Gustafsson Interview March 2004
Some of you no doubt know of The Broken Face. It was pretty much the major magazine of the wyrd folk & psychedelic underground for the past several years. When I found out Mats was ending his zine I figured it was time to finally do the interview with him that I've been planning to do for a few years. Here's a link to his new webzine.
QRD: Why did you start The Broken Face and why did you stop doing it?
Mats: The Broken Face was born out of two
things: my passion for music and the frustration that I couldn’t find any
sources where I could read about the music I loved the most. I later realized
that there actually were a few publications around that did this job extremely
well but at the time I had absolutely no idea. And I was also fed up with
the fact that the few magazines that I actually did enjoy a great deal
didn’t by any means come out regularly.
QRD: How was The Broken Face successful and unsuccessful?
Mats: I’d say it was successful in many
regards and the answer will depend completely on what day you ask the question.
Personally I’d say it was successful because we always followed our vision,
or mission if you will, and that we never let any financial interests,
labels etc. have anything to say about what we would include in a specific
issue. If we wanted to write a piece about a band known to nothing more
than five people we would have done just that because the only real criteria
for making it to the ‘Face was sonic quality. We wanted to write about
the music we love no matter genre or number of sold records. But we have
no real aversion towards popular music. We’re just not concerned with commercially
motivated individuals, and besides those folks get all the coverage they
need as it is. As a result, we tried to cover a wide variety of more established
and lesser known but equally rocking bands. When looking back at things
it really feels like we did accomplish something and somehow found our
own little secret vista in music journalism. In retrospect I think this
is what makes me the most proud.
QRD: What do you feel is your responsibility as a reviewer, to describe how a record sounds or why you do or do not like it?
Mats: Hmm…now that’s a tricky question but if forced to a corner at gunpoint I’d probably say that somehow giving the reader an idea what the music sounds like is the thing which is closest to my heart. But if we’re speaking about a great record and the writer is doing his job in a professional way I don’t really find it hard to live up to both these responsibilities. Generally speaking I find it so much easier to write about music up my alley. Others seem to enjoy writing negative reviews but I just couldn’t care less. I mean what’s the point with putting down a record that comes out in an edition of a few hundred copies? I’d rather not write about it at all…
QRD: What did you learn from releasing your own compilation disc?
Mats: That I should have pressed more copies
(since they all sold out in the matter of weeks) and that I should have
paid the extra money to print the cover instead of doing everything myself.
Gluing, cutting etc. those covers was one hell of a tedious procedure.
More importantly it taught me a lot about how distribution works and how
to deal with pressing plants and so on. We did have our share of problems
with the pressing so that was definitely not the most fun part of things.
QRD: Are you still going to be doing reviews and interviews for other magazines?
Mats: I am just too passionate about music and music writing to quit with this entirely. I will continue to write for publications such as Dream Magazine, Terrascope, Twisterella, Dusted and right now I am getting a involved with a new ‘zine here in Sweden. The interviews I have been working on lately include Jack Rose, The Lost Domain, Kemialliset Ystävät and a few other things.
QRD: Do you feel cd-r & cassette & lathe cut releases are as legitimate & important as standard ones?
Mats: I definitely do although I still can’t help to feel that there are tons of artists that somehow deserve a "proper" release on CD or on vinyl. The downside with CD-Rs is that it’s almost too easy to release your music. Some bands/artists just don’t seem to have the ability of filtering and realizing that there probably are releases that should have remained in the vaults. But on the other hand it seems to me that the format (probably because of the cheapness and small quantities) makes people put out more experimental and maybe even riskier material. A wise man described CD-Rs like “such vital moments of intention, like a drawing before a big painting.” So the upside certainly weighs over and if there weren’t CD-Rs I would probably not have heard groups like the Jewelled Antler Collective, Birchville Cat Motel and tons of those great Finish and NZ bands. The lathe cut format is more of an artifact to me but was apparently crucial in the development of New Zealand fringe music. And for that I am forever thankful…
QRD: How often do you run into people who think you’re the other Mats Gustafson?
Mats: It’s not as common as it used to
be but something related to this mistaken identity thing still happens
every month. It’ usually just an e-mail from someone being equally interested
in “my music” as in the ‘zine but there are also some pretty bizarre stories
in the vault.
QRD: How did you finance the printing of The Broken Face?
Mats: From the beginning the printing cost came straight out of my pocket and to some extent I guess it always did. But from something like issue ten and onward, ads paid a substantial part of this specific cost. As a matter of fact I’d go as far as to say that it paid all of it from BF#14 to the end. But when speaking of finances I should probably mention that the postage cost easily is the one, which is the hardest to deal with. The cost for sending one mag across the pond is more than the double cost of printing one copy. Admittedly I had a great deal with my printer guy but I still never imagined that the knowledge of knowing how to pay as little postage as possible would be so important in order to keep down the price of the mag.
QRD: What were the most fun and most tedious parts of doing your zine?
Mats: To tell you the truth there was so
much fun about it that I am not even sure where to begin. There’s the getting
positive feedback part, people saying things that would make the most self-confident
blush, but there is also this whole thing with connecting with other people
who care about the same things as yourself. And those review writing sessions
where I did nothing during an entire weekend but writing reviews were sure
as hell hard work but also shiploads of fun.
QRD: Any plans to archive The Broken Face online?
Mats: A few people have suggested this and I even got some sort of offer some time ago from a dedicated reader who said that he’d be happy to do all the database/html work. I guess you could say that I see this from two different angles. It would of course be great to somehow make sure that none of this material is ever lost and I imagine that such a web-site also would be quite a resource when it comes to learning more about peripheral sounds. But on the other hand the paper format has always been crucial to me. I’ve always seen the ‘Face as a companion of sorts, one that you take out when you’ve found the most comfortable place in the house, something that comes along with a cup or coffee or a pint of bitter. The environment of computers and the Internet can never really compete with that sort of coziness and why choose the second best if there’s a better option? But then there’s also the matter of availability. When I am typing this all issues but the last two are sold out at source and hearing people failing to find back issues makes me genuinely sad. So what I probably will do instead is to reprint some specific issues. Another option could be to try to collect everything in a book or something along those lines but given the amount of material and the costs for making such an idea come true I am not really sure it’s an viable option after all. But if there are any takers out there don’t hesitate to send me a note, ok?
QRD: What did the name The Broken Face refer to anyway?
Mats: The idea of the name is multi-faceted
but it originally comes from the Pixies track with the same name. Their
"Surfer Rosa" album was crucial to me in my own musical development so
it felt right to make that show in the name. Beyond just liking the words
I also think that I had some sort of symbolic idea with the name, as it
would suggest a broken version of something, a cracked or fragmented view
from the other side.
QRD: Do you have any musical endeavors of your own?
Mats: Not really. I have (as everyone else) tried a few instruments but as a kid I actually seemed to be a whole lot more interested in sports than in music.
QRD: Anything else?
Mats: Lots but I’ll settle with saying
that you’ll hear more from me, in one form or the other. And finally the
obligatory words of general wisdom: stay true to your beliefs!