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Toilet Paper Zine
Changing views by communicating:


An interview with
Alva Dittrich

from Bonn, Germany

by Elke Zobl and Haydeé Jiménez

January 2007

 

"...try to look inside you and work with what you find there."
-Alva


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With Red Chidgey at the International Women's Festival's Zine Workshop in Vienna, March 2006. Photo by Elke Zobl.

Can you tell me a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?
I have just turned 21 and reside in Bonn, Germany where, I am ashamed to admit I was also born, but I just moved house too, so I did kind of change my residence.

What are you currently doing, or involved in, besides your zines?
Right now I have to prepare for my intermediate exams but that is not what you are hinting at I guess. I am running the one-woman-organization that is Alien She Concerts, a project that puts on
(semi-) female bands at a local venue 1-3 times a month. The venue Kult 41 is also in part run/organized by yours truly. Besides that I am doing booking for my friend’s label F-Spin Records and work at the women’s department at university where we organize lectures and workshops and women-specific topics and last but not least I play drums in A Boy Named Sue and Guitar/Vocals in Blockshot, which is a lot of fun…oh yeah and selling crap records you get sent for review on Ebay or to friends in order to stay afloat.


You write for several fanzines. Can you tell our readers about Toilet Paper fanzine and Trust?

Toilet Paper is my ego zine which I started because everyone else I wrote to seemed to do zines and I was really intrigued by them and also because people kept asking me to write for their zines so I figured I might as well do it all by myself. I’ve joined the staff of Trust for pragmatic reasons really, first of all, I had a subscription, anyway, and liked their tone and also it’s bigger than my own zine so whenever there were bands who I could not get in touch with on my own account I interviewed them for Trust (Peaches, Ani DiFranco and the like).

What topics do you discuss in your zines most often? What language are they written in?

Trust is in German and I only do reviews and interviews for them, pretty much exclusively with (semi-) female bands (Le Tigre, Gossip, Chicks on Speed, Mary Timony, etc.). Toilet Paper is in English and deals with tales my life writes, which includes rants on feminist topics and other forms of socio-criticism, also fiction and lyrics, it really does change a lot from diary-like style to more academic approaches. I also include interviews and reviews there.

How long have these zines been running?

I started Toilet Paper when I was 16, Trust has been going since the late 80’s.

Where/how are your zines distributed? Who are your readers?

With Toilet Paper I mainly trade several issues with other zinesters so they sell my zines and I sell theirs, mainly in Europe at gigs. Trust, due to language limitations is sold in Germany, Austria and Switzerland in Record Stores, Newsagents and at gigs.

What kind of responses do you get from your zines’ audience?
It’s quite varied; at first people were always labeling Toilet Paper a feminist zine when I didn’t even write much about women’s issues but some also criticize the content for being too music-oriented. Often, people have described my writing as courageous because it is quite personal but I also get letters from people telling me to get over my pc attitude; it really seems to lie in the eye of the beholder. Same for Trust, some consider it boring and redundant others consider it informed quality-writing.



Alva opening for Lesbians on Ecstasy at Kult 41. 28/5/2006

You also organize “Alien She Concerts” and play in several bands! Can you tell us a bit about the music you play and the concerts you organize?
A Boy Named Sue play Anti-Folk, I think; I know it’s something I don’t usually listen to so I can’t quite nail it down but its rather poppy with out-of-tune female vocals and a lot of self-irony. Blockshot is more serious a project for me as I write the music and lyrics, we have a quirky keyboard sound but the rest is more in the vein of riot-grrl music, with a very sophisticated drummer though and atypical arrangements. Alien She Concerts, as I have outlined before, tries to give female musicians a platform but I also put on shows for all-male bands. It’s a DIY non-profit thing.

Do you feel that zines and making music are inter-related (personally)?
Well both are creative outlets and as lyrics are very important to me I guess I am more of a verbal person; also, both create a community of like-minded people and a network of friends.

How did you become introduced to the culture of zines?
It grew out of my interest in music that I started reading bigger zines like Trust and if I read a review in there of a zine that featured a band I liked, I’d order it. This way I discovered less music-oriented zines and soon started corresponding with several zine authors about their zine’s contents and so I’d gradually discover more and more zines and people I could relate to.

What do you hope to accomplish by making and distributing your zine?
As for Trust, I’d like to change the male-oriented view on music and show people there are bands comprised of women that also rock and have a lot to say. For Toilet Paper, its not so much an accomplishment I am working towards but a way of communicating with others about my beliefs and discovering, clarifying them for myself and to get in touch with loads of cool people and be inspired, and if I am lucky, even inspire others.


What do you love and find challenging about zine making?

