Thoughts on Coilhouse #6

Originally published on the Our Lady of Dischord Tumblr.

Thoughts on Coilhouse Issue #6

One of the consequences of working for a longtime in a used bookstore is that it can kill any respect that you have for magazines as a medium stone-dead. Where I used to work, we would get piles and piles of magazines, sometimes stuffed into garbage bags like overgrown leaves, that people would haul onto our counters, hoping to make some scratch. It didn’t take long to realize that magazines have very little collectible worth and often take up more room than they’re worth. At least once a month someone would come in with decades worth of National Geographic magazines, expecting that all those yellow magazines would be worth their weight in gold, only to walk away scowling with (if they were lucky) $5 in their pockets while we tossed 90% of those issues into a recycling bin. Some knee-jerk part of my brain hears the word “magazine” and thinks “disposable” immediately.

It’s an unfair thought to have, not to mention self-destructive: as a writer, I love that magazines exist, both as a source of diverse writings to read and as (hopefully) future outlets for publishing my work. And I’ve read more music and political and film magazines than your average bear, and I’ve seen 1,000s of New Yorker cartoons and not laughed at them, the same as every other person whose ever laid eyes on a New Yorker cartoon. I just find it hard to justify spending $5-10 on a magazine, when I know that a quarter of it is going to be ads and when I have no guarantee that the writing and design is well-edited and worth reading.  The only reason why I’m tempted to one day get an e-reader is just so I have a portable and convenient way of reading magazines without having piles and piles of them taking over my shelves.

All this is to establish that when it comes to magazines, I have a pretty thick wall built up that keeps me from getting excited about them. Which brings me to one of the things I just finished reading, the 6th issue of Coilhouse.

Calling themselves “A Love Letter To Alternative Culture”, Coilhouse have put out a very impressive piece of work. A limited print run magazine (as much as I’d love to read Coilhouse Issues 1-5, I can’t cause they are plumb-sold-out), the latest issue of Coilhouse clocks in at 113 pages and costs $15 (they also have a $75 package deal where they throw in a Molly Crabapple art print). Is it worth every penny? Yes (its even worth the shipping and handling). For one thing, its just a beautiful OBJECT. With a die-cut cover, thick pages and sturdy binding, it feels more like a book than a magazine (hell, it even smells good). If all magazines went to the trouble of looking and feeling as good as this issue of Coilhouse does, I’d buy them more often (if I had enough dough, that is). And the art design is top-notch: even the ad pages succeed in not being boring to look at. Which brings me to the real reason that Coilhouse is worth buying: the articles.

Coilhouse #6 has a piece about Klaus Nomi and the text of an entire German Expressionist play by Lothar Schreyer. I must admit: the article before it by“‘Voluptuous World: The Erotic World of Weimar Berlin” author Mel Gordon giving some background on the life and work of Lothar was much more interesting and enjoyable to read than Schreyer’s “Crucifixion” play.

It also includes a piece talking about the brilliantly deranged film “The Forbidden Zone” (which if you haven’t seen it yet: what the hell is wrong with you? Go forth and see it this instant!). The article talks about The Mystic Knights Of The Oingo Boingo, alluding to their various Gong Show antics, before talking about the process of how “The Forbidden Zone” was made. There are even hints of a “Forbidden Zone II”: Richard Elfman gives a teaser of the plot and talks about plans to bring it to life at the end of the article. No explanations for who thought of the freaky frog butlers, though.

There are several interesting interviews, with comic artist/writer Paul Pope, director Terry Gilliam, (who talks about his renouncing his U.S. citizenship), painter Jared Joslin, dancer Rachel Brice, & Kathleen Hanna, who talks about the Riot Grrl archives being assembled at NYU’s Fales Library and her thoughts on the movement’s past and future.

There’s a “pedagogical portrait” of El Lissitzky, whose typography and layout looks like El Lissitzky had put it together. And lest I forget, the reason I bought the magazine in the first place: an interview with former Bad Seed andEinsturzende Neubauten main-man Blixa Bargeld.

There’s some fashion spreads, too, which aren’t my cup of tea, but they’re pretty to look at and eye-catching. A funny thing to note: that the models in the Constructivist photo shoot are from the band Angelspit, who I saw perform back in October at the Fetish Ball and was very unimpressed by (to the point that I was live-tweeting just how much I was bored by their music as they were playing it).

One other neat thing to note: people who buy the issue also get links sent via email for bonus material relating to Hanna, Brice & mathematician/origami crafter Robert Lang. I haven’t checked ’em out yet, but I think the idea of it is very clever, like the print equivalent of DVD special features.

I know this review of Coilhouse #6 is overwhelmingly positive (aside from the Angelspit hate), but I honestly can’t find anything to complain about. It’s a well put together collection of text and imagery, and if they can maintain this level of quality for their next issue, you can just slap my ass and call me Pre-Order.


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