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THE DREAM IS DEAD, LONG LIVE THE DREAM

for the past week, i’ve been working like a maniac to get 20 or 30 copies of the new Recidivist done for SPX; and if nothing went seriously wrong, i was on track to do it. up until about 2 hours ago it was going to be 48 hours of nuts, but still doable. then something went wrong. then another thing. nothing serious, but enough to throw out the bathwater (the baby is fine). but look at me– i’m calm and collected. maybe even relieved. being an adult is great.

so, no books for SPX. that’s that. i was starting to do some dumb shit to hit that deadline, anyway. that’s the bad news. the good news is, this thing will be done and done and done by the end of the month. at which point you can order it from me.

did i say 8 colors? try TEN. i’ll put up a video, or something.

i have never seen anything like this thing i put together. both content and production wise, it is something else entirely. i hope it doesn’t make people cry.

–z.

 

RECIDIVIST 4: 91.58% done

i’ve learned my lesson on going to presale too early. with that said, i printed 20,000 impressions in 5 different colors on the riso this past weekend. it was pretty nuts. as many of my friends know– this new Recidivist started off as a “bang it out quick/ don’t think too hard” experiment.

it has since turned into the most complicated thing i’ve ever done, production-wise. see, look:

recid

a couple of the strips are single color, a couple 2- color, and one of them is in 3 colors, all printed on the risograph. then the whole thing is going through the offset press for a pass of metallic silver. i did a count last night and so far i have done FORTY NINE passes through the machine, 1000 sheets each. and it’s going to have a cd in it…a noise/ drone piece i did that you can listen to (or not) while you’re reading the thing. i know, it’s…kind of over the top. 56 pages, printed in 8 colors. stapled not bound because that’s the way i want it (would have made my life a hell of a lot easier if i’d bound it, actually….).

as always, i didn’t set out to do something so involved. i just kept on having cool ideas, and i’m able to do them, so there you have it. with the way the world is going, why the fuck not. pretty sure you’ll never see another book (zine, actually…) like it. ever.

usually i regale with a epic story about how horrible the process was. not this time. it was fun.

(then again i haven’t done the offset part yet, so….)

there’s a slim chance ill be able to send some to SPX, (but that’s also what i said about CAKE 3 months ago). but the end of the tunnel is in sight now. when i can be sure it’s not a train, i’ll put these up for sale on the site (either $15 or $16, we’ll see).

best,

–zak

WE RELAUNCHED AND RECONFIGURED SCHOOLHAUS, WITH A KICKSTARTER CAMPAIGN TO FUND TUITION.

https://www.kickstarter.com/projects/2049768676/schoolhaus-a4

i would think this is a great thing even if i WASN’T one of the guys starting it.

but i am.

please donate, share, spread the word.

thank you.

best, zak.

 

 

NEW PRINT NOW FOR SALE

the one i kicked out for CAKE. this one.

you can now buy it at the La Mano site for $14 (+ $3 postage and handling in the us). anywhere from 3 to 7 colors, depending. shipped in a tube and signed if you say so.

gonna put more stuff up soon, as well.

–z

head

CAKE: PRINTS

i got 2 of them, and i’ll be selling them this weekend at CAKE:

head

yeah. I’m not sure how many colors it is. 5, maybe? (it’s a manipulation of the cover i did for the japanese edition of Brian Evenson’s Fugue State). virtually every print is different, and ‘ll be selling these, for money.

also this:

ghost

i did this drawing for a “ghost” anthology some years ago (after looking at a a lot of Charles Adams), and have always really liked it. now you can too.

–z

CAKE: GOOD NEWS/ BAD NEWS– RECIDIVIST 4

so, the bad news: i had planned to premiere the new Recidivist at CAKE this year. i’ve been busting my ass, but it’s just not going to happen. in light of that i cancelled the La Mano table.

the good news is, i’m still going to CAKE. and while it’s not DONE, it’s pretty damn close. see?IMG_1354

so i’m going to have a pretty darn near copy of the final book, in all its insane glory. and i’ll be taking preorders, on the spot.

it’s 52 pages, printed on the risograph; some of the strips are in 2 colors, some 3 (which means that some of the sheets get fed through the machine ELEVEN SEPARATE TIMES). they look like this:revenge

and this:flat

and then when all that is done, i’m sending the entire book through the offset press for a pass of metallic silver (this is what i’m not going to have time to complete, but I’m going to try to print a sample page before i leave for chicago). it also will come with a 25 minute sound piece i did for the book, in the form of a CD. it’s $15.

