Thursday, November 4, 2010

Radix Media Interview



Radix Media is a vegan, anarchist print and design company based in Portland, OR. Their design and printing services are offered to activist groups, non-profit organizations, musicians, independent filmmakers, zinesters and many more at affordable prices. Often printed on recycled paper and usually delivered by bicycle, their practices are ones that should set the ethical standard for printing companies worldwide. Their offset printing methods create classical and rustic pieces, paired with radical literature that you rarely find printed with such care and grace. Generous with their contributions to their local community and donations to activist causes, Radix is a printing company that will definitely stand out as a true asset to animal rights and other movements worldwide. The Revolution Began Yesterday!
This interview was conducted by Mike XVX via email in October 2010
Contact: radixmedia.org, radixmedia@riseup.net



Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?

I was born on Long Island, New York. When I was four, I moved to a really small town in New Jersey and lived there until I was about 13, and then moved to South Florida, which is where I spent most of my life. I went to college to study film and photography and graduated with a Bachelor of Science. Not surprisingly, I’ve been working in food service ever since!

About four years ago, I moved to Portland, Oregon and my life sure is different here. I kind of have a love/hate relationship with this city but I have to say, it’s really changed me for the better. This is where I was first exposed to truly radical politics and the joys and practicality of riding a bicycle as transportation. I’ve made a lot of great friends and worked on myself a ton. There’s definitely still work to be done, but I’m happy with the way the process has gone so far.

As far as politics go, I’m an anarchist. I try not to beat people over the head with it, but I’m also not scared or ashamed of that word. I think it’s a very reasonable ideology with a rich, complex history, and it can easily be put into practice. I would venture to say that many people engage in anarchism in their every day lives, but because that word has such a stigma, they don’t really think about it. I’m not really into the Crimethinc-y type of lifestyle anarchism, but I’m not really a theory head either. I just think that every living creature has the right to self-determination and that the world would be better off without hierarchy or coercive government. No gods, no masters!

What was your motivation behind starting your own printing company? What are some of your own personal goals with Radix?

My love of books and literature stems from when I was a kid. I would always write weird little short stories and imagine them in my head. Truth be told, I never had a whole lot of friends when I was young, so it was up to me to entertain myself. That love only grew stronger as I got older, but the printing aspect of it is relatively new. I started apprenticing with Charles at Eberhardt Press in March 2010; before that, I knew nothing about printing of any sort. I had never screenprinted or anything, like the rest of my DIY punk friends. I was pretty focused on the graphic design aspect but usually just printed out flyers and zines on my laser printer at home, or at Kinkos (shudder).

Learning to print on an offset press has been really empowering. It’s really old technology. When I load a plate onto the press and start running it, I’m doing the same thing as someone a hundred years ago was doing. There are differences, sure, but the technique is the same, and that’s really exciting to me.

My main goal with Radix, from the very beginning, has been to make beautiful propaganda. I consider it a form of activism, but it’s a factor that many times gets overlooked. Humans are very visual; if something doesn’t look good, people just aren’t going to pick it up, and they’re definitely not going to digest whatever message you’re trying to send. So I started out by helping my other activist friends with graphic design, making flyers and laying out pamphlets. And I’ve just kept on doing that. I’m very inspired by poster art and radical printmaking from the 1960s, such as the flyers that the Weather Underground made for demonstrations. There’s also a really amazing book I want to get on poster art from the Cuban Revolution. Of course, I also really like the work of my contemporaries, such as the Justseeds Artists’ Cooperative, the Beehive Collective and the Design Action Collective.

Publishing is also becoming more of a priority for me, which is really exciting. Owning the means of production gives me the advantage to publish and print whatever I want, whenever I want, at a fraction of the cost of paying another printer to do it for me. DIY or DIE!

You have been apprenticing with Eberhardt Press for almost a year now. Can you tell us a little about what they do and what that experience has been like?

Eberhardt Press is an anarchist publisher and printer here in Portland. It’s really just one person named Charles. He’s an incredibly talented graphic designer and printer and I’ve learned so much from him! Eberhardt Press has printed, gosh, THOUSANDS of zines, flyers, books, posters, album covers, notepads and more.

One of the things that I’ve really learned from Charles is that you have to make due with what you have. Eberhardt Press has existed for just over five years now, and almost that entire time, he was stuck with this really janky offset duplicator that he got for free. It was meant for really short runs, and stuff like stationery and envelopes. He really pushed it to its limit, becoming a huge resource for the radical community in Portland and beyond, and I think that’s really incredible. His earlier work is far from perfect, but it doesn’t matter, because you know it’s coming from a do-it-yourself underground printer. And once you know what he’s working with, all of a sudden your perspective changes. Like, “Wow, you printed this on THAT??” You should have seen how he started off binding books. We won’t talk about it – it’s too crazy, even for the internet! Fortunately for him, though, he’s been able to make some equipment upgrades.

