Laura MacFarlane, 2017.
Laura MacFarlane and Iain McIntyre, Woozy, no. 1, 1992.
Hi, my name is Laura MacFarlane from the band Ninetynine. I used to edit a fanzine called Woozy and run a distribution service called Choozy in the '90s through to the early '00s.
I don't actually take part in fanzines any more but I record and release music independently with the band I'm in, Ninetynine.
I became involved with Woozy through a friend of mine, Iain McIntyre. We started Woozy around 1992, not long after I moved to Melbourne, and we just wanted to make a fanzine that discussed music and other DIY politics in a DIY way.Next up: What's your definition of a fanzine, and how would you describe Woozy?
What's your definition of a fanzine, and how would you describe Woozy?
I would describe a fanzine as an independent, authentic, unique voice on a topic. And with Woozy we were discussing music, so it was the things that we wanted to put out there about music that we felt weren't being addressed in other publications and unhindered by if it made money or not. So valuing art over how much money it makes.
But in the mix would have been the way you approach it. So, we were very much advocating for DIY, do-it-yourself politics or do-it-yourself way of recording, manufacturing and distributing the music, and that would be discussed often in the fanzine.
It was a mixture of different things; often it would be what we thought was topical or what we were interested in and we would approach bands and sometimes bands would approach us. And if we knew someone who had a special interest in a particular area, we would ask them if they would like to write an article. And we really did want to focus on local bands, like local Melbourne bands or local Australian bands from different other cities, and local art, local comics. Sometimes we'd even approach people if we thought their handwriting was good, because the first few issues were all handwritten, so that was actually a really important factor in thinking of who we would get to contribute.Next up: How were you influenced by punk and the independent music scene?
How were you influenced by punk and the independent music scene?
Both myself and Ian had come from a background of being quite politically active in Perth, so when we moved to Melbourne we still held those views quite strongly. And certainly from the viewpoint that music doesn't exist in a silo but is part of a whole life philosophy and even music itself – like when I think of independent music, that's not a genre of music, that's a way of doing things.
And I guess I was quite influenced by punk in terms of punk being a way of doing things, not necessarily a genre of music, but simply doing it yourself and you can do it yourself and that you can release music yourself and you don't need someone else to do that for you.
So, putting articles about squatting or even if we had vegan recipes, or if we discussed anything else with a social justice angle, it was relating to that, that it was a whole way of looking at living, not just music itself. But music was an important part of it, as all art was, and that there was a real worth to being self-motivated and taking control of things yourself, and that's a really powerful tool in how you approach anything, and art and music is just part of that.Next up: What were some of the challenges of publishing a fanzine?
What were some of the challenges of publishing a fanzine?
Probably some of the bigger challenges we had with doing Woozy was the funding, because we were doing it ourselves and printing could be quite expensive. So we would often do launches where the bands would actually give their time for free, which was amazing. Sometimes we'd get some advertising but because we wanted to have everything from an ethical point of view, it was often hard to get advertising from clients that we would consider ethical. So, we didn't always get a lot of money that way.
We would trade with different fanzines and we would trade overseas and that would be a really good way to reduce the expenditure.
I'll explain a bit more simply that we would send, say, five copies of Woozy to someone in Germany, and they might send five of their fanzines here, and so we would put them in shops and that would just save sending things back and forth. So that was another way around the financial obstacles.Next up: Did networking play a part in promoting your fanzine?
Did networking play a part in promoting your fanzine?
Networking was a really important part of doing the fanzine. We would network with other fanzines and other people who made fanzines and we would try and make networks with bands locally, nationally, internationally.
We would often put on events to launch the actual fanzine itself, and so that was a really special networking event between the bands and sometimes even the artists would come down. We'd have stalls at the gig, so we would be doing more than just thinking about the music or just the fanzine; we would actually have other literature that we might have traded.
So it was more than just Woozy itself, although it was a Woozy event. And we've kept those networks quite strong, even to this day. Even in terms of some of the overseas networks we've kept, they've been people that we have asked to help us with gigs, like any of the bands that I've been in or multiple people in my musical family or circle so to speak, we've kept those contacts very strong.Next up: Tell us about Choozy.
Tell us about Choozy.
Choozy was a distribution service that we started in 1996 and it was partly influenced from Woozy, from the contacts and the process that we had started by trading and distributing the fanzines.
I had also been a bit inspired when I'd gone on tour and seen small record labels and how they'd gone about distributing stuff. And I remember standing in K Records and thinking, 'Oh this is amazing, I'd love to have something like this in Australia.' But I still wanted to be quite political, so when I got back to Australia after one particular tour I met up with a group of friends, and Choozy grew out of a meeting of myself and Iain from Woozy and also Guy Blackman from Chapter Music, and it was the 'ch' from Chapter Music and the 'oozy' from Woozy, and we thought well 'Choozy' is quite an okay name in terms of what it's about, it's kind of funny we thought. And that's how that came together.Next up: How do you think the internet has changed fanzines and independent publishing?
How do you think the internet has changed fanzines and independent publishing?
Things have really changed a lot with the internet, which is an amazing thing where we can share information really fast, but often it becomes quite homogenised and we live in a very hyper-globalised society. So I think fanzines and independent publishing are probably more important than ever, so that we have a more diverse range of voices.
And even though it might be easier to put it up on the internet and distribute it to the other side of the world than what it might have been when I did a fanzine and had to put it in a Jiffy bag and send it to Australia Post to send off and have my fingers crossed that it would actually turn up, it felt like that got noticed more. And right now there is so much out there that it can be quite hard to get traction. So I think that is an obstacle that may stand in the way of people doing fanzines in the current time.Next up: What about the impact of digital technology – is print dead?
What about the impact of digital technology – is print dead?
As both a teacher and a parent of a child with dyslexia, I've become quite fascinated with how people absorb information, and more simply the readability of information.
Often, with digital writing, the backlight can actually be an issue for some people and it can be fatiguing and even affect how some people will read letters.
Digital information has been a real game changer for other learners, where you can have things like text to speech or you can change the font or you can change the size of the font or the lettering. So it's a real range and that is really good for some learners but actually for other learners, actually having printed paper is still really important.
So I think the advice that I would probably give to anyone doing a fanzine or a blog is perhaps make what you are doing available as a downloadable PDF, so you've got it there and someone can download that and have it on a piece of paper and still read it. Because what you want to do now is to take the benefits of digital but also keep the benefits of paper copy as well.
You look at something like Kindle – they've spent a lot of research developing that system and it is quite different to reading on an iPad or a tablet, it's a much softer light, and that's for a reason. They've put the hard yards in to discover that that is how people read best.Next speaker: Bruce Milne