as fancy as all that sounds, its folded and stapled, like a zine. which is just how i want it. i swore i’d never do another Recidivist, but here i am. it sort of reads like…if Black Flag wrote songs about…love, instead of the other thing. you’ll see.

i’ll be doing a web direct sale on the book real soon: anyone who orders it from me direct gets a fancy riso print. but if you preorder the book at CAKE, the poster is yours on the spot. otherwise, they’ll be $10 or something and i’ll be selling those. i’ll also have some of these 7-color tour posters i did recently for the Cloud Nothings (but not many, so get em quick).cn

maybe some other stuff too. i’ll be crashing tables– mostly with John p, but i’ll also do a couple signing things at the Uncivilized Books table.

see you there,

–z

 

 

 

 

 

ANNOUNCING SCHOOLHAUS/ A4 (we made an art school)

Schoolhaus-A4_promo-LGwe’ve been working on this for a couple of months now. Dan Ibarra is an old friend, and he is one of the 2 awesome sob’s behind Aesthetic Apparatus. not only are they some of my favorite designers around, they are also great guys, and we share a lot of the same ideas about how and why art gets made, and how you get it done. we spent many, MANY long hours talking about what kind of different educational models there could be for making art: not “designing” or “making comics”, but just the lifelong practice of needing to do stuff, regardless of the discipline you ascribe to. what would WE want from a program? what kind of things are common across the board for creative types, regardless of what stage their “career” is at (or even if they want a career) or how they apply that need to make stuff (commercially? not at all? somewhere in the middle?). we pulled as many of those ideas as we could into this summer program we’ve concocted, and tried to think of some ideas outside of the normal academic “we teach you, you learn” model. it is really really exciting. read the whole thing in the link.

–z.

CAN’T STOP NOW: LA MANO HISTORY PART 4

LM005: DEAD RINGER

5

as i said: the Centaur book was something else, and something new. but the next project was, in some ways, La Mano’s crowning achievement. enter Jason T Miles.

my friendship with Jason– how we met, became friends, etc, is too convoluted to write about in here: it does give credence to the fact that there’s a bunch of weirdos that drank the same Kool-Aid as you somewhere down the line, and you’re eventually going to meet them when you go back to the well to get more. by and large, it’s a pretty goddamn great well.

Jason is one of the most uncompromising cartoonists i’ve ever met; he relentlessly pursues his vision of what he wants to do, seemingly without a single shred of concern regarding “what people will think of it”. he just does it, and he works his ass off at it. he’s fearless and he can’t sit still; he’s just constantly exploring– and exploring some territory that’s got very few people treading on it.

and, to be totally honest, i do not “get”everything he does ( he once wrote me a postcard saying “here’s my new book: all i ask is that you never say you ‘don’t get it’”. but….sometimes i really just don’t. SORRY MAN); i’m sometimes not sure what he was going for, or why he did what he did. but one thing i AM sure of, is that he is not bullshitting me– whatever direction he goes, whether i “get” it or not, there is no doubt in my mind that he is going there for a reason. and not some half-baked art school reason, a REAL reason, one that he’s considered and thought about. whether or not that reason is apparent to ME when i read it is sort of…not the point of Jason’s stuff. i’ve probably said it numerous times in this thing, but guess what everybody: not everything needs to be for everyone.

at some point Jason sent me “Dead Ringer”. it was super fucking odd; each page a single panel on 11x 17 paper, drawn with what looked to be a dying black marker. same dude in a baseball hat, in the same spot, on each page. sometimes he said things. when i was done reading it, my first reaction was…i don’t know what that was, but it was pretty amazing.

and then i had the same reaction as when Nate sent me Centaur: well, we’ve got to do this on La Mano. and Jason said “sure”. i’ll be honest: my thought was, this’ll be a little mini-comic with some extra paper/printing choices that’ll make it look special. but– as with every other La Mano project, it changed. i thought Jason just sent it to me in the big format because that’s the size he drew it at, and was intending for it to be smaller. it wasn’t, and he didn’t: i was surprised when he said he thought it should be BIG. it NEVER would’ve struck me to go that size with it, but as soon as he said it, it made total sense. i had this raw card stock (from guess where) sitting around and a stack of weird interior paper as well. i think Jason was even the one that found the fold/bind we used (ok, what i used, as i  assembled them).

