Tracy Bosworth (p.a. Delerict recs in Nottingham) did this fanzine called Sharkpool. We exchanged a few letters/mails but then she disappeared. I recall she was studying; later teaching and conducting research at her local university. Her study of gender-relations in the punk-scene has been published in a number of countries and she was hoping to be able to do a PhD into the same subject…
In the issue I got (#3), there’s interviews with ‘The Marshes’, ‘Swingin’ Utters’, ‘Misfits’, ‘RockBitch’, ‘Headchecks’ and ‘Scared Of Chaka’. Plus reviews and some personal writings/guest-columns…
I grew up in a small village in the middle of England, with no punk-scene remotely nearby, so in those pre-internet days most of my information about music came from fanzines: I used to love it when the big brown envelope containing Maximum Rock’n’Roll used to land on my doorstep and there was something wonderful about disappearing up to my bedroom to read columns written by people in faraway places. I enjoyed the music reviews and interviews too, of course, but it was those columns that really spoke to me. The only A5 zine I had at that time was a copy of Last Exit, a ‘Manic Street Preachers’ FANzine in the true sense of the word, put together by Jaqui and Carrie from ‘Shampoo’ [British pop band of the mid 90s] before they became famous in their own right. I should probably try and sell that now – it might make me some money.
When I was about 19 I moved away to Birmingham to go to university and city-life was a big eye-opener for me. It was a wonderful time – there was a music venue that put a lot of touring American bands on with a degree of stubbornness, given that there were never more than about twenty people at most of the concerts so they must have lost money every time. As I was seeing a wider range of live bands, it felt like a good opportunity to try my hand at the fanzine lark. Plus my degree-course was pretty dossy so I had lots of spare time.
Sharkpool was named after the hangout-space in Australian teen soap-opera Heartbreak High. I can’t really remember much about the programme now but it must have meant something to me at the time… I’m pretty sure I loved it in an entirely un-ironic way, which is probably not the coolest thing to admit to. In terms of my ‘vision’ for what I wanted to create, I knew it would be somewhere for me to write personal stuff primarily, and may be a way to blag talking to some cool bands. I loved the cut and paste aesthetic and enjoyed taking time doing illustrations as much as the actual writing.
Issue One took about six months to put together and looking back at it now, it’s actually a bit rubbish. It’s pretty skinny and my overall impression as I re-read it this week is that I wanted to write important stuff but didn’t really have much to say. My favourite bits aren’t the reviews or the interviews or even my own oh-so-heartfelt musings, but rather the silly filler stuff, like the cartoon about people getting cross if you say you don’t like the X-Files, and the observation that the woman’s leg on ‘NoFX’s S&M Airlines album is disproportionately long. But anyway, warts and all, it did the trick – it got me over the first hurdle and into print. Barely legible print though – I photocopied the first issue in my bedroom, which was a terrible idea because the little copier kept overheating and breaking and I only had a tiny bedroom so the fumes were pretty intoxicating.
Anyway, feedback was quite positive considering it was my first fanzine and I was enjoying the whole thing so set about making issue two. Looking at them both retrospectively, I like issue two a whole lot more than issue one. It had pink staples instead of your standard silver ones and there were Garbage Pail Kids [series of sticker trading-cards] stickers chucked randomly throughout it. It had a crazy cobbled-together article about the Church of Euthanasia, who I had watched on the Jerry Springer show – I’m not sure that ripping off questions and answers from various internet-interviews I found was actually the right thing to do, but I didn’t really think about plagiarism back then, more about just getting their kooky message out to a wider audience. I really wish I had met them in person to interview them.
There are some really solid interviews in there with people I actually did meet – I just re-read my interview with ‘Good Riddance’ about feminism and it has stood the test of time pretty well. There’s a funny/random little bit about going out for dinner with the ‘Dwarves’ and a lovely interview with ‘Gameface’, which established my friendship with those guys for many years to come. I tried to mix things up a little with the interviews and made every effort to ask people questions which they might not have been asked before. For example, when I interviewed ‘No Use For A Name’, rather than asking them how they got their name, I asked them to make up a fake story to explain their moniker instead. With the band ‘Funbug’ I used the format of the TV Show Blind Date where I pretended that I was the contestant and asked the band-members to answer questions to woo me, using lots of cheesy puns like on the original show. The answers were crass but hilarious.
