Some of the following polls did not finally appear in the print fanzine chickfactor 18.
CF: Do you remember when you first saw a copy of chickfactor? When/where was it? Tell us about it.
the first issue I saw was #12, with janet weiss and robert forster on the cover. I was impressed by the logo and design. I think this was spring 2000, maybe when chickfactor editor gail o’hara visited london and an indoor acoustic show happened in her honour in greenwich. I acquired most of the back issues that year, but never #1 and #3. I now lament that the free lollipop given away with an early issue has stickily spoiled the covers of both #2 and #6. It would probably have been safer to eat it, even if it was already 8 years old.
CF: Were you a writer or artist or contributor for chickfactor in the olden days? In what capacity? What was it like?
I have been glad to write reviews and answer questions for every issue since 2000, from issue 13 – which probably means I missed the true olden days of the 1990s, but I have a cherished store of back issues from that era also. I am always delighted to be in the magazine, but the print is so small and there are so many hundreds of items that one’s own contributions are rather a needle in a haystack. I also appeared twice on the cd all’s fair in love and chickfactor. come to think of it, the pines song ‘kisses & fog’ was written (by pamela berry; I just made up some riffs) and recorded specifically for that compilation, one summer evening above trafalgar road.
CF: Did you ever stay with Pam in D.C. or Gail in NYC in the olden days? Discuss.
I stayed with gail in nyc in january 2001. it was the first time I had been to the usa since I was a teen, and I was fortunate to return and begin to know the city properly in the company of people who seemed its most accomplished denizens. the world of east 19th street, gramercy park, murray hill, were a dreamy new streetscape of snow and ice. ld begthol took me to the top of the world trade center. dudley klute and I played psychedelic furs songs on his under-used acoustic guitar.
CF: What chickfactor parties do you remember attending? What were they like? Who played?
pamela berry’s parties were the best I had ever attended, not least the epic on 31.12.1999 a couple of miles down the road from the famous farrago at the millennium dome – but if we don’t mean those, but actual concerts, then I played at them with the pines at bush hall in 2002, 2003, and in artisphere, dc, and bell house, nyc, in 2012; and attended a concert in 2004 and the 25th anniversary show with the softies in 2017. bush hall had a chandeliered glamour that suited the magazine. it always looked so much bigger looking out from the stage than it did from the audience. artisphere was wonderfully cavernous, a state of the art popcraft hangar. we drank new varieties of brooklyn ale from the backstage ice bucket, until (so it was said) frankie rose’s entourage ran off with it all. it was tremendous how a specific catchment area’s worth of people came to each us show, and I thus met people I’d only ever known at a great distance. bell house was the best show the pines ever played; supporting the softies was a particular privilege. and a precious memory is standing on the sidewalk outside bell house, on a sunlit early evening in April, rehearsing a spontaneous crash cover with ld begthol and a band that he’d suddenly thrown together.
CF: Was/is chickfactor a scene?
I always think roland barthes said it best. ‘if scenes have such a repercussion for him, it is because they lay bare the cancer of language. language is impotent to close language – that is what the scene says: the retorts engender one another, without any possible conclusion, save that of murder; and it is because the scene is entirely bent on, aims toward this ultimate violence, which nonetheless it never assumes (at least among “civilized” people), that it is an essential violence, a violence which delights in sustaining itself: terrible and ridiculous, like some sort of science-fiction homeostat’.
CF: Was/is chickfactor a community?
it could help us to imagine one.
CF: Did you discover any artists while reading chickfactor zine? If so, which ones?
the answer sounds too obvious to be true, but I’d say the magnetic fields – I wasn’t literally introduced by reading chickfactor, but it was the people I knew in the chickfactor, um, scene (or, uh, community) who helped the group make sense to me, and reading issues of the magazine then helped me to understand the history.
CF: How has your musical discovery process changed for you since the golden age of chickfactor?
I’ve gone from listening to radio 1 to listening to radio 2 to listening to bbc 6music. the same disc jockeys eventually turn up on all three, and steve lamacq is still playing mega city four and kingmaker.
