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Interview With Marceline Smith of diskant.net

Marceline Smith is a puckish lass* from Scotland and has been the editor of hundreds, perhaps thousands of zines. (More conservative estimates number at seven.) She runs the online zine network diskant.net, which features a robust collection of online zines, fanzines, and record labels, and she contributes to or creates several ongoing paper zines, including "Damn You!", Paper_Cut", and "Only Smarties Have The Answer". As Acid Logic itself rose out of ashes of several print zines, such as "The Arm's Extent", and "Selections From My Journals", it seemed like a novel idea to talk to Marceline about the state of current zineness, both online and off.

*As I've never personally met her, I really have no idea whether Marceline is puckish or not. I guess I've always assumed that everyone in Scotland is puckish, but that's really rather Ameri-centric of me.

(Note: Throughout the following email interview I kept marceline's replies in her preferred lowercase form and I didn't change her delightful Scottish spelling style.)

Wil: Where exactly are you located? It's Scotland right? And that's somewhere in Britain, right? Near England? Or is it in Africa?

marceline: at present I'm living in glasgow, scotland. it's a cold, rainy, grey, hilly place. but it rules.

Wil: So exactly what is Diskant? What are you goals there?

marceline: well, diskant originally was just a collective name for some websites I had put together for my various fanzines. from then it kind of grew as I encouraged and helped my friends who did fanzines, record labels or whatever to get their stuff online. as more people got interested it became kind of a starting point for people wanting to find out about about bands, fanzines, record labels or just where all this sort of stuff was to be found on the internet. some people call diskant a portal - it's not, more of a community. a helpful community that makes friends with everyone, offers a home to people with similar ideas and fights with the people in the big fancy houses across the road.

Wil: So any ideas on how far you plan to take it? I have plenty of delusions of grandeur about Acid Logic, what's your definition of success for Diskant?

marceline: well, I just paid out my own money for www.diskant.net and proper hosting so I guess I'm taking it to some kind of semi-organised-looking new stage. I don't ever expect to make any money out of diskant (but just in case anyone's interested my selling price is ten million dollars, no more, no less), nor do I ever want diskant to be my full-time job. so I guess not far then. I think diskant already is a success - it's worked out much better than I ever expected. I haven't received as many presents as I would have liked though.

Wil: I can remember thinking a few years ago that a zine wasn't really a zine unless it was a paper zine, but nowadays it almost seems like web zines are the main thing and paper zines are an afterthought. Do you think web zines may reduce paper zines to an obscurity? (This brings to mind the famous April Fool's issue of Maximum Rock and Roll where they announced they were folding the print edition and going online.) Or can paper and web zines exist in harmony?

marceline: webzines are just so much easier to do and more instant. the quickest paper fanzine I've done took me six months I think but generally it takes nine months from planning to finished copies. and by that time half of it's out of date. with webzines you can do an interview with someone and have it online the next day. you're also not limited by space or printing quality or colour.

obviously paper fanzines are still important for people who don't have access to the internet and there's something to be said for the actual physicality of a fanzine in the same way that most people would prefer a vinyl record to an mp3. most of us can't take the internet on a train.

with the last fanzine I did, paper_cut, I was never sure whether the paper fanzine or the website was the original. should I keep back content from the website until it had been printed and risk it going out of date or should I put everything on the website first and risk no one buying the paper fanzine 'cos they'd read it already online. I'm still trying to find a solution to this.

Wil: Diskant seems to exist in a sort of mini universe, rotating around a lot of independent bands like "Mogwai" and "Trail of Dead." What's the music scene like over in your neck of the woods? I've been complaining that popular music in America has been in the pot for the past five years or so. Anything stirring to the east?

marceline: the music scene here is fantastic as it always has been. glasgow in particular is the greatest place in the universe which is why I live here. the independent music scene has always been strong in the UK and I think it's becoming a lot easier for people to get involved in and build a real alternative to the money-driven music business. interestingly the UK music press is currently going mental for US bands like "Trail of Dead" and "At the Drive-In", so, in terms of popular music, I guess it's that grass is greener thing. bands from another country always seem far more exciting and exotic to journalists. I'm also lucky enough to get sent music by fantastic new bands from the UK, US and Europe and I think things are looking really great generally and not just in the UK.

