Bye Brendan Mullen, Fanzine Owes You, In Memoriam

Casey McKinney


First read this from Jeff Penalty at Swindle Magazine.  Above I grabbed their nice pic by Adam Wallacavage.  It’s a good article from an appropriate indie venue, focusing on Brendan Mullen’s days as the man behind the Masque, a punk club in late 70s Hollywood. The L.A. Times also had a sweet piece by Flea of The Red Hot Chili Peppers.  I ramble below, but Mullen made a quick important impact on me, and also on The Fanzine.

I was born a little too late for the original days of punk. Still I grew up on 80s hardcore and the postpunk of SST bands like the Minutemen, Husker Du, Dinosaur Jr. and on…and on… and even though DIY was the thing late in high school it was quite later that I started making art & fiction fanzines (the first was in 2000; many friends I know have been making them for much longer and have always been an inspiration).

(Okay excuse the long backstory, it does lead to something). Back in 2001 I guess it was, I was contacted by a Canadian editor, Patrik Andersson, who was putting together a collection of independent magazines for a book called Inside Magazines which eventually came out in 2002. He somehow got ahold of the zines I’d done and featured two of them, Mall Punk and Animal Stories (and a third that never came out, titled appropriately Ghost Stories). How these zines that had print runs of only 500, that were each hand done, had gotten into this beautiful book alongside these bigger glossy magazines like Index, Purple and Visionaire, I have no idea.  But anyway, Patrik also allowed me a spot to do something else in the book. The idea I pitched was a history of Los Angeles based zines. Soon after the dig on the subject began I was told by author Benjamin Weissman, who did the amazing Snowflake zines for a while (about skiing, sex and art, with mostly L.A. and elsewhere Cali based contributors), that I had to get in touch with Brendan Mullen for this thing. This was seconded by Dennis Cooper (or the other way around, maybe Dennis suggested him first, I forget). Dennis himself was once the maestro of the important Little Caesar zine.

In any case I did contact Mullen, and I was soon very gracious for the tip. Newly back in Los Angeles, I wasn’t sure where to even start with this stranger, this L.A. punk icon, this Fedora wearing Scotsman all in black, but in retrospect the time was so vivid; it’s rare that an afternoon spent with someone can teach so much.

Brendan Mullen schooled me, with the quickness (yes that’s a Bad Brains ref) in one afternoon, on everything (that’s an exaggeration but…) one could know about punk zines…well, Los Angeles based ones anyway. While I grew up a disheveled prep scool punk on Maximum Rock and Roll, got the Factsheet 5s every now and then and bought others zines sporadically, Brendan knew––had lived that is––the punk zine backstory (and could have even gone into the sci-fi fanzines too if I’d asked…we did talk some about the early horror mags). Well we gabbed over tacos in Silverlake and then he invited me to his house, then once again back over to let Dave Muller pick out zines from his incredible cache to draw for the article. I recall Mullen as a real gentleman, a wealth of info and the reason I always plead that any writer needs a shed somewhere to archive things (like Mullen had in his backyard)…and a humidifier (those zines and records can get musty).  His collection of memorabilia ought to be a museum.

Recently, someone, a kid I guess wrote me an email asking about zines… blindly it seemed, out of the blue, wanted to know how to get ahold of some for a presentation.  I explained that I no longer made print zines.  But I tried to point her to places to look for them – local indie bookstore? or contact Printed Matter in New York?  I wrote her that a zine is basically just a homemade magazine, anyone could do it, even her, and said she should check out Trinie Dalton’s zines of the past few years, which have stood out to me as some of the best modern ones, and that was that.

But I know it crossed my mind… that I shoulda said “there’s this guy in L.A., Brendan Mullen and you should…” but then hey I had no idea who this person was and what level of school they were talking about writing about.  I mean I think at thefanzine we are mostly an all ages kind of production, but we don’t censor ourselves either; in any case anyone who wants to know how to make a zine, well I can tell him or her that much at least. And it’s easier than ever now. You just need some regular 8 and 1/2 size paper, maybe Photoshop and a printer and scanner, though scissors a typewriter and a xerox machine will work just fine as they did for so long. Oh and an idea helps, even if that idea be as vague and personal as you can imagine.  A person can make 5 zines or 500 or more.

Still, what I’m trying to iterate here is what I learned from Brendan, that many zines started in that simple hand-stapled way in the punk days, and soon evolved into more professional magazines like Slash, Bomp and Nomagazine. They may not have been around long, but they sure had their impact in building the scenes they covered.

A few years after Andersson’s book was published I was asked to submit my “magazines” (the aforementioned zines) to an international magazine fair in 2005, mainly because I had been in this book, and I owe what I wrote in the book to Brendan Mullen.  Even though he wasn’t the focus––Raymond Pettibon became the main interviewee––still Raymond and I talked about Brendan and his ideas throughout.

When the url “” came up as available (in 2004 I think), I grabbed it up and thought well, that’s about the equivalent of Index, Paper, or Interview, as far as it being an open-ended vague tile.  I later asked the CMYK organizers if it could, as a website, be the magazine introduced at the fest. And they went for it. Yeah to me, to call it The Fanzine was the blandest name for something that really is a fanzine, and therefore had the most potential to be anything.

I don’t know how this will all evolve, with the site, but I feel extremely grateful for all the absolutely amazing work people have put into it thus far––Mike and Danny, the longtime contributors, the sometimes, the off and on interns, Ben Strong and Ben Bush, Emilie Jackson’s great work with Kevin Killian’s book, and yeah even with all the good sometimes I have to say it drives me nuts doing this, switching from one head to the next in the editing process… to the point I want to throw up my arms cuss and quit… you know most zines have a pretty short lived lifespan…but with the web it seems it could feasibly go on forever.

Still it takes resources to function.  And thus there is always that loaded concept of selling out. But hell, if we can, when we do get our act together, we will have ads eventually.  We could right now, but we just want to do it right when we do it.  Oh how Ian MacKaye can haunt your thoughts.  He’s the angel on the shoulder that says don’t do it.  But you have to survive somehow.  The writing profession is tougher than ever. So if someone can figure out a business model for us sans ads, write us. Otherwise…

Anyway that was all probably way off track, but just wanted to shout out and say thanks to Brendan Mullen and that our thoughts are with his family…and thanks to Brad Lapin for posting the news, I hadn’t seen it until tonight.

If someone wants to write a real story about Brendan, we’d gladly want to hear it and maybe want to publish it as a piece?….

Rest In Peace,

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