If you were skateboarding back in the 80’s, you can probably think of at least a couple of skate zines that were floating around. They were typically high contrast black and white Xeroxed glimpses into different skate scenes from all over the planet. Skateboarding, music, art, poetry, funny stories and anything else these authors wanted to put through the copier and distribute wherever their skateboards took them. There are still some dedicated folks out their producing paper zines, but the zine boom of the 80’s has certainly passed due to the emerging internet revolution.
One of the standouts from that era, Bend Zine, was born in 1986 in the back office of a major BMX publication. Andy “Mel Bend” Jenkins, the zine’s creator, remembers “I worked as an editor for a glossy BMX trick riding magazine called Freestylin’ and there were things I wanted to say/do that wouldn’t fit into the slick pages.” He took on the alias of Mel Bend to publish it because “I felt I should keep my name out of Bend, I suppose out of guilt – I used a lot of Freestylin’s paper and toner and caused a lot of wear and tear on the copier. We tried to run every kind of paper through that thing, even tin foil – so I took the moniker Mel from an old bowling shirt I always wore. Evetually Tod Swank put the two together and christened Mel Bend.”
Contributors along the way included names like Phil Esbenshade, Jawhn Dettman, O, Tod Swank, Spike Jonze, Dave Carnie, Garry Davis, Thomas Campbell, Kevin Wilkins, Mark Lewman and Bernie McGinn just to name a few. About 15 issues into things he realized that it had turned into something too slick to still be considered a zine – “It had slowly mutated, become something else… what, I’m not too sure.” Around the same time Andy started a new project with his cohorts Mark Lewman and Spike Jonze. Maybe you remember it? It was called Dirt, and it was a high budget, glossy, zine-type publication targeted towards teen boys that lasted a good couple of years. After it’s demise, Andy began looking through the boxes of mail he’d accumulated from 8 years of corresponding with other zine makers and people he’d met along the way – “I began to reread them and make two piles; interesting and not. Many of the interesting ones made it into what became the next Bend project #16 ‘I Check The Mail Only When Certain It Has Arrived; a Collection of Letters – From People I Didn’t Know’ (1986-1994)”. The well received book was full of postcards, actual letters, envelope art and e-mails from a bunch of like-minded people who made their way into Andy’s life.
A couple years after it’s release and it’s onto the current Bend project (#18), a full scale novel written by one of the letter writers/contributors from I Check The Mail, Mike Daily. The novel’s called Valley and it’s “A humorously visual story narrated by main character, writer/student, Mick O’Grady, as he ambles through his days in a sort of haze attempting to make sense of the numerous mysteries unraveling before him…”. It’s a great read; a thinly-veiled fictional work full of all types of different genres – something you should definitely read, should you get the chance. If you’re interested in getting your hands on a copy you should contact Bend Press.
The future is looking pretty bright for the zine turned small book company; Andy recently formed a partnership with part owner/operator of Girl Skateboards, Megan Baltimore to form Lunchbox Distribution, an umbrella company for Bend. Their next project will be a series of 10 short books from the likes of Greg Barbera, Mike Daily, Megan Baltimore, Phil Esbenshade, Susan Lapper, Mark Lewman, Billy Miller, Greg Shewchuk, Mike Vallely and Kevin Wilkins. The writers will be teamed up with such artists as Thomas Campbell, Evan Hecox, Greg Higgins, Spike Jonze, Joe Sorren and Tobin Yelland. The first of these chapbooks are slated to be released in the summer of 1999… look out for them. Looking past Y2K, plans have been set to put out a full color collection of Spike Jonze’s photo’s, appropriately named “Photo: Spike Jonze.” Throughout it all, Bend Press has remained to be The Smallest Book Company – “It’s a slow road and that’s how we like it. Any faster and the slippery slope of publishing would be unbearable.”
You can contact Bend Press @ www.bendpress.com