Originally hailing from the city of Kortrijk in the West Flanders area, the same place often associated with the Belgian metallic hardcore scene that was prevalent during the 1990s and known as the H8000 scene, Kristof J. Mondy (KJM) was an integral part of the hardcore punk & metal subculture as a musician, graphic artist and fanzine publisher.
Over the span of nearly three decades, KJM has been involved in bands like Spineless, VVOVNDS, Burning Kross, Gagged, RDS-220, Black Haven, Hive Destruction, and Amenra among others. In this interview, however, we’re going to cover another side of his character, which is his great contributions to the zine community.
From his Yoda Magazine more than 25 years ago, to one of my favorite current zines My War that dropped its 12th issue about a month ago. Here’s KJM talking about zines…
You’ve been involved in the legendary H8000 scene in Kortrijk as a bass player in so many bands. How did you get into hardcore punk in the first place? When was your first contact with punk music zines?
Well, my first encounter with hardcore, that I was fully aware of, was somewhere in 1990. I was 13-14 years old and a frequent visitor of the public library. And they had quite a decent music catalog as well. And as I was flipping through the new arrivals (new as in just bought in, that was definitely not a new release!) one day I found this cover with a live pic showcasing a mean young man, stomping next to his guitarist. On the side: big bold letters. It was the DYS, Wolfpack 12”. So I tried figuring out what all this was, don’t forget this was pre-Internet times… So it took me another two years to get to know Dog Eat Dog and Deviate and by the end of 1993 I rolled into the H8000 scene.
First zines I got in touch with were the zine of Jeroen Machination Records [Words & Letters zine] and the Simba zine. That was 1994. I was flabbergasted that people like myself just went out and published something, so cool. And then arriving at the Ieperfest that Summer and seeing dozens of self published hardcore punk magazines, that was so overwhelming and inspiring. I started working on my first magazine in the second half of 1995 and published Yoda # 1 in the Spring of 1996! And I kept publishing from there onwards.
Can you talk a bit about Yoda fanzine and its comeback as Yoda Magazine 25 Years Later in 2021? Have you been involved in any other zines before My War?
Yoda magazine, what can I say… Doing the zine in the nineties definitely meant a lot to me and how I looked at hardcore punk. I did 14,5 issues but had a ‘being a zine editor with responsibilities towards third parties’ burn out at the end. Long story…
Why 25 years later? Well, ever since 2018 the H8000 scene has been alive and kicking again. Hmm, maybe I should state that in a different way. Ever since 2018 people have been longing for the good old days again. Hunting down the glory records from the mid nineties, being sad because those records sell for €100 a pop. And so there has been a lot of repressing as of late. And with that repressing there was also a question towards zine makers from back in the day, including Yoda.
Now, I liked the idea but didn’t wanna just scan a thousand pages and turn it into a book. If I was gonna do this it would be interesting for me as well. And that’s how I landed with the idea of using all the content of its first issue and then printing a 25 years later version. So I contacted everyone that was involved in issue 1 and started chatting with them about what happened in those 25 years that have passed by. I made for some interesting chats, I liked it. But it was a one off, no other issues of Yoda will be published.
As for other zines, I did a few. After Yoda there was BATS! that was Kevin Apetown and me. We did 4 issues I think. I then started Wolves And Rats by myself. Also did 3-4 issues and then a Mini Wolves And Rats. That was some pocket format zine, also 5-6 issues I think. Funny sidenote, if you take the first letters of Wolves And Rats you get WAR. Totally coincidental! I also did a zine called Your Face In Decline. That was only artwork.
So yeah, I always kept working on zines and I probably always will…
You already mentioned some in the first question but I’m frequently visiting Brob Tilt’s Belgian Zines blog and there are so many interesting things to find there. What are your favorite Belgian zines from the past?
Belgium had some really good zines. The H8Z was maybe the most notorious one, Where It Ends definitely wore his heart on his tongue. There were zines with the weirdest themes (gnomes in hardcore?) and there were some true gems. The latter for me definitely was Semtex. I think they published five or six issues and each was better than the other! They had great columns, in-depth interviews and the slickest layout. Those were really good friends of mine and I know they sort of rolled into the zine thing because of me doing Yoda, but in the end it was me trying to do what they did…
Another great but short lived zine that I liked was SIlverskull. Covering the non H8000 spectrum at that time and delivering great words and letters. Both zines date to pre 2000 or very early 2000s.
My War is among the best hardcore punk zines in Europe, I really love the bands and individuals that you choose to interview in every issue. Can you go a bit more in-depth about your favorite interviews, write ups and the whole concept around the zine?
Thank you! This really means a lot! I’m just trying out you know…
My favorite interviews… Well I have a couple. The Anneke Chips interview was awesome. I’ve known Anneke for a great deal of time and wanted to talk to her about what she was doing at that time and what that meant for her. She answered really in depth and that just made a fantastic read! I also loved the interview with Sam from Carved Cross. All of a sudden I’m mailing with this guy in Tasmania who plays in maybe the biggest underground raw black metal outfit and he casually drops in love with the band I was in back in 1995! The Reek Minds interview was ace as well, Tyler is an absolutely great guy! I also love the recent Kohti Tuhoa and Vidro interviews. Anything where the interviewee gets in depth, I Love. I deliberately didn’t mention Ian Mackaye since the credit is all his. I’m guessing any interview with Ian will be ace since he has so much to say!