CF: is there a chickfactor musical aesthetic? Describe.
sylvie vartan singing a bacharach & david song on the copacabana beach. guitar: alasdair maclean.
CF: Did you meet any people at a chickfactor show that you are still friends with?
on the road for chickfactor 20 in 2012, it was an extraordinary pleasure and privilege to meet people around washington dc and new york whom I might have heard of for years, but had never met. almost everyone in america who had ever been in a band with pamela berry seemed to turn up at some point, and they were all delightful, complimentary, supportive. I am still touched to think of the kindness and friendliness of these people, and just how many of them there were. heck, the guitarist from glo-worm, a band I revere, even lent me a black & white electric guitar, which I soon took out of tune.
CF: Did you meet your BFF or a partner or spouse? Discuss.
one night at bell house I met up with michael grace, jr, the songwriter of the band my favorite. we’d been corresponding for a while, and to meet him properly was a significant, touching moment for me. he’s like the morose warholian wilde of his long island generation. he’s not my spouse yet.
CF: What other zines were you reading over the past 25 years? Do zines still exist now?
from 1998 to 2000 a fanzine called papercuts ran in london, partly inspired by chickfactor. it covered pop, but also literature, film, life; it was a remarkably accomplished metropolitan collage of voices and themes. it should get its own exhibition at the british library. in 2008 my friend amy produced a fanzine called wrap your troubles in dreams – and I’m still fond of it. it strikes me that these zines are both fragile emblems of wider eras: respectively, the london scene that formed around early b&s fandom, and the indiepop revival of the late 2000s. these zines burn brightly for a short time and might not seem worth the candle – but they leave their unique lights in our memories.
CF: How do you find out about music now?
I hear it between lauren laverne talking about her desert island disco and stuart maconie asking people to send in ideas for pies that sound like pop stars. or I hear about it from people I know and nod gratefully.
CF: Did you write for chickfactor under a pseudonym? Tell us more.
like the great irish humorist myles na gcopaleen, I was using pen names when it was neither profitable nor popular; but in chickfactor I have always appeared under my real name, joe pines / foxgloves.
CF: Did you ever read anything in chickfactor that made you laugh out loud?
‘chickfactor: you’re the king of indie.
stephin merritt: according to whom?
stephin merritt: oh. It’s nice to be the king of something. Is that like being king of garbage?’
CF: What about chickfactor would you have changed?
more frequent interviews with lloyd cole.
CF: How was chickfactor different from other publications?
smaller typeface. one-line reviews. pages, like this one, full of diverse people’s answers to a question: such an immensely readable format, it’s remarkable that no one else uses it.
CF: Does chickfactor have a legacy? What is it?
we are still living it.
CF: What are you doing in 2018 to make the world better?
donating to ecological campaigns. doing as my trade union asks. working locally for a labour party led by jeremy corbyn mp. buying drinks. making risotto. playing 12-string guitar.
CF: Who are the titans of chickfactor?
gail o’hara. pamela berry. stephin merritt. I don’t think I ever met the cartoonist, but probably him too.
CF: Is indiepop still relevant? How does it fit into your lifestyle?
it’s as relevant as shakespeare and as indispensable as lorrie moore. I don’t want a lifestyle without any of these things.
CF: What are some of your favorite indie zines, websites, labels and bands?
with the historical retrospect it’s lately received, sarah records now seems more clearly the single most exemplary label, but collecting its products would make premier league soccer look like a cheap hobby. I’m grateful to the labels I’ve been involved with: among others, matinee, foxyboy, cloudberry, annika, kleine untergrund, enchanté.
CF: Add any other relevant CF-related tales here:
I admired gail o’hara’s film strange powers, and I’m glad that she was the one to make it. at the after-screening party at the bfi, I asked stephin merritt about his reading of james joyce’s ulysses and whether he would consider it an instance of literary formalism. he replied: “that would presuppose that you had agreed on a definition of … formalism.”