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MAGIK ON VENUS:

An interview with Amy Schroeder

by M. Handren


2001


 

I was killing some time one evening in New York City when I decided to stop by See Hear, a fanzine/magazine/book store around St. Mark's Place. This was where I was first introduced to Venus zine. It was Mary Timony on the cover that caught my attention, but after seeing that a friend was featured in the same issue, I decided that Venus zine was a worthy purchase.

photo by Megan Holmes

That same night, I visited the friend featured in that issue and showed her Venus. We talked about the terrific content, layout, and style it had; with my friend suggesting that I should expand my own creation as well. Since I am currently in the process of doing just that, it has always been in the back of my mind that if it weren't for my friend and Venus zine, I might have never even considered expanding Kitty Magik.

It has been almost two years since I first found Venus zine and befriended its creator, Amy Schroeder. I feel very fortunate when I have the time to contribute to an issue of Venus, a publication that covers women in music. It has been inspiring to watch it evolve into the wonderful publication it is today. The following is a little e-mail interview I did with Amy during the early part of December 2001.





Did Venus begin as a cut and paste zine? What initially prompted you to create Venus?

I started Venus in 1994 when I was a freshman at Michigan State University. My first women's studies class inspired me to make the first ish de Venus. Venus no. 1 was a cutnpaste zine, about 10 pages, and I printed about 75 copies of it. It took me a night to produce, and it didn't have a women-in-music focus yet; it was a personal zine, although I included interviews with my friends about their music, etc. It was a lot of
random stuff. For instance, I included photos of my guy friends dressing up in my clothes. In fact, the first three issues didn't have a ladies-in-music focus. The first three issues had stuff like "Smokes Reviews"; tales of me and my best lady, Julie J. Pants Showers, riding bikes and roller-skating; a special sports issue for non-sporty folk,
featuring the art of the yo-yo, an egg-and-spoon race, etc.; oh, and my campaign called the Anti-Lawn Advocates of America (which included a plastic baggie of grassseed long story). There was also coverage of asmall Michigan movement called Give A Shit Day.

As a fellow zine writer, I know how crazy times can get when you are working on your creation, holding down a job, and/or going to college full-time. When you have a free moment, what do you enjoy doing?

For the majority of the last year, I spent what seemed like every spare second helping to organize Ladyfest Midwest Chicago, which took place in Chitown in August 2001. I also have a full-time day job as an entertainment editor for a newspaper wire service for college papers, and I freelance for various publications when I have the time. A lot of the stuff I do in my spare time is related to zine-ing, like reading other zines and magazines, researching other D.I.Y. lady organizations or projects, etc. I also am one of those people who is constantly immersed in some sort of strange cycle of good luck and bad luck, so I deal with that. What seems to happen is that three particularly bad things happen to me (the car gets stolen, the telephone poll gets shot by a gun and the phone doesn't work for weeks, the computer doesn't work during mad deadline, for instance) - but then, soon after, three really good things will happen and then the cycle starts over again. For fun, I go to shows quite a bit in Chicago, dance it up, make out with the guy I'm dating, and hang out with friends. Yeah yeah.

Who have some of your most memorable interviews been with? Do you have any least favorite ones?

All interviews are interesting no matter what. I'm constantly interviewing people whether I/they realize. It's my life, and asking questions if one my most favorite things to do. Memorable interviews include the first time I interviewed Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab it was 1996 and I didn't have much experience at that point. I asked a lot of tough questions about her philosophies/opinions on Socialism and Capitalism and how it inspires Stereolab's music. She didn't like some of my questions and she told me so. That broke my heart a bit. She's still one of my favorite performers of all time. There have been some sillier interviews, like Donnie Wahlberg of New Kids on the Block; he was nice, but he talks like he has a loaf of bread in his mouth. I also went through a stage where I wanted to try doing e-mail interviews instead of phone interviews to see how people answer questions in writing instead of being put on the spot on the phone or in person. Kim Gordon had a heyday with answering an e-mail interview in fact, she was pretty sarcastic. I've interviewed Le Tigre twice. The first time was via e-mail, and the second time was on the phone. The phone interview was much more intense, more impromptu. Kathleen Hanna has been one of the most
memorable interviews because unlike a lot of other people I've interviewed, she doesn't pause before she speaks. She has so many thoughts and opinions and she's not afraid to say exactly what she's thinking.