the printing on this was just a total nightmare; i’ve said that before (maybe every time?), but this time i’ve got proof: may of the pages suffered from severe set-off (when the back of the printed sheet gets a “ghost” image, due to the ink on the previous sheet not drying sufficiently), and my sheet counter was broken. also, the card stock was so thick it was causing the machine total conniption fits. i lost a LOT of sheets. a lot. what it all ended up meaning was that we intended to do a run of 500 of these, but the actual number that got made was closer to 250-300.

now, the glory of Twin Cities Paper is that it was so cheap; the downside of that is that they got whatever paper they got, and if you wanted more, you were often s.o.l. they didn’t have it, and what you got from them very well could’ve been discontinued since they got it.

ring2

and, that’s what happened with Dead Ringer. after those got made, there was no more stock. and honestly, it caused me such headaches that i probably wouldn’t have done more even if there WAS stock.

Jason and i hammered out a price. i think i wanted it to go for less, but– not for the first time– the nature of the thing was so weird we had nothing to go on or compare it to. so we called it $14.  i am– and always have been– absolutely terrible with the psychology of pricing things.

why? because it’s bullshit, that’s why.

but… Dead Ringer is something else. i don’t even know what to call it: it was a zine. and a comic. but it was the size of an elephant, and the individual pages were so static that someone probably could’ve taken it for a print folio. but it wasn’t any of those things specifically, either. and it was made by hand (the process for putting each one of these together was that same amount of futzy craziness that went into assembling the William Schaff folio), so it had that quality, as well.  it utterly occupied its own space as a….thing.

this was the La Mano project that garnered the most confusion, the most “what the FUCK”s. some people even hated it. but i know for a fact that there’s a contingent out there that felt like this was (and is) a very, very important book to them. as with every other thing Jason and i were better pals when it was done, and our collaboration yielded something neither of us would’ve done, left to our own lights.

you can’t buy one from me. they are gone. and that’s even sort of great, as well: in this day and age when everything is available at all times…this thing got done. either you got one or you didn’t, but in either case, that’s IT; you had your shot, people. there is no way you could replicate what this thing was in any other format, ever.

such a weird, awesome, singular thing. tip to tail.

 

LM006 FEAR OF SONG

1

what can i say. i made this record. back in part 2 or whatever, mentioned Low, and my 12 years in that band, and that the divorce was difficult, messy, and painful. there was the personal stuff, and that was what it was. but there was other, more troubling things; falling ass-backwards into being a working “professional” musician had really done a number on me, in ways it took me years to figure out. i’m again going to restrain myself from getting novelistic on the subject, but i could go on at great length about it. the most important part is that somehow when i left the band i hated making music.

for a solid year after i left the band, i listened to Led Zeppelin and Stevie Wonder exclusively (and usually the same 5 songs, at that). after a while, i realized that i needed to try to figure this out, a little: obviously, i don’t hate music. i love music. and i’d had parts and pieces of my own songs that had been kicking around for a decade or more; not unlike my comics, the idea of finishing those things sent me into a panic that i realized was…pretty fucked up, and i’d find myself doing some pretty absurd things to avoid finishing them. i’d been a part of making quite a few very good records at this point, so what the hell was making me so crazy?

i figured– you’re not a musician anymore; there are no stakes in this. time to get to the bottom of it. you cant live the rest of your life being terrified of this thing you love. so i went in the basement with a 4-track and looked that fucker right in the eye. and it was not fun. but eventually, he blinked.

and once i finished ONE song, i though ah what the hell and finished a bunch of them. and at some point, i also started enjoying it. eventually i called my very old pal Ben Durrant, who’d done an AMAZING job recording Andrew Bird’s Armchair Apocrypha and said “you wanna help me with this?”. and he did. at some very early juncture i decided that every note on this thing had to made/ played/ performed by me.