Also, I think some of my personal writing is better by this time as I had more to say – there’s a piece about getting felt up at a ‘Lagwagon’ gig, which ended up putting into Jen Angel’s zine yearbook – this is still on a par with the birth of my children in terms of the most exciting moments of my life. Other bits of my writing were shonky and inconsequential, rambling on about standing behind Miles Hunt at a gig and deciding not to buy expensive shoes to try and look cool. Most of the zine was pretty vacuous – I got bands to play Pictionary – drawing a picture to represent a band, which I never got the answers to because they were always bands I hadn’t even heard of. It did contain a half-decent cartoon again though, which might actually propose a workable solution to world peace. Possibly.
I had also started to get a few free records sent to me to review by this point, which was quite intoxicating for a smalltown newbie like me. I remember Doc at Dr Strange recs being very generous and friendly and I am very grateful for that as I was a rubbish person for him to send stuff to really, bearing in mind that I never had any clue how long it would take me to finish a fanzine, so I was never able to put adverts out by a certain date or anything.
By issue three I think I had rally got into my stride. I hand-coloured most of the front-covers with felt-tip pens – which took ages – and this issue had blue staples. I took ridiculous pleasure in stupid little things like that that nobody else probably even noticed. I did quite a few more silly illustrations for this issue, which were a lot of fun – doing the drawings and laying out the pages was a big part of the joy for me.
If I say so myself, there were some pretty cool interviews in issue three – I loved interviewing ‘Rock Bitch’ and finding out all about their sex-commune and why they chose to have sex with audience-members at their shows – that’s a story I still dine out on now, twenty years later. I also really enjoyed interviewing ‘The Marshes’ because I am someone who obsesses over lyrics and so it was a real privilege to have Emil explaining to me what the songs were all about – how many other punk-bands can talk at such depth about H.P. Lovecraft and dish juicy dirt on the band ‘Ignite’?
By this issue I had recruited a few of my friends to write columns for me, my favourite being my best friend Michelle’s musings on the joys of being ‘poo-confident’ around her husband. My own personal bits were about the loneliness of moving to a new city, the ensuing violence I saw take place there, plus a couple of irreverent bits about the brilliance of Sunset Beach and how annoying it is when people alphabetise their record-collections. I still used to get exceptionally nervous when a new issue of my fanzine came out – I was always very worried that people would think it was rubbish – but I think I had fallen into a good groove by this point. This was the first copy of Sharkpool that actually got printed at a proper printing-shop. Lord only knows what they thought of the whole endeavour!
After I finished Sharkpool three, ‘Wolfie Retard’ from ‘Real Overdose’ asked me if I would be interested in doing a split-zine with him and I practically wet myself with excitement at the prospect – he was such a hero of mine and became quite a close friend during that period, so this was a dream come true. I still don’t know why he bestowed this great honour on me in particular as there were far more esteemed British zines out there… Possibly it was just down to our mutual love of Married With Children [American soap].
I headed over to his house in Ipswich for a weekend and we mostly just sat around shyly at the computer because even though we had been emailing for months and months, we’d not met in real life until that point. It was so great to be collaborating with someone, but our work ethic was quite different – Wolfie was very organised and driven and had proper deadlines for his fanzine, whereas I just bumbled along at my own pace until I had enough stuff to fill the pages, but he nagged me and kicked my ass into gear and we got it all done in due course.
Whereas a lot of split-zines are literally divided down the middle, with one person doing the first half and then you flip it upside down and read a different zine for the second half, we decided right from the beginning that this wasn’t what we wanted. Our stuff was all jumbled together in one big crazy muddle, and I think it worked pretty well that way. I think it probably worked well for me that way because even though I’ve never added up the pages, I bet Wolfie ended up doing about two-thirds of the work while I slacked off and just added a few bits and bobs to the mix.
Working together did require a certain amount of compromise: Wolfie’s stuff was all done on his little computer whereas mine was still held together with pritt-stick. Also, as Sharkpool had grown it had randomly started a short-lived tradition of having pictures of my friend’s bottoms on the back, but the fab wrap-around cover of me and Wolfie sitting on his sofa means that very sadly fell by the wayside. But nevertheless, the world kept turning.
As far as my parts of the fanzine went, there was the usual mixture of serious stuff and outright nonsense. I wrote about Judy Blume [American writer of children’s and young adult fiction] books and tampons, so I think I was definitely covering the ‘teenage girl’ angle pretty well. I wrote about Married with Children, of course, and every page had a tiny Jack Handey [American humorist] quote at the bottom.
