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When is a zine not a zine- a PSF dilemma

From a Perfect Sound Forever reader: "ARE YOU GUYS SERIOUS WITH THE NEW ISSUE JUST READING A 96' DELTA 5 INTERVIEW AND I SEE SOME WEIRD STUFF FLOATING AROUND ON YOUR FRONTPAGE HOPE ITS A JOKE ALWAYS THE BEST KEEP IT UP." And then a follow-up: "I guess respects need to be paid in some sense, but I thought the esoteric integrity seems shot (sublime, janet jackson, thurday). All I am saying is, I love your guys articles, interviews, etc.. and I don't want to be a jerk, but please, just don't turn into Rolling Stone." From another PSF reader: "Worst issue ever!" It's probably the most controversy that Janet Jackson has seen since the Superbowl- her picture on the cover of a zine. So, are they right and did I foul up the standing of my publication but giving virtual space to Ms. Jackson and other above-the-ground artists?

Criticism wasn't limited to readers as PSF writers themselves weren't happy that the latest issue, edited by Robert Christgau, included the likes of Ms. Jackson as well as Sublime and emo stars.

"I was disappointed to see the inclusion of the piece on Janet Jackson on your site....i thought the criteria was artists that deserve better recognition, underground, outlaw types, or below radar flyers... (I'm) confused on the Jackson piece as I feel there are many others who should be considered...just my opinion.."

For PSF, I knew that the latest issue might not rub everyone the right way. I know that Janet doesn't need the publicity but PSF has run articles about Neil Young, the Rolling Stones, Olivia Newton-John, John Lennon and others who aren't starving for publicity. I like to see intelligent articles about pop figures now and then. The latest issue also had articles on the Savoy family, Sacred Steel music, burlesque, Beat Happening and Joe Budden all of whom aren't artists and styles that most people know very well. Having a balance of genres is important to me but it's also important to sometimes look at the pop world for subjects worth discussing.

So I started thinking about what I did "wrong," even though I wasn't sorry that I published the issue that I did. Then something occurred to me about this controversy- I had broken through a threshold with my balance of underground and pop artists. Having articles about performers that fill stadiums or appear on national magazine covers in a zine usually devoted to underground figures was OK as it happened in small pieces here and there. When I approved of a number of articles at once in a single issue and even had some of their faces appear on the cover, that's what threw people off. Then, it didn't seem like a zine anymore and it seemed more like a mainstream music mag instead.

I don't agree with that but I do understand how and why some readers and writers would feel that way. One difference though in the way that the writers covered subjects like Jackson and Sublime was that they did it in an analytical and critical way. If they were your average profile of these artists, I wouldn't have wasted my time with them. I wouldn't have wasted your time either if I didn't think they had something interesting and worthwhile to say about these artists.

As for my own tastes, I do listen to a lot of pop/mainstream music in addition to a lot of stuff that's championed in PSF otherwise- Lil Mama's album is a great one and the latest Nine Inch Nails album (The Slip) is one of his/their best and I've loved singles this year by Missy Elliot, Kid Sister and Gnarls Barkley. But I've also loved albums by the Death Set, Pat Todd, Robert Forester, Clark, the Heavy and others. I could deny that but I've always tried to make PSF some kind of reflection of not only what I like to hear but also the kind of conversations about music that I'd like to hear. I've even had articles about artists that I myself don't like (i.e. Olivia N.J.) but included them anyway because I though the writer had something intelligent and thoughtful to say about them.

As for next time for PSF, underground fans should be happy- we'll have articles on Amon Duul, Eric Dolphy, Television Personalities, William Corbett and the Nazz among others. As for mainstream artists, they'll be somewhere in there too. As for anyone who ain't happy about these or any other pop acts, Christgau had a good response to one of the angry respondents above: "Poor guy will never listen to Frank Sinatra, Miles Davis, or the Beatles. What a stunted life."

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