3

 

this should surprise no one.

at a certain point Sub Pop kindly floated me and Ben some cash…they were intrigued enough by the couple songs i sent that they wanted to see what else came from it. the only problem was, due to my life and Ben’s life, we had to work on it piecemeal and by the time it was “finished”, a lot of time had passed and i was sick to death of it and just wanted it DONE. so when it all wrapped up and i sent it to them, my pal/ good guy/ Sub Pop head honcho Jon Poneman said “well, i like some of it a lot, but some not as much. what i’d like to hear are more songs.” and i didn’t have any, and the idea of sitting on this thing for another year…. again, i just wanted it done; i’d figured out what i wanted to figure out. so i did a couple calls to some labels and they all passed on “Low’s ex-bass player who doesn’t want to tour or play rock clubs”. go figure. so i released it myself, on La Mano. same old same old– had the raw cd’s manufactured, then printed everything else on paper i’d scored at TCP, assembled and signed and numbered them. Sub Pop did a great little 7″, though– one song from the record and one i left off for some stupid reason (because it’s one of the best songs of the bunch), and also a “hidden” track Ben and i had created by stitching together my isolated vocal track freak-outs, creating 4 minutes of me screaming, yelling, swearing and completely losing my shit in glorious stereo (my wife, upon hearing the track said “oh my god. that is terrifying. you sound like someone who is clinically insane.” then “you’re not really going to release that, are you?”).

and my pal Mark Treehouse liked it a lot, and put out a beautiful, thick vinyl version of it (and that’s the Sub Pop single there, too).

both versions were printed mostly on the press, and hand assembled by me. also each one is signed and numbered. perhaps i have problems.

fear2

 

anyways, the thing sold like a box of dead light bulbs.

i’m not the greatest self-promotor in the world, and i generally have difficulty “selling” my own work to people, in any form. comics, i’ve grown a bit more comfortable with even liking my own work, and being able to say that sort of thing out loud. but with some years remove, i feel like… this record, along with the Deitch files, are the La Mano projects i feel maybe didn’t get the shake they ought to have. more on Deitch in the next part, but that one’s a slam dunk: IT’S KIM DEITCH.

i’m pretty much the last person to toot his own horn on stuff like this, and while i was making it, i did not have the objectivity to assess the thing reasonably other than a gut sense that some of it was working pretty darn well– enough to keep going, anyway. but with some remove, now… it’s a solid record. some of it is pretty goddamn good, actually. a little closer to the bone than i’d like, in retrospect, but…that’s why you do things like make a record in your basement. it certainly wasn’t safe, i’ll tell you that much.

i don’t even want to start on the current state of music right now. you don’t want that.

next up, Sammy and Deitch. then a big wrap up. it’s taking a while, huh?

–z.

THE DISINTEGRATION LOOPS

i’ll take a break in the “action” from the La Mano history (which i’ve vowed will be completed by the end of this month) to rave for a moment about something i’ve been listening to pretty obsessively: The Disintegration Loops.

some of you know the story, some don’t. i didn’t.

the story is this: minimalist/ avant composer William Basinski pulls out some old tape loops he made in the 80′s– i think i heard it was just pulled from easy listening music; determines that the life of these loops are nearing an end, so begins transferring/ recording them onto cd’s. he fires one up hits record, and goes and does something. comes back in a while and notices the loops sound different. then notices that the iron oxide is slowly eroding and degrading with each progressive loop, gathering in a little pile next to the tape head. the tape is dying, the music is dying, and he’s recording its death. and it’s very, very beautiful. some loops take an hour to fall apart, some 20 minutes.

he continues with the tapes; he’s living in NYC, and during this time (apologies if i’m not getting the timeline correct) the twin towers fall.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Xdo1YVZRUrM#t=18

i read a review of the Disintegration Loops on Pitchfork, where it receives the highest marks and is discussed like something everyone already knows about. not me. sounds interesting, and worth checking out, but let’s face it: this sounds like a one trick pony, something academic and “interesting”. something you’d stroke your chin about and say “hm” (which is fine; there’s music and art i like along those lines, that provide more a kick in the head than the gut).

upon listening, this stuff is anything but academic. in fact, this is some of the most beautiful and affecting music i’ve heard in my life: it’s haunting, wonderful, sad and triumphant, all at the same time. i can’t accurately describe what makes these sounds…what they are. there’s no real reason that, essentially, the same 3-second loop playing for 20 minutes should have any real emotional depth at all, much less anything this powerful.

this work makes me proud to be a human being, in (again) some way that i can’t explain. and i think i’d feel that way even if i DIDN’T know the context in which they were created. but i do, and now you do too.

