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Jonathan Hay – Confusion
About 7 or 8 years ago I discovered Confusion Magazine for the very fist time. Its positive and true spirit immediately hooked me, and never let me down to this day. The magazine embodies exactly what I am looking for and what I love in skateboarding; no bullshit and no show off.
That's the reason why I am very happy and grateful that Jonathan took time to answer these few questions...
First thing, can you shortly introduce yourself?
My name is Jonathan Hay and I'm 45 years old. I was born and lived the first eight years of my life in England, the following 26 years in California, mostly in Santa Cruz, the next six years in Germany, and for the last four years I've been living in northern Spain.
Can you tell us about Confusion? At a time when almost everybody have their noses stuck on their screens, what motivates you to publish a printed zine?
I suppose print has always been in my blood. I made a speed metal thrash zine called Monthly Fire Starter on my parents' photo copy machine when I was 13-15 years old and sold them for $1 or $2 in front of thrash metal shows in the San Francisco Bay area around 1986-1988. Then from 1996-2008, seeking an outlet for my skate and music photography I made a skateboard magazine with a friend, called Concussion Magazine. After we shut that down for various reasons, I moved to Europe in 2008 and decided to start something on my own, similar to Concussion but focusing more on the international DIY skate scene.
Why Confusion, and what does that name mean to you?
After Concussion comes Confusion... and it was in some regards paying homage to the roots of the concept of Concussion, but at the same time making a bit of fun.
Do you have zines references (of all kinds)? What inspires you?
I mostly get zines sent to me from around the world to review in the magazine, but occasionally I see a zine at a show or on the internet that I feel I need to have and I'll buy it and also to support the creator. What inspires me the most with any zine is the creative process and the final output. Some zines are really bad, like a doodle and typing out some text on a piece of paper and stapling the corner. Those are quite boring to and almost a waste of time in my opinion because if you are going to make something, you might as well put some time into it and make it good. The zines that I like the most are the ones where people put in a lot of creativity, overlaying text and graphics on photos or between them, using textures and layers and type design, where each page is a piece of artwork.
Publishing your own zine is an amazing opportunity to send out a message or an idea. Is there one (or more) message(s) you try to communicate through Confusion?
Apart from featuring skateboarders, photographers and other artists that I feel are usually under represented but total rippers, the message of Confusion is not only about the DIY building and skating aspect in skateboarding scene, but also the overall DIY ethos of doing it yourself how you want to do it. You don't have to follow any specific formula and the style and design can change over time as more experience is gained and skills develop with the progression of the magazine. I try to stay pure to my ideals as much as possible and don't just run an article of some team's skate trip just because they run an advertisement. I don't want content to be bought out or controlled by the advertisers or anyone else. I think that is important because if you look at any of the bigger skate magazines (also some of the smaller) you can tell the advertisements control the content, not 100%, but the influence of the paid advertisements in the content is clear.
Publishing a magazine/fanzine is a lot of work. How does the making of an issue works? With whom do you work?
Yes, it is a lot more work than it may seem to most and when the mag comes back from the printer I can barely even look through it after having to stare at it for the last month or so on the computer, trying to perfect all the small details. The way the making of the zine works is contributors from all around the world send in content and I make the decision the best I can if it's “good enough” for the print magazine or if it should go on the website as an article, post on instagram and facebook, or not use it at all. I have deadlines for each issue and I try hard to stick to them. The most difficult part is getting the advertisements and getting them in on time because I can't lay out the articles without knowing how many total pages will have ads. I always have to wait for the advertisements, then lay out the magazine in a short time period. I work with mostly photographers from all around the world. If they can write too, that's a bonus, otherwise either they or I find someone we know who can write the article to go along with the photography.
Besides the time needed for its making, the production of a magazine/fanzine isn't costless. How do you manage Confusion's financial aspect?