Deadlines are always a challenge. I love interviewing bands because you always have some expectations and it’s interesting to see to what extent they are met. When you are positively surprised it’s always the greatest feeling and so is receiving mail with positive feedback. Layouts are a challenge, too.

What do you think about zine-making today?

As in opposed to back when it started you mean? Well I think that even though we are approaching a global village kind of state of the world (well parts of it), there are still people feeling alienated by their surroundings and find a whole new range of possibilities in underground networks like the zine community; so, I don’t think zine-making has lost any of its significance.

Which role does Internet play for you?
I don’t like e-zines, but in general, the internet has made a lot of things easier and faster, obviously, but it has also had social implications that are less positive like some people’s increasing incompetence to deal with the so-called real world; so, I think it should be regarded with some distance and caution. Especially for booking tours and stuff, the internet has proven a very useful tool and I appreciate that. I am not, however, into chats or the like; I don’t disapprove, but some people I know have been truly damaged by it, others are just fine. So, I guess it’s simply not for everybody.

What are some zines you have read lately that you would recommend to someone learning about the zine-making/reading world?

Queesch is a very impressive zine, as it’s trilingual and very political and well-researched. It is not a classic zine though. Doris and Morgenmuffel are always great because they exceed genre boundaries by being comic zines, I feel. Also, Bonfire Madigan gave me this zine about mental health issues and how they are treated in our society, which is amazing and a topic I’ve also been very interested in and has some cool artwork too; it’s almost a book, really called Navigating the Space between Brilliance and Madness.

What advice would you give to someone who wanted to start a zine?
Just do it really. Don’t copy from others, but try to look inside you and work with what you find there. The good thing about zines is that there are no rules and yet so many zines are the same. That really bores me.

Do you feel part of a (grrrl or general) zine community or network and what does it mean to you?

Definitely. When people ask me to contribute to their zine or book projects or for an interview I am always amazed and wonder how they found out about me. When I was in this zine shop in Ireland I showed my friend several zines commenting on them like “this was done by my friend luke; we met in Manchester, and this by isy who we stayed with in brighton” and so on and the shop owner went like “are you alva” I felt like, wow, there totally is such a community. Also when you put on a band and they know like exactly the same people in another city that you know it really fills you with that feeling of a bond or whatever between us punks/grrls/zinesters, what have you. Or at Ladyfest and you know loads of people already from lots of different cities. You can’t beat that feeling.

Do you consider yourself as feminist?
I worked for several feminist organizations in the past, and although there definitely are women who identify themselves as feminists, I don’t wanna be associated with it. I wouldn’t hesitate to step up for women’s rights wherever I feel they have been violated. The Women’s Movement has achieved a lot of things but there are still inequities even in our so-called advanced western societies and as long as that’s the case I will continue to support things like Ladyfest, etc.

What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life (as a woman/feminist/…)?
Basically, that if you fall asleep in public places, some guy will lay hands on you, that you are belittled when you talk about your involvement in whatever project, hit by lovers, raped by acquaintances, objectified and criticized for your outfit and that one remark; look, action can ruin your entire day (or life even).

What do you think about feminism today? How would you explain what feminism is to someone who has no idea what it is?
It is still relevant as long as the above mentioned still holds true. Feminism is about achieving equality between men and women to an extent that it just doesn’t matter anymore what sex you happen to have. It’s about being able to express yourself without having to conform to stereotypical images and ideas of what it is to be a woman or a man and also about combating compulsory heterosexuality.






What would a “grrrl”-friendly society look like in your view? How do you think society might be re-thought and transformed to come closer to an “ideal” world for women, grrrls and queer folks? Do you have any suggestions for the development of women/grrrl/queer-friendly policies?
I think confusing the public, as queers tend to do, is an interesting and valid approach because if you can’t tell if someone is a woman or man anymore people will realize that it doesn’t matter anyway. Speaking up and being visible is dangerous but also important and the only way to overcome the division created by artificial gender distinctions.

What are some of your personal wishes/visions/ideas/plans for the future, if you like to share them?
For me personally I wanna get a job at Kill Rock Stars; for the rest of the World, I want them to find the strength to accept their flaws and find out what they wanna do with their lives in order to be happy and start pursuing that goal.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Thanks for inviting me to be part of this and providing resources for others to dive into the zine world and get utterly hooked. Thumbs up for that!


Most recent issue, #15, of Toilet Paper- excerpt from an interview Alva conducted with the Sharpease

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info:


Alva Dittrich
Verdistr.4
53115 Bonn,
Germany

To order the zine, send 2€/$ ppd. worldwide.

Toilet Paper fanzine
,
Trust

alva [AT] f-spin.de

myspace.com/aliensheconcerts

(Alien She Concerts web page)

 


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