a plastic knife on the cover; to split zines and top-of-the-mountain-at-midnight-launches… so what are some of the experiences – or stories – that have really stuck out for you?
One of the things I’ve been really enjoying through my zines is working on split zines with people whose work I really love. I worked on a split zine with a zine called Pony For Now from Canberra for the Melbourne Fringe Festival last year, and worked with Vanessa Berry for the Melbourne Fringe too. I published a Plastic Knife/YOU split issue, as well as a Plastic Knife/Black Pain Gold Wine split zine. It’s just really cool to be able to say to someone you like their work, and you’d like to make a split zine with them. Kind of like if you were a fan of the Rolling Stones and just called up Mick Jagger and said you fancied writing a song together. Right Now, I’m working on a split Plastic Knife/From Here to There issue, as well as a split with a great zine from Sydney called Piss Factory, and that will hopefully be a split 7” record, recorded by both zines.
Tell us about your latest issue, what’s it about?
I launched the latest issue last week at Sticky [Institute]. It is actually Plastic Knife #10 but it has been released about a month after Plastic Knife #11 was launched at The Tote Hotel, as part of Sticky’s The Festival of the Photocopier 2014. Plastic Knife #11 is a collection of songs – the lyrics all taken from stories that appear in Plastic Knife #10. Issue 10 is actually all in French but the songs are sung in English in Plastic Knife #11. I did perform one of the songs in French at the launch of Plastic Knife #10 though. It all sounds so complicated, I know, but really you can do what you want with a zine. It’s really just me and my project, so I can do whatever the hell I like.
There’s not a lot about you on the internet… was there a reason you made it kind of hard to find you? I guess what I’m asking is, why the anonymity?
I started making zines twenty years ago this year. The first zines I ever made were all anonymous so then to “come out” in later zines I made felt like I was selling the earlier zines out somewhat. As the years have rolled by, people have seemed to become more and more obsessed with making themselves as contactable as possible. I don’t have website, I’m not on Facebook, I don’t have a Twitter account. Zines are my medium and if you are interested in what I’m up to and what I’m thinking, then the only way to find out is through the zines and I like that. I like that the zines are given that level of respect.
Zine: Plastic Knife
Great news, people! Plastic Knife will be playing a free show in Sydney – it’s your chance to catch him in the flesh (details below).
Who: Plastic Knife, with Piss Factory
What: Launch of Plastic Knife #12
When: Saturday, May 24 at 6pm
Where: Junior Gazette (Level 1, Railway Parade, Marrickville)
Featured image via fulsomeprism.bandcamp.com