Wil: What about the band "Slaughter"? Does anyone remember them? Or "Skid Row"?

marceline: I remember "skid row". but not with any enthusiasm.

Wil: When I was teenager it seemed the ultimate goal for sensitive misunderstood youth such as myself was to be rock star, followed perhaps by vocations like actor, writer, film maker etc. Now it seems like a lot of kids are getting into the web design thing, producing some very cutting edge, though not always usable, web content. Do you think "web designer" is starting to take its place in the pantheon of "cool jobs" (e.g. jobs people fantasize about as having a large degree of self expression?

marceline: well, I asked a teenage kid and he said 'no', as I suspected he might. apparently because you actually have to know quite a lot to do the job and knowing stuff isn't seen as cool by young people these days. also I think web designers still have too geeky an image. while people think of music journalists as being out partying with limp bizkit every night, web designers are still thought of as geeks who sit at home watching Star Wars and drinking coffee, which in my case is generally true. anyway, I work as a web designer for a living and I don't think it's really that much fun so I'm still working on the rock star, writer stuff as well.

Wil: What a little punk! He doesn't think we're cool?! I'd show him who's a geek if not for the fact that my pocket protector seems to have gotten caught in my copy of Steven Hawking's "A Brief History of Time."

marceline: he's called James - he plays guitar solos in schoolboy 'munkycore' band TAR. let's all get him.

Wil: So you also do a lot of photography and photo-art, as seen at your TeenGirlHeart web site. How does that fit into the bigger Diskant/Marceline picture?

marceline: well, it doesn't really fit into diskant at all apart from the fact that it's my website. it shouldn't really be in diskant I suppose but it makes things easier for me in terms of updating it. I think with all my websites [and I have about ten now...], I just felt the concept or content was important enough to merit its own website. teengirlheart is basically my online portfolio - I re-organised it a while back when I got made redundant in the hope that it would impress someone into giving me a job. I just discovered at our staff Christmas outing that my boss did actually choose me over the other applicants from looking at my website so it did help. the artwork and photography is really important to me, having gone to art school. I love being able to document the things that surround me and particularly to try and get across some of the atmosphere and energy of the gigs I go to. but the thing I like best about teengirlheart is that it's orange. and yet not tacky or frightening. I'm also just getting together a sister site for it called unsharp which is green and leafy and will also be documenting the things around me but this time in the form of writing.

Wil: Websites designed with Macromedia Flash product seem to be having a big effect on the web. Are you pro or con?

marceline: I don't like Flash but I know it's really because I can't be bothered learning it - I did try but it took me four weeks to make an animation of a bouncing ball and I didn't feel I was getting back anything remotely close to the effort I was putting in. in terms of other peoples' websites it's only good if it works properly. little games where I can help Pikachu make stew are good, pages that go 'loading - loading - loading' for half an hour when I only want to find out if I made up that story about trail of dead choosing an hour of videos on MTV2 are bad.

Wil: That reminds me, you purport to be some sort of Pokemon Master. Does this involve any sort of pay increase or superpowers? And isn't it rather easy to be master of something when most of your competition are 8 year old boys.

marceline: what do you mean, 'purport'? I have the certificate to prove that since I have caught all 150 pokemon and beaten the Elite Four of Pokemon Masters, I too, am now a Pokemon Master. but, apart from that piece of computerised paper and the knowledge that all pokemon will obey your every command there's little glory in it. but, as a girl, I have discovered that one of the ways of gaining respect from male counterparts is beating them at computer games so it does help me greatly. incidentally the others seem to be not throwing 'like a girl', being able to fix household appliances and knowing how to play golf. luckily I can do all these things.

and you've obviously never played computer games against an 8 year old boy or you'd know how damn good they are at it.

Wil: Any last words for our audience? Reasons we should check out your new release of Diskant? (which should be up by the time this actually gets published.)

marceline: well, I hope I haven't used the wrong tense too much - I tend to do that a lot. I'm also glad I didn't have to answer any questions that required me to use the three words I can't spell. I'd like to encourage you to come visit us at diskant - we'll have some cake ready for you and you can read our fanzines, listen to our favourite bands and stay as long as you like.

and it's diskant with a small d.



 

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