When I used to read in school history books about religious wars spanning centuries, I could never understand how anyone could care about anything enough to want to get that hurt. Since the last great wars we haven’t suffered from anything other than allergies and acne, not issues which motivate impassioned behaviour, let alone frantic killing and getting too cold on a battlefield or in a horrible trench or something.
When I say I wasn’t passionate enough, what I meant was I wasn’t until I picked up a copy of Sleaze Nation last month. I sat on the bus reading it and slowly acknowledgements started streaming into my consciousness; hey it looks good, it’s intelligent, oooh it seems to be talking about cigarette nostalgia oddities. I was reading a good looking style mag, not feeling like an idiot for clearly not being as hip and connected as the originator of the text and laughing.
When you’re seized by a passion, you seek the roots of that which aroused it, hoping that in some way you might find its essence. Basically I phoned them up and went to see them.
If your a style mag in London, you’re based in sunny Clerkenwell or Old Street where things used to be real. Sleaze is in the dark industrial heartlands of Kings Cross, a backdrop to the rather uncosy scenes in the murdering pit of Prime Suspect 1.I had come to see Sleaze Nation, the mag and Guerrilla6 who art direct it.Steve Beale from Sleaze and Tristan Dellaway and Justine Clayton from Guerrilla6 were there.I ask a few questions about their project in an attempt to decipher what makes it sooo good.
: First of all I needed to know what they thought it was.
Steve: Originally it was a fanzine and we used fanzine influences.
Tristan: It’s like presenting a good music mag that looked like a style mag. It’s serious on a hard production level but in terms of the way it looks it’s more about being honest and quirky rather than overtly serious or clever.
(To understand this you need to be familiar with the largely diabolically designed muso press; pretty girl on front, pretty sweaty girls on every page inside often mixed with pictures of record decks and small Dj’s who get it quite a lot because they get E’d up girls moist down Club UK-esc corporate clubbing disasters.)
Steve: A lot of style mags will just rant on about “Well this is the latest this and this is the latest that” and well people just aren’t very interested. I think there’s a finite amount of mileage in that sort of thing. One of the things which makes Sleaze nation unique is that it recognises that the readership are very media aware, which I think is a trait that is going to filter down into a lot of youth/ music publishing in general. You can’t really fool the readership as much any more, they know it’s all bullshit.
: It’s offbeat stimulation, it’s sort of post drug culture; you’ve got a whole generation that’s being taking drugs; they’re a lot more open, they’re a lot more into discovering the obscure.
Tristan: Drugs aren’t an issue really. Other parts of the media still treat it as an issue.
Steve: And that’s the sort of media hyperbole that doesn’t fool anyone anymore. People make their own decisions and are encouraged to. I think that’s why we do the more oddball, obscure stuff like random features about duelling or gout. I think what people like about that is that it encourages them to be into whatever they fucking want.
Justine: I think it’s quite refreshing because it didn’t push people into one train of thought. It doesn’t say you have to be this or have to be that, it’s more like whatever you think about or look at, just enjoy it because you don’t buy into a product at the end of it by reading it; you can’t buy into gout. You don’t feel like you’re being sold to.
: Sleaze stands out from other music and style press because it successfully marries the vacuous world of clubbing with an extremely diverse spectrum of editorial which can read more like the Guardian than a style or music mag. What’s all this about?
Steve: Well club culture’s not a particularly high brow thing is it really. It’s just getting a balance. People don’t really want to read about clubs, like I said they’re more into this offbeat stimulation.
Tristan: That’s where music mags get it wrong because basically clubs aren’t that interesting, there’s only a certain amount you can write about them. To turn various people that work in that industry into gods is dishonest. It’s a listings mag, it’s got it’s roots in club culture but that’s not the end of it.
: Someone brings up the arch toilet of magazine publishing; The Ministry Magazine.
Justine: Bringing out another magazine like that. Who cares, who fucking cares. It’s crap, it’s buy into our club, buy into our clothes, buy into this buy into that, it’s crap. Nobody needs another magazine like that. It’s low brow, in fact it’s pavement brow, gutter brow.
It struck me that I was sitting with some people who are forcing an important shift in emphasis away from the all too familiar agendas of the style and music press which is mainly driven by advertising. In the pub Justine talked about how they had been conscious not to put a face on the front of the mag, flirting with the potential buyer but also supporting the illusion of that star’s omnipotence. By not kow towing to established codes like the cover face, Sleaze Nation sets itself out from the rest.
It’s a good mag; it’s a fucking good mag and I am ready to die for it.
Apparently it’s available in R.Newbold shops across Japan if you too have been starved of meaning.