In all honesty, Radix Media wouldn’t be where it is today without Charles. When I first started out, he would always give me free paper, ink, plates and other supplies. He’s answered countless phone calls (and stupid questions!) from me. He still hooks me up when he can. I’m really grateful to have him around. I can’t imagine I would have been able to do this by myself.


What are some of the zines you've printed so far? What do you generally look for when choosing literature that you'd like to publish or reprint?

The first zine I really printed for someone was issue number one of “When Language Runs Dry,” which is a really great zine for people with chronic pain and their allies. They're up to issue three now, I think, and they’re always really good. The people that put it together are wonderful, too. I printed “Towards a Less Fucked Up World: Sobriety and Anarchist Struggle” around the same time, and then got to work on a re-print of “A Steampunk’s Guide to the Apocalypse” for my friends at Strangers in a Tangled Wilderness. I most recently did a re-print of a zine called “Revolution Summer.” It was written by Josh Hooten from Herbivore Clothing / Books. He’s currently working on another zine that he’ll want me to print, too, and I can’t wait to read it. Damn, I love zines. Oh yeah, and I just finished Mike XVX’s zine, “Stand Up Fight Back” about his European 2010 tour. Wheeee!

I’m not sure if there’s a theme to the stuff I print, necessarily. Most of the ones I’ve printed so far have been because people have asked me to do so, and have actually paid me to do it. That’s pretty sweet! Though I already know and respect those people, and actively support their projects. In most cases, I had already read and bought a copy of the zine long before I ever re-printed it. I think it would be a lot different if it was someone that I didn’t know at all. I’d want to read the work before I agreed to print it. There’s a story behind Nick Riotfag’s zine though.

I first heard about “Towards a Less Fucked Up World” from Rachel, my amazing partner. She had been trying to get a copy of it for a super long time, but Nick can be pretty hard to get ahold of. It never materialized but from everything she mentioned about it, I knew I had to read it at some point. Not too long ago, PM Press came out with a book called “Sober Living for the Revolution: Hardcore Punk, Straight Edge and Radical Politics” edited by a guy named Gabriel Kuhn, and it included that zine. I bought the book, mostly for that zine alone (though it’s got lots of other great stuff in it, too) and read it on an airplane when I was going to visit my parents in Florida.

Around that time, I had been really bummed about straightedge because of the way some people in the scene act. I felt really out of place and disconnected with those folks and started to wonder if I was a black sheep among black sheep. And while I’ve never considered “breaking edge,” as they say, I was unsure if I wanted to keep using the label “straightedge.” After reading Nick’s zine, I fell in love with straightedge all over again. I knew I had to re-print that zine and make it available to the public again. I contacted Nick and he responded to me pretty quickly, probably because I signed my e-mail “XlantzX”! He sent me the file and I re-did the layout and re-designed the cover. It was printed with a two-color cover and title page on 100% recycled paper, and even though there are so many rookie mistakes in it, it still means so much to me. I dreamed of re-printing that zine, and now I’ve got a box of them in my living room. Come on, you gotta admit, that rules.

What initially got you interested in Veganism and animal rights?

My best friend at the time and I both went vegetarian at the same time, so that it would be easier for us to transition. I was vegetarian for a year before I went vegan and have been so ever since. It’s been like 6 years now! The first protest I went to was a KFC protest in Ft. Lauderdale. It was pretty much not effective at all, but it’s what got me into animal rights. From then on, I just kept doing a lot of research, reading really horrific things and watching gnarly videos. Once you see it, you can’t un-see it. It’s only strengthened my resolve and I’ve never looked back. When I first moved to Portland, I was focused on animal rights almost exclusively, though there was a lot of overlap into the radical environmental movement as well. I read a lot of books and articles on the Green Scare, and I’m a big fan of Will Potter’s reporting. Animal rights is still a big part of my political identity, but I also see the connection between that and other struggles and have broadened my horizons in recent years to include labor struggles, feminism and anarchism.

Interestingly, the first research paper I ever wrote in community college was a paper on vivisection and how it was no longer necessary with the advancements of modern technology. That was in 1999, before I was ever vegetarian or vegan. Go figure.


What correlation do you see between anarchism and veganism?

Anarchism, to me, means that no one is above me, and that I am above no one. This includes non-human creatures. I think anarchism and veganism are highly compatible because they both focus on liberation and autonomy. It baffles me to see vegans who are otherwise quite liberal or reformist in their other politics. They’re talking about animal liberation on the one hand, but are voting for politicians on the other hand, politicians that are only perpetuating the evils of capitalism and striving to make america an actual empire at the expense of the rest of the world. If that’s where they’re at, though, that’s cool. I just wish some people could be more open-minded. I guess the same could be true of a lot of subcultures and scenes, though.