my pal Jeremy put out this elegant, gorgeous box set on his label, Temporary Residence. you should buy it from him as soon as possible (in all honesty, i first heard these Loops on Spotify, and then they were taken off, to which i say: well done. we don’t have time for the Spotify conversation right now, though…). an incredible vinyl set, as well as a more inexpensive 5-cd set.

i want to put in a special recommendation for cartoonists/ artists on this one: listening to music while you work can be a real distraction– you (ok, i do, anyway…) claim it’s “background” but you end up actively listening to/engaging it, instead of…doing that with what you’re actually working on. the movements in the loops are so slow and organic that…it’s great stuff to work to. i don’t use the word “meditative” often, but i will here. you don’t listen to it so much as swim in it.

work on the new Recidivist had come to a grinding, painful, full stop in the past couple months. i got these in the mail, and that is over. consider that a testimonial, in more ways than one.

best, zak.

(and while i’m at it, Tim Hecker’s new record is unbelievable, too. totally different in tone to these Loops, but stunningly good. go buy it from Kranky)

 

historia de LA MANO, part the third

the other thing about La Mano? it takes me about 10 times as long to get anything done as i think it will. i wanted this history wrapped up by the new year, and we’re barely halfway through. oh well. there’s something to be said for consistency.

ok, so here’s where things start to get weird.

LM003 PORTRAIT OF A YOUNG MAN TRYING TO DRAW

by this point i’d cut my teeth a bit on the press to the point where i was ready to take something on. or, better said; to put myself in a position i could not weasel my way out of (this has actually proved to be a great tactic for me, in life). as with very other thing, the next project happened real organically: i’d been moonlighting with a pretty great minneapolis band called Kid Dakota, playing bass (made a record with them called The West is The Future that still holds up well, i think). Darren Jackson, the songwriter/ main guy, had a pal named Will Schaff, who was doing the art; i think will and i might’ve had some mutual friends as well, but anyway– Will’s scratchboard stuff completely floored me. and we met, and i liked him. it’s long since gone from me how we actually hashed it out, but what i said was “hey, you wanna do a limited edition portfolio with me, i’ll print em on my press? 10 images or so?” and he said sure yup. so we did it.

he’d just started doing the art for this small band called Okkervil River, too. they’re not small anymore.

when i was talking earlier about the zine days, “what is this thing, and what can i pull off?”, and how that was a sort of wonderful process…Will’s folio was the first time that happened on the “new” La Mano.

you are undoubtedly used to my asides by now, but this one i gotta get out there– probably the single biggest factor in La Mano outside of the press itself: Twin Cities Paper, at the corner of Central and Broadway (about 5 blocks from my studio). it was one of those old, nondescript places that you drive by a million times and never really notice. after a while i thought “well they’re just down the street, might as well see what they have.”

and…god, i miss them. i miss them so much. i walked in and within 10 minutes i realized i’d hit pay dirt: it was my dream come true. dusty old place that went on forever, in all directions. a brother and sister ran the place, having inherited it from their father. what it was, was a remaindered paper outlet. see, most regular sized to large  print shops order paper in these enormous quantities for a given job, and would often end up with extra; not enough that they could do another large run with it, but too much to warehouse and keep on hand just in case. so they’d sell em to TCP, and TCP would sell it to scavengers like me, CHEAP. like, ridiculously cheap. considering that i was doing runs that were tiny compared to even a small print shop, it was like heaven. they had a room of just leftover cover stock, all this crazy shit that no one wanted (except me). after a while they got to know me and i got to know them, and they’d literally just let me climb around, digging stuff out of corners that’d been sitting for a decade, and they’d forgotten they even had. i’m saying all this because starting with Will’s portfolio, every single La Mano project was BASED on what i found at Twin Cities Paper, period.

i’d find some weird old black paper, and say “what is this stuff?” they’d say “i dunno. you want it for really cheap?”; cover stock for Will’s folio. railroad board special edition? TCP. interior stock and envelopes? cover and interior stock for Centaur? every single thing in Fear of Song, Sammy Book 1, and (especially) the Deitch files? never mind all the various posters, promo sheets, and… i could go on and on. it was ALL TWIN CITIES PAPER. and it GAVE me ideas– i’d find stuff, and think “god, i gotta do something with this, i wonder what?”

so: i knew what i had: this weird black textured cover stock. also some crazy off -white stuff, heavy enough for cover, but i’d use it for the prints inside. slowly but surely, the thing came together. hockey tape binding. here, for fun is the process involved in putting each of these things together:

schaff_book

1) hand cut window in on front panel, using this jig-thing made out of some metal duct sheeting: try not to cut off finger.