I contact mostly skater-run skate companies from around the world and see if they are able and willing to run an ad in the mag. Apart from that, we sell magazines and merchandise in our online shop and to authentic skateshops around the world. Merchandise sales and advertising fund the production of the magazine.
Regarding finances, do you accept any kind of advertisers? Or did you impose yourself some kind of safeguards?
No. I definitely do not accept any kinds of advertising. For example, I'll never accept advertisements from sports brands that bought themselves into skateboarding, like Nike. Or advertisements from energy drink corporations like Red Bull. Also I won't take ads from brands that have nothing to do with skateboarding which have shown up in a lot of the big skate mags such as advertisements for deodorant, cars, or joining the army.
In recent years the interest in print media has continually decreased. Skateboarding zines are increasingly harder and harder to find, even in skateshops. Do you worry about it?
Although several of the big skateboard print magazines have gone out of business recently, such as Transworld Skate and the Skateboard Mag, or in Europe, Kingpin, Monster and Sidewalk, I don't see that the interest in print media is continually decreasing, even though interest has changed significantly since the rise of social media. The skateboard magazines that ceased production were mostly owned by larger corporations that distributed many other types of magazines and when it was time to cut losses or increase profits they just discontinued the magazines that weren't making sufficient profit. But since the time when I started Confusion magazine almost ten years ago, magazines such as Free, Solo, Grey, North and Vague have popped up and flourished. That is quite a few magazines to start out in this time of “decreasing interest in print media.” There has been a shift from print to digital to a degree but there are still magazines everywhere - in every supermarket, waiting room, airport, kiosk, skate shop, cafe, and home. You'll find more magazines than books, but that doesn't mean people haven't stopped writing (or reading) books either. We have more subscriptions now than five years ago, partially because the word gets out, but if print interest was really continually decreasing, the amount of subscriptions would also have declined and these newer magazines would already be out of business. Maybe I'm in denial, but either way, Confusion also has instagram, facebook, youtube, a website that function side by side with the print magazine.
At the same time, I have the impression that while less people are buying zines, more and more people are making them. Do you share that view?
I am not really sure if more people are making zines now than before. People were also making a lot of zines in the 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, most that you and I have never even seen or heard of because there were only 25-500 made. There were zines created all through this time. But I agree that zine making has not died out and perhaps has had a recent upsurge in popularity. Also, I don't think that many people ever really bought too many zines, I think just as often they were traded or given away. Zine making is not often something people do to make money, it's more often a passion. I'm still always down to trade a Confusion for anyone's zine and I do that often. But yeah, the zine scene is still very much a thing and I hope it always will be, because corporate run magazines still suck.
Any plans for the future? How do you see Confusion's future?
No specific plans except to keep doing what we're doing and always try to make it the best it can be. Hopefully we can get the magazine into more skateshops and have more people subscribe because there are still a lot of people and skateshops around the world that have never seen or heard of Confusion, but I see that as a good thing because that means there is still room to grow.
To conclude, if you had to choose between a session with your mates or finishing the next edition, what would you do?
Haha. Well that happens often, and it just depends on how important the specific deadline is and whether or not one session would make the magazine come out two weeks later or if it would only delay it by another day. When working for yourself and running your own magazine you need to have a lot of self-disciplined. Every time someone calls up to do something fun you can't just stop production and go. You have to say no a lot. I've learned recently that FOMO (fear of missing out) is a thing. I thought it was just something I had to deal with, but it seems to be global issue, especially with social media showing so many events and places where exciting things are happening on a daily basis. There's always something fun going on somewhere but you can't be everywhere at once. If you miss out on a session or a show or a party it's no big deal! You just have to make the best decisions you can and think about what is worth putting work aside for, and what is not.
Any shout outs? Last word?
Thanks to everyone who contributes to and supports the magazine. You have choices in life, choose wisely - your decisions do matter and there are always reactions to your actions. Don't believe that you are just another number. You are an individual. Work towards making your existence worth the space you take up on earth and the amount of garbage you leave behind.