A phrase I use a lot is, “one struggle, one fight.” It means a lot to me, and I believe it with every ounce of my being. It bums me out when vegan kids I know don’t go to events outside of the animal rights movement. All struggles are linked; it is useless to fight for animal liberation if you’re not also fighting for human liberation, for the rights of human beings, whether they be people of color, queers, immigrants or anyone else. Solidarity is so important.

You just recently reprinted "Towards A Less Fucked Up World" By Nick Riotfag. What role do you see sobriety playing in radical politics?

Sobriety has played a huge role in my life. It’s one of the defining factors of myself and I don’t shy away from that at all, even though I still feel slightly disconnected and alienated from both sober and non-sober folks. I know a lot of people who are not sober (and who are not vegan, of course) who do really amazing work. But I always think about how much more effective they would be if they didn’t indulge in alcohol or drugs. Anyway, anything I can say here will make me sound like a self-righteous asshole, and that’s not how I want to come off. I would encourage anyone who’s interested in the overlap between radical politics and sobriety to read Nick Riotfag’s zine. It’s what made me want to start calling myself straightedge again!

Above all, I think it’s really crucial to practice self-care. Whatever choice you make for yourself, you should ensure that you’re not hurting anyone else in the process. This can actually be quite difficult when it comes to substance use, as Nick explains in his essay. But I’m a pretty big believer in harm-reduction. No one is perfect. You just have to do the best you can and be willing to go further when necessary.

Other than Radix, what other projects or collectives are you currently involved with?

I’m a collective member and co-owner of the Red and Black Café, where I’ve worked for about 3 years. We’re an anarchist, worker-owned all vegan café in Southeast Portland. We host a lot of events, like film screenings, readings, music and presentations by activist groups, authors, and stuff like that. That place has been the most influential for me since I moved to Portland. I feel really lucky to have met all the people that I’ve met there, both workers and customers.

I’m also a member of the Portland IWW (Industrial Workers of the World), a radical labor union that started in 1905. Because Radix stuff has been getting really busy, I took a big step back from the union but am still a supporter.


You usually table at events like the Portland Zine Symposium. How important do you think it is to have an Anarchist presence at gatherings like this?


So important! I could be wrong, but it seems as if a lot of zinesters are pretty apolitical. Most of what you see are little handmade zines, and comics, and sometimes kind of silly things. And that’s totally fine; I only got two zines at this most recent Zine Symposium – mostly because I was so overwhelmed! – and they were both comics. But I think it’s important to have a radical presence at these events because it gives you a chance to do some outreach to people who may be down for the cause but are outside of your “scene.” As I said before, most people already practice anarchism in some way, so you never know who’s going to be really receptive to you. And anyway, anarchism should be accessible; it’s not about some sort of fictional utopia, it’s about the notion that we can live without masters, that we can organize ourselves horizontally and thrive the way others have thrived and are thriving, in a truly egalitarian structure. Preaching to the choir will only get you so far. So get out there and talk to people!

As a company that's just starting out, what are the biggest obstacles Radix faces right now?

Equipment, by far. My press needs so many repairs, it’s absurd. I think I kind of got ripped off when I bought it! Just off the top of my head, I can think of three or four things that need to be replaced or bought because they’re missing altogether. I need to put a lot of money into the press to have it truly be functional, but if I can’t run jobs to make that money, I’m pretty screwed. That’s why I budgeted for press repairs in my Kickstarter project. I hope I’ll get over this hurdle soon, though. I mean, it never really ends – even the new, more expensive presses constantly have to be maintained and worked on. You kind of have to learn to be half-press operator, half-mechanic. A pity for me, because I’m actually quite stupid when it comes to mechanics. Guess I’ll have to learn!

Any last words?

Please check out Radix Media on Kickstarter! I’m trying to raise $5,000 for equipment upgrades and press repairs so that I can keep making rad stuff for rad people. I can hardly keep up with the demand for print jobs right now, but it’s a real drag to print on a machine that barely works, and to do all the bindery stuff by hand. I’m trying to buy a collating machine and a bookletmaker, which means I can assemble 500 zines in three hours instead of.. uh.. three days! You can check out the link here:

http://kck.st/bOQbAo

If you have the means, please consider donating to the project. You can even put the money on a credit card, and you actually only charged if the project achieves its goal. If you really don’t have the money, though, you can also help us out by spreading the word. Tell everyone you know! Independent publishers and underground printers are so crucial. Let’s make sure we survive!

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