“Mika is an academic & zine maker. He has made some perzines about his various interests such as DIY culture, relationships, inclusive rugby, cycling and eclectic musical tastes. Recently he threw caution in the wind and started writing poetry. His texts hover about the sweet spot of memory and utopia, pop culture and nature.”
Who are you? Tell us a little bit about yourself.
My name is Mika. I am an academic and a zine maker. As an academic I specialise in love & relationships research. As a zine maker I have been making mostly perzines which are quite eclectic. Lately I got back into writing poetry. My open-mic performances and poetry zine have thankfully been received well.
What do zines mean to you?
First and foremost, zines are about community. I see zine makers as all these wonderful weirdos with strange, niche and marginalised ideas and experiences who are looking for ways to connect with other people in a manner which is open, equal and inclusive. An in so doing avoid noisy and crowded spaces like online platforms or Wetherspoon’s.Secondly, zine making is my main creative outlet outside of academic writing, which has very strict rules with regards to form and quality. I constantly struggle with the notion of quality, when I am making zines, but ultimately they come to life as a tangible object which fills me with joy. I probably enjoy making zines most followed by reading other people’s zines. The whole business of advertising them for sale puzzles me a bit. People should just swap zines like they did with visiting cards in the 19th century. How do you do, Madam, this is my zine, I would be delighted to read yours.
How did you first get started with zines?
In Germany, in the 1980s, we didn’t know that there was something called zines. It was normal for many people to put together Schülerzeitungen (pupils’ magazines). It was all about trying to make your voice heard. Eventually, my friends and I made the connection to political activism, pirate radio, pamphleteering and wanting to change the world. I largely stopped making zines, though, when I got into stand-up comedy which was another DIY creative outlet for many years.
Tell us about your zines.
The perzines are quite varied and probably more held together by the singularity of their maker and the overall design and look. The topics mirror my interests from emancipatory politics via cycling and inclusive rugby to thinking about my increasingly long past lives in Germany, Finland, England and Scotland. I am in my fifties now and have spent more of my adult life in the UK than ‘at home’. Making these zines is a way of creating a bit of a sense of continuity. There is usually something about relationships in my perzines. I also tend to put many of my creative-writing ideas in there, at least those which are not likely ever to make it into a separate publication.
My poetry is mostly irreverent and tries to connect with punk poetry without becoming too much like old men ranting. It is spoken word but on paper which I also enjoy performing at events (hint hint). A lot of the topics are connected to popular culture: books, music, films.
What resources do you use to create your zines?
A physical notebook, an old-fashioned fountain pen, a smartphone for the pictures and a laptop. And time. It is all about giving myself permission to focus on a quiet task.
Tell us about your zine-making process.
It all starts with ideas in the notebook, screenshots on my phone and pictures I take, when I am out an about. Sometimes I draw as well (on paper) but I am not very good at that. Every now and then I sit down and type up the notes as a text or poem on the laptop. When I am in the groove, it does not take me long. There is no need to reference anything unlike academic writing.
At some stage I will have accumulated enough material to start putting together a zine. This is when things really slow down for me because I can spend hours tinkering with the lay-out in MS Word. I use watermarks and try to place relevant pictures at the right points in my texts. I also play around with the pictures to make sure that they look ok in b/w riso print.
When I am done, I send the zine off to a print shop which is a workers’ collective. I am not really a craft person and had more than my fair share of physically cutting and pasting, stapling and folding in the last century.
Do you have any advice for newbie zine makers?
There was a German duo, Icke & Er, who made odd DIY hip hop with raps in Berlin dialect. One of their catch phrases was Machet einfach! which is of course Nike’s slogan Just do it! Don’t worry about what anyone else does! Do what you can and want with the time and resources you have! There is no single way of doing zines. If you are really stuck, try collaborating with someone who has done a zine before. This could be joint creative work or a ‘split zine’ which can be read from either end.
What is your favourite thing about zine culture?
I am in love with the diversity and inclusivity of zine culture. There are zines about leftwing fan culture for lower-league football. There are zines about chronic illness and being neurodiverse. There are zines about being trans or non-binary. There are zines about cooking on a budget. There are zines which are entirely handwritten and drawn by hand. There are zines in the format of baseball trading card packs. There are mini zines, there are maxi zines.
And behind that are all those individuals who have something to say and should be heard.
Do you have a favourite zine or zinester?
I don’t think I can name a single zinester without feeling guilty at having omitted someone else but – here we go – in terms of creativity and zine formats I think that Jan from Hamburg who does zines about craft beer, lower-league football, and anti-racism is very creative (Twitter @all_to_nah and @letomagic). I also think that Vicky who is behind Penfight distro is admirable in her work (Instagram @vickylikesdrawing). And as a cyclist in Scotland, I have to mention Gears for Queers from Fife (Instagram @gearsforqueers). And does it sound weird that I want to mention Coin-operated Press in this context? Your community building is so impressive.
Why do you make zines?
This question is a bit like asking a hill runner why they are running up and down the hills. The answer is: because they are there. It feels right.
More seriously, I am really bad at sitting still without a project. It makes me feel anxious. There are only so many books you can read, so many hours you can spend browsing social media. There comes a time when you need to make something, write something, say something about what makes you tick or keeps you awake at night.
Do you have any events, zine fairs, zine launches, or anything else exciting that you would like to tell us about?
If there is anyone out there who can draw and is interested in drag queens, please be in touch with me. I have a great little idea for a zine. Also, keep your eyes peeled for my first joint zine with a comic artist. It will be called Truth and Dare. On the cover we look like Starsky and Hutch.
You can check out MikaMakesZines by visiting them on their socials…