As for the concept for the zine. I wanted to have a platform for people / bands to explain what they stand for. It needed to be a place for art in some way, and it needed to be something recognisable. So since the start the cover has always been a collage that spreads over the front and back cover. The logo for the zine has since issue 1 been in the same place, in the same yellow. Next to that I wanted to have a recognisable feeling while reading, like Razorcake or Punk Planet way back. So I choose a template of sorts that has a picture of the interviewee on the left. On the right on top there’s the name (same letters same color for every interviewee) and then the interview. Preferably in a 7 or 7.5 pt ‘fits all’ font type. I changed that template a bit from issue 10 on, working with columns for a better reading experience and adding some extra pictures or bits of the interviewee’s artwork. I stick with 40 pages for the simple reason that this weighs under 100 grams. 100 g being the limit for rate A (cheaper) or B (more expensive) at the postal service…
Et voila, there you go!
Would you publish an interview if you have one sentence answers and it’s obvious that the other person hasn’t put in the effort to give a comprehensive response to your questions? Do you have any interviews that haven’t been published for some reason?
As you can read in the previous answer I love in-depth interviews. I love it when the interviewee puts their heart on the table and shows themselves as a vulnerable person. This doesn’t have to be in a full page answer. If anyone can be open and answer open, complete and from the heart in a ten word sentence then that’s fine. I haven’t met the person that can though.
So yeah, I would definitely withhold an interview from publishing if it didn’t feel right. Up till now I held back two interviews. The answers were either generic or not cohesive… I’d rather cut pages than print something I don’t feel good about.
Do you think that the printed fanzines made a comeback during the pandemic? Did the lockdowns and restrictions affect your zine making process in any way? Is zine making somehow related to certain privileges or access (home, Internet, leisure time, etc.)?
The pandemic absolutely had a positive influence on the My War magazine. I published issue 1 of My War early March 2019. Press run was about 30 copies. Issue 2 must’ve been summer 2019, press run 40 copies and issue 3 was late 2019, early 2020, also 40 copies. I really had to push these 30-40 copies you know. Now issue 4 came about in June 2020, full pandemic, and that was a great success. I had to work with other printers and had to print 100 copies in one go. I remember I felt quite insecure about selling all of them. But it sold out in two weeks or something. People were so stoked on this they asked about issues 1-2-3. So I made a compilation issue 1-2-3 and issue 5 almost at the same time. That omnibus sold 250 copies in three weeks. From there on I published every three months, press run of 250. For a couple of issues I had help in the US from Sorry State (press run of 50 – 100 copies) and one issue had a local SEA print of 50…
So yeah, the pandemic made people eager to spend their money on hardcore punk, they ordered every issue and kept ordering ever since the omnibus. The pandemic didn’t give me extra spare time per se since I was already working from home before the pandemic. It was only natural that we would do so full time since the start of the pandemic. But not having to travel to and from work saves me a lot of time on a daily basis. Time I can now use for the magazine. And being in a pandemic and having to look for everything close by or online, that really formed my modus operandi. And it works, I feel good about that.
But it’s definitely true that you need time to be able to work on this. The Internet helps you to get in touch with people abroad, a laptop helps you write and create, print and cut up… It helps if you have access to certain privileges, yes…
What is your take on webzines and fanzine archives online? What do you think of MRR going digital? Do you think that hardcore punk websites are way too promotional these days?
That’s a hard one. You’re talking to someone that loves the smell of paper. To me an essential part of reading a book is holding the book. Flipping the pages… I don’t like a kindle or anything. And for the same reason I will prefer paper zines.
I’m not saying I avoid blogspots or digital zines, I do read some on occasion, but my eyes don’t like reading full pages on a screen…
Do you still read new zines? Anything that grabbed your attention recently?
Yeah sure! One of the greatest things about doing a zine is that you can trade with other zine publishers. Some zines I would definitely recommend: Gratitude (where artwork seems to be the biggest point of interest throughout the interviews and reviews), I Question Not Media (great writing), Wasted Opportunities (very nice interviews), Razorblades & Aspirin (the best at the moment), On The Road Again (a post pandemic tour diary, great concept), and definitely worth your money is Hardcore Mutation from Greece (that’s a 10/10 for a first issue!! Looking forward to issue 2!)… The list goes one, I’m forgetting tons I’m sure. Love zines!!
What makes an older guy like you still excited about the scene? What do you feel after finishing an issue of the zine and what keeps you motivated?
Any new release that sounds good, any edition of K-Town Hardcore Fest, any show I can play with my band Burning Kross, anything hardcore punk that is built upon dedication and commitment I love and that gets me pumped.
Every new zine I finish makes me proud. I always feel glad I pulled it off again. And then promoting the zine and selling it. Packing up, going to the postal office and eventually seeing I sold the last one from the box… All of that motivates me to keep going and crank up another issue!
Thank you so much! Anything else you’d like to add?
Well, thank you DIY Conspiracy for asking me about this hobby I love doing! To a lot of you, go out and search for zines! Buy and support, they’re the backbone of our hardcore punk society! Thank you!
For anything My War and KJM, follow Kristof on Instagram.