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The Kettle Black

The Internet, Zines & the Magic Post Office

by J Mundok

Before I went on-line during the spring of 1997 I was fairly opposed to a national dependency on computers that seemed so inevitable. More and more people were going on-line everyday, and it seemed like you couldnít escape the term dot-com. Several friends and loved ones tried to convince me that Iíd love the Internet and that I could do very much with it. I was listening to a bit too much Art Bell at the time and though he mentioned his own website continuously the idea of being "on-line" conjured a vivid image of black helicopters and unwanted probes. But I could only resist so long.

I considered buying a computer for a short while to cut down on my trips to Kinkos. I had just started focusing more and more energy on my own "side" project, m-theory, and less energy on the pick up/back up gigs that had taken so much of my time in the years prior. I figured a home computer might just give me the extra boost I needed to self promote my music.

During the excitement of a new computer, I got the bug to surf the net. Since I donít have a credit card (paranoia? nope...smarts) it took a while to find a provider willing to send me a bill, but finally after much searching, I was on-line. Nothing has been the same since. I immediately became hooked to the wonders of e-mail and before too long I was developing my own web page. The opportunities seemed endless and the hours slipped away as I spent more time on the net.

By the middle of 1997 I decided to drop all outside musical projects and embark on "solo" recordings only. I recorded my first CD and continued to learn more about the powers of the web, particularly concerning music. I made connections, learned about self promotion and realized that there are thousands of other musicians around the world listening to the same kind of music as me and "doing it themselves".

The following winter I pieced together a live band to help promote the CD. We played around the area for several months, trying very hard to turn on an audience and gain the ever-coveted following. Nothing seemed to work, as the music is mostly downbeat and mellow. Most people found the live J Mundok experience rather boring and I donít blame them as there were times that I was rather bored myself. 1998 was slipping by and I grew frustrated at the lack of attention my new CD received. I tried to come up with a new strategy and my focus changed from live shows to gaining press.

I had become a fan of independent magazines a couple years earlier when a good friend started sending me issues of various magazines that published his writings. In the meantime, I started going through zine guides to find places where I could send my new CD. From those zine guides I realized the great numbers of zines that existed and finding the right ones for my music would be more of a challenge than I first thought. The best way to find out if the zine was for me was to drop my buck in the mail and order a copy. While this worked for some zines, I didnít always receive the zines I ordered. I understand that this is common in the zine culture (people often move or stop publishing before your dollar gets there), but it wasnít helping my main problem: where to send my disc.

Thatís when it occured to me that the best way to find out what zines are working with my kind of music is to publish my own. I figured when bands send me music, I can check their websites and press kits to find out where else theyíve sent their music, thus opening the door to a great network. It seemed logical and for the first time in a good while, one of my ideas actually worked.

I started publishing "The Kettle Black" during the summer of 1998 and the first issue was a smash. I used the internet to promote it, e-mail to connect and interview artists and the almighty post office as the vehicle to distribute not only the print version, but also my music. The philosophy is simple: the people who are interested in the similar styled bands that I write about are more likely to be interested in my music than the random addresses I find here or there.

As I work on the 3rd issue, I found myself in touch with the finest musicians I have ever met, listening to the best music I ever heard. These three elements (the internet, zines and the post office) together have influenced my art to the degree that I have changed the way I write music. Why worry about performing live (something that my music was never geared toward) as a way to promote it. Instead I focus on the recordings. I now write in terms of tracks instead of how many hands are on stage to duplicate the recordings. I have never been more fulfilled in my life and to my surprise, the zine is an equal if not more fulfilling form of art for me than the music. Though I truly love to do both, the internet, zines and the post office have changed the way I create forever.


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