Interviews-wise, I figured that foreign bands who were over in England touring were probably doing interviews most nights – I was aware that they probably didn’t want to answer the same questions again and again, so I sometimes opted for a silly approach. As a pre-teen I had been a big fan of the British pop magazine Smash Hits, whose journalists were never very serious with their ‘stars’, instead asking them to pull questions out of a biscuit-barrel and things like that, so this was an interview-technique I used with the ‘Lunachicks’, leading to some random conversations about whether they had ever weed in the open air and which TV advert they hated the most.
There was also a fun interview with ‘Sloppy Seconds’, who I still have an enormous soft spot for, and another ‘Gameface’ interview because I love ‘Gameface’ more than I love life itself. Lastly, I interviewed Jen Angel, who is an absolute hero of mine, both in terms of her beautiful, honest writing and also her dynamic way of being at the centre of practically every cool writing project I ever heard about.
All in all, the split-zine came out pretty well and I was happily moving on to issue five of Sharkpool, but this only ever got partway done. I got as far as knowing precisely what was going to be in on each page, but unfortunately it fell foul to the biggest-scupperer-of-all-plans-throughout-time: I fell pregnant! At first I optimistically thought I could squeeze a final issue out before the baby arrived, but I never was all that good at working to deadlines, so it is still sitting in my attic in a half-completed state all these years later.
Even though I wasn’t especially young (26), I was still the first of my group of friends to have a baby and we moved away from the city and back to my little hometown to raise our family. I knew I was going to find it difficult to adjust to this new direction that everything was taking if I tried to hold on to the lifestyle that I had had up to this point, so I made quite a conscious decision to gracefully let go of the fanzine, staying in touch with music, going to gigs, writing to people, and instead chose to throw myself into my new family life instead. And thus, postnatal depression was avoided and I was very happy with my life.
In time, new things came along for me to obsess over: for a few years I was very into belly-dancing and making up choreographies and costumes and stuff like that fulfilled that creative side of me, while my jobs always seemed to require me to write newsletters or leaflets, so I can’t say that I ever really missed Sharkpool after it got tucked away.
Facebook also came along and ticked the social box for me and even gave me somewhere to start doing a bit of personal writing again. For a brief period of time a few years ago I even started a blog, which was in essence just a new space for me to write personal stuff that would have been put into my fanzine years before. I even resurrected one of the pieces that I had written for Sharkpool-Five-That-Never-Was, so it was nice to finally give that a bit of an airing. The blog is still out there in the world if anyone is interested in having a read. I’d still be doing that blog now if I hadn’t decided to retrain as a primary school teacher, but teaching is pretty full on so I have less time for writing now unfortunately. This past December I used facebook as a vehicle to do quite an extensive amount of writing about weird Christmas traditions around the world, focusing on bizarre European folk customs and stuff like that. So it’s not punk-related at all but I do still like to do some creative writing stuff from time to time when the whim takes me.
So that’s pretty much the sum history of me and my little fanzine. I’m so grateful for having this opportunity to reminisce and look back on Sharkpool and what it meant to me. My favourite thing about the whole thing was that it enabled me to make a shedload of new friends. A few of those were in bands that I stayed in touch with, or other zinesters, but mostly it was people who just read the fanzine and connected with it in some way and wrote to me. It was so exciting getting envelopes through the post with pound coins in them when people wanted a new issue and it enabled me to develop such a fabulous network of penpals, most of whom were like me – not especially cool or living anywhere with a scene as such, just sitting in their room writing letters to like-minded folks living miles away.
Thinking back to this period has also prompted me to grab a box of old zines out of my attic, and flicking back through them has been a real blast. My favourites were always the ones that had less about music and more just personal musings. My particular favourites were Real Overdose, Fucktooth, Simba my friend Nic’s fanzine Miles Away and a little zine from England called Jungle Jim – Simon who made that seemed to take more pride in the way his fanzine looked than any other I encountered – it was like a little work of art, with cut-out sections and stickers and envelopes and fold outs… it was truly beautiful! And that really is just the tip of the iceberg – there were so, so many fanzines that I loved and I was very proud to be creating something alongside them.
So Brob, thanks for the indulgent trip down memory-lane. If anybody wants to read my short little blog, you can find it at packingdreams.wordpress.com. It’s not an enormous read – there’s only about 5 or 6 articles but I guess it’s like a little mini bonus edition of Sharkpool or something.
I’m choosing to re-publish the ‘RockBitch‘ interview not just because of the controversy but also because they’re thought-provoking. Not really a hardcore(punk) band but definitely worth a mention. These women were playing metal and were known for performing naked, and incorporating sexual acts & pagan rituals into their performances. They were vocal about female sexuality & (radical) feminist issues, and admired sexual politics icons such as Annie Sprinkle e.g.