QRD - Current Issue   About QRD   QRD Archives
QRD #26
Ben Szporluk interview
Mats Gustafson interview
Save money without hurting artists
All That...and a Bag of Chips
The Baby's All Right by P Russo
QRD - Thanks for your interest & support
QRD - Advertise
Silber Records
Silber Button Factory
Cerebus TV
Silber Kickstarter
Mats 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.
I stopped doing it due to a combination of things but the most important one was unquestionably the time aspect. As the mag continued to grow both in terms of circulation and content the workload on my shoulders continued to get heavier and heavier. Having a full-time job, family, house (which we have rebuilt completely on our own) etc. and doing the ‘zine on the side is simply an impossible equation in the long run, and something just had to give eventually.
During the last year I started to feel that I had to sacrifice a few things too many in order to keep on doing the ‘Face. I don’t think most people have any idea of how much work it is, but don’t get me wrong…I loved doing it, but there are just too many other things on the schedule to fit them all. Another reason that is not as evident but still something I’ve been thinking about is the challenge in doing the ‘Face. It feels like the mag had found its form so to speak and I am not quite sure how one could have continued to develop within the financial means I had at hand. Or maybe it’s just as a friend of mine said: “All good things must come to and end in order to leave space for new exciting projects.”

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.
Another thing I think that we somehow helped with is to build some sort of scene around "Broken Face" music. There have obviously been lots of other people involved in this but I think we somehow showed people that there are more like-minded people out there. It’s just a matter of finding them. I could go on with other things that I think we did pretty well but I am not going to bore you with all that but rather continue to the unsuccessful side of things. From a general point of view I don’t think you can be unsuccessful when you’re following your inner vision and don’t compromise about the things that are important to you. But I guess you could say that the number of sold copies never really was quite up there with the workload that me and my BF companions put into the whole thing. The last issue was printed in an edition of 700 copies and although I am very pleased with that number I can imagine others somehow believing that it deserved a bigger audience. But you can’t have it all, right?

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.
The most rewarding knowledge, which came out of it, was to realize how nice all the bands/artists in this scene are. Everyone I asked contributed with a track and the consistent high quality of the contributions is just amazing.

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.
I have been offered gigs, interviews and things you can't even imagine just because of my name. But apparently this mistaken identity thing works in the other direction as well. When the sax playing Mats toured the US a couple of years ago people kept asking him how it was down in New Zealand and Australia (I went there for some months in 1999). He said “Everywhere I go people ask me that. I haven't been there but I would like to go.” We need to get t-shirts made with each others face on them and some text along the lines of “I am not this man.” I have interviewed him though and we've shared “mistaken identity” stories...great guy!

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.
But given all this nothing really beats the feeling of holding a new issue in your hands. Checking it out for the first time, realizing that the illustration that you thought might be a bit too dark worked out after all or just being impressed by the amount of reviews we managed to squeeze in. I still remember these times fondly, the blend of excitement, satisfaction and anxiety that everything worked out as expected.
The procedure of sending out hundreds of packages is an aspect I guess you could describe as tedious and something it wouldn’t have been hard to live without. But that’s also a bit of a dual-edged sword as it’s also the final proof that a new issue is all done and ready for public inspection. I guess you could say that the administrational/logistic side of things generally is the thing I liked the least although you somehow find a certain pleasure in making it all work. Given the vague negative aspects I’ve listed above I hope it’s apparent that nearly all of it actually was great fun although the stress to get everything done could be troublesome from time to time.

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.
But if you’d ask my wife Anna she would probably tell you the story quite differently. I think she would say that the "broken face" is the sort of "face I make" when listening to heartfelt music that hits me really deep.

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!