What made you decide to name your zine Venus?

I had a coupla ideas in mind for the name of the magazine when I first started it, and some of them I probably shouldn't mention because they're kind of silly. My women's studies professor talked about the idea of women being from Venus and men being from Mars, and I fantasized what it would be like to go to this planet where only women existed and what that place would be like. I thought it seemed like a pretty inspiring place -- a place I'd like to visit. I wanted my zine to be a women's space. At the time, since it was a personal zine, I wanted it to be a space for me to be able tofeel comfortable to write about whatever I wanted to talk about.

Also, I should mention that there is another Venus magazine. I didn't find out about it until about two years ago. The other Venus is about lesbians and gays of color, and it's a great publication. For legal issues, I have officially changed the name of my zine to Venus Zine.


Where does your interest in music and writing stem
from? Who are some of your favorite writers/musicians?

I got into journalism when I was in high school at my little high school paper. I got into journalism at an early age and I never lost site of it. I then worked for my college paper and got really, really into it. That's where I discovered music writing. I then interned at a San Francisco-based magazine called SOMA and ended up becoming the musicreviews editor and then the managing editor there. It was at SOMA that I developed my music writing and editing skillz. I also freelanced music stories for other mags and sites, like Raygun, Paper, and SonicNet. Although I'm able to do all the things a magazine needs -- writing, copy editing, photo, design, production, promotion, etc. -- I have come to realize that I am more of an editor/organizer than a writer. I really enjoy collaborating with all these great people who are extremely talented writers, photographers, and artists and putting everything together.

Fave writers: bell hooks, Gloria Anzaldua, Joan Didion.

Fave musicians: So many! The Butchies, Le Tigre, Tori Amos, Pram, Rufus Wainwright, Rebecca Gates, Laetitia Sadier of Stereolab, Aretha Franklin, Josephine Wiggs, Mascott, The Sundays, Lauryn Hill, Barbara Manning, Built To Spill, Chan Marshall.

Were there any magazines/fanzines that inspired you to create Venus?

Sassy magazine was my first biggest inspiration. They really had a good thing going. Too bad Sassy got bought out, and as a result lost its flavor, and then had to end. I think part of me aspires to make Venus the next Sassy. Other big inspirations include Bitch, Bust, Ms., and Stayfree!.


What does the future hold for Venus?

This is a very good question that I'm curious to find out about. Sometimes I like to dream about what the future might hold, and one of my biggest fantasies is for all the contributors of Venus Zine and myself to be able to quit our uninspiring day jobs to work on Venus and related projects. In my fantasy, we all contribute to the zine however we want to. I'd like to be able to say to the Venus staffers, "What would you
like to do? What do you think needs to be improved or changed? ... OK, go to it!"

Venus is developing at a gradual and steady pace, and I'm enjoying every second of it. I don't want to change into a big-time glossy publication with a gazillion circulation overnight. Actually, I hope we never become too big-time, because it would inevitably lose its zine flavor. The December 2001 issue with Le Tigre on the cover is our first issue with a full-color section of pages. This is a big deal for us. I would like to continue to make this sort of advancement at a steady pace. I get excited about the little things, and I think that if we moved too fast, I wouldn't have enough time to really appreciate it.

As for what I see in the near future, we will continue to expand our coverage of not only women in music, but also women in other creative fields such as visual art, D.I.Y. businesses, creative writing, etc.

http://www.venuszine.com/

******


If you want to know more about Venus,
read the interview with zine editor Isabella from
Bendita - Latin women's inititative against violence towards women (Brazil)
and Amy!



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