The Only Magazine That’s Impressed Me In A Long, Long Time
by Scott Hefflon
We don’t review ‘zines or magazines very often, because quite honestly, not much new ground has been broken in print in the last few years. I know, I run a magazine (we all bristle at being called ‘zines, and if you saw our print bills, you’d know why). I know how hard it is to slag mediocre bands when their label is dangling an ad worth a month’s rent before your eyes, and you can’t remember the last time you paid a bill more than a day or two before the shut-off date. Not to mention, of course, that none of us would drive ourselves to the point of bankruptcy if we didn’t believe in the creative spirit. We hate to slag bands because aside from petting your mean-streak, it really does kinda suck to be let down by band after band, hoping it’ll rock, hoping it’ll go somewhere, and finding out it’s formulaic trash like 75% of all CDs out there dying for some attention.
So magazines have become very, very safe in the last few years. Even this one. I’ll admit it. When push comes to shove, the first things to go are the things not pulling in any money. Like fiction, poetry, two-page photos you think are cool, and white space. Editors hate write space because a least one publicist (music telemarketers, with lists you don’t wanna get your name removed from) will get off their ass if you slip a review of their band in there, and designers love it because it gives them more room to express their inner whatever, and the print bill ain’t coming outta their paycheck.
Not to mention, of course, that aside from a few noteable mouthy outlets (websites, primarily, because a hosting fee is easier to eat than a print bill), everyone’s frighteningly polite these days. And I do mean frighteningly. Many may gape in wonder at how Bush can get away with a “free speech zone” and heavily screened and scripted press conferences, but the truth is WE TAKE IT and we censor ourselves! No one “makes” the media lob softball questions any more than anyone “makes” magazines cover the same moronic celebrities with nothing to say, or the same formulaic bands. The designated areas of rebellion are handpicked and safe, carefully edited so as to not offend and lose advertisers or subscribers.
And, again, we simply take it.
It’s not like Wonka Vision is sparking the fire of revolution, but they’re having their say, starting a dialogue, and the paper is nice and shiny now. This is their first glossy issue, and they doubled their print run. (We just did too, but we’ve been hemorrhaging money on glossy for a few years now.) They have slick layouts, color illustrations, and columns about politics and stuff. I hear the kids are getting more into politics these last few years, and I think that’s good. I personally steer clear of politics, because like mainstream pop, anyone with a brain knows it’s fake and completely full of shit. The Kennedy assassination conspiracy and the Watergate cover-up happened either before I was born or while I was still pooping and crying because I was sitting in my own shit and helpless to change my situation, but ever since then, I’ve known that the government lies and is full of shit and that people will take whatever they can get without getting caught, and if caught, will lie to your face and deny knowledge or responsibility for their actions. The government is made up of “we the people,” and we the people are scumbags.
Wonka Vision has thoughtful social and political columns. I’ve just thought a lot about the same things they’ve thought about. And by nature, I’m a lot more verbally vicious than their writers. I agree with George Carlin and Hunter S. Thompson (a great political writer, even though I hate political writers. HST’s election predictions were wrong most of the time, but at least he was fun to read) and Lewis Black in that politicians and corporate thieves should be held directly accountable for their actions and be hung, shot, run over, and stampeded by bulls in heat and the process televised and run on pay-per-view and the profits distributed to those fucked over by the criminal’s misdeeds.
If Marilyn Manson and Judas Priest and other bands are blamed because a rare fan is crazy, why aren’t leaders and executives responsible for their policies and orders carried out by the people who work directly for them? The former are entertainers writing rhyming, over-generalized lyrics about how life kinda sucks, but fans can get laid and throw their fists in the air and stuff (and buy black concert shirts to show their rebellion and individuality), the latter are elected (in some way) and entrusted to LEAD the country or a company (while fans can buy nice suits and power ties to show how mature and respectable they are). Entertainers we’ve decided write quite catchy little songs vs. leaders we’ve decided to trust and put in charge of things to look out for our best interests. And BANDS get the shit?
The world’s a fucked up place, ya know?
Wonka Vision doesn’t froth at the mouth like I do, but they at least tackle social and political subjects. Well, maybe they don’t “tackle” them, but they stand next to them and kinda lean into them a bit. It’s a start.
They also cover bands, because we all do. We all like music, and people like to read what their favorite bands have to say, even if it’s not much more substantial than some actor saying how great the cast and director was of whatever new blockbuster they’re in that made them more money than I’ll make in my whole life. Band interviews include Jimmy Eat World, Circa Survive, Sage Francis, Rise Against, The Explosion, and Strung Out. A bunch of Punk Core bands talk about how they got in trouble in high school in “Punk Rock Detention,” some guy whose cousin is some guy in some band talks about that, some girl who really likes some band gets her emails back and forth with him printed, there are a few local bands covered (the mag is based in Philly), there’s a quick artist spotlight (without many sample works shown), there’s an indie film spotlight, some fuckin’ poetry (that’s right, email all your rhyming blather to them, not me), and, of interest, the last page is a full page illustration of an artist’s interpretation of a Jimmy Eat World song. Cool. The very earnest Editor’s Letter states that this was a real pet project of the Editor, Justin. One of those things you really want to make happen in your life time, just to see it, just to make all the other shit you have to put up with worth it. Well done.
As with any magazine worth reading, there are reviews of CDs, DVDs, comics, books and ‘zines, websites, and video games. A bit skimpy, kinda thrown in the back with not much for graphics, but it’s good to see a “music plus” mag cover more than just the latest over-hyped band. Most of the reviews are actually worth reading, and while I sighed a few times, I didn’t throw the mag across the room like I do repeatedly with Alternative Press. Wonka Vision is a lot nicer to mediocre bands than I am, but they seem in general a lot nicer than I am. But then, who isn’t?
Wonka Vision is taking The Big Plunge. They went full color, full glossy, and increased their circulation dramatically. Justin is a good guy with a good heart who makes a good mag that tries to support the good bands and products out there. I don’t get to say nice things often, because so much of the world is either on autopilot or constantly falling shy of its potential. Or it just sucks ass. Justin has really made an effort, really got something going here, and you should check it out.