2) cloth hockey tape: tape together front and back cover.

3) grab (pre-signed and numbered) envelope, containing the 10 plates. using double-stick tape gun, eyeball where the “list of works” plate goes on the cover (actually the inside) of the envelope. lock that sucker down.

3) tape the envelope in BACKWARDS.

4) now flip it again, and tape in the “cover card” (which i had printed at a postcard printing place).

5)  get hole punch, punch hole about 1/2 way down. put in reinforcement thingies and brass thumb thing. clip the corners because somehow the whole thing didn’t look right until i did that.

i’ve blocked a lot of the printing out of my memory, i think. i know i cursed myself for using the textured paper on the inside, because it caused a lot of problems getting hard blacks– trying to run the machine hot enough to get the coverage without losing all the detail punching past the texture of the paper. and the roller wheel on the delivery end kept picking up ink. but, this was my first brush with something i should have expected, but didn’t: that i was not a professional printer, and it was just going to be as good as i could get it. which was (and still is) very frustrating; not only learning to do it, but also learning on the fly what my, and my machine’s capabilities were. in a lot of cases, that meant going with something that, were i paying a print shop, i would have brought back to them and said “no. do this again”. it’s sort of a weird thing to wrap your head around– saying to yourself “god, this doesn’t look professional; it looks like some guy who didn’t know what he was doing did it by hand in his basement”. and then thinking– wait; that’s exactly what this IS.

but, it was the first full project i ran on Maisie. and when it was all put together, i was sort of in awe of what a beautiful little thing we’d done, Will and i. and here’s another thing that happened for the first (but thankfully not the last) time: i’d known Will sort of when we decided to do this, but not really well.

by the end of it, the guy was my friend. and that, people, is awesome. John p was my friend before we did Mosquito together, and i was just pleased that our friendship didn’t suffer at all in the process. and i guess if push came to shove i’d say i’m friends with the Recidivist guy on some level. but– if you think going through the process of doing something like this with someone isn’t a potential hornet’s nest, you are mistaken. but i liked Will MORE when all was said and done, and i think he kind of felt the same way. i wasn’t just some dude selling his stuff; we did this thing together, and we were both proud of it, warts and all.

i’ve only got 20 or so of these left. doing that much hands-on labor was…not what i’d planned, or expected; it was just the tail wagging the dog– you’ve got this and this and this and here’s another idea and now you gotta…wait a minute hold on, whoops it’s done. and it was then that i realized that this thing wasn’t really like anything i’d seen before. and it felt better than sending all the files to the printer on Mosquito (again, the irony there). way better.

LM004 WAIT, YOU’RE NOT A CENTAUR book/ cd

while on a “break” from Low (too much to get into here), i had the extreme honor of being asked to play bass for a US tour with one of my favorite bands of all time, The Dirty Three. they were old pals, and like i said– just an amazing, amazing band. Mick Turner (guitar player, who’s got a great new solo record out right now, by the way) had his own label, called Anchor and Hope. i saw that our opening act all through the west coast was something called Nate Denver’s Neck; when i asked Mick what the hell, he said “i put out his record. just wait, you’ll see‘”.

and i did. Nate would come out each night in a black cowl, with a cardboard bloody axe taped to the end of his guitar, wearing a scary death mask. he’d go onstage, all by himself, start up a cd that played some Wagner, then at the precise moment, would pull off the death mask to reveal his face– which was painted like a death mask. he’d then proceed to sing songs (some in death metal voice, some not) about how much he loved slayer, and an epic battle with his childhood teddy bear, and a ballerina who’d made a pact with satan. he also looked like a dude straight out of a modeling agency, and it seemed like he could probably do 100 pull-ups if you asked him (i found out later that this was, indeed, the case). the crowd was almost always deeply confused, but most nights he won them over because…this was no schtick: Nate meant every word.

over the course of the tour we got to be friends, and at the end of the tour, we said “let’s keep in touch”. and most of the time, when you’re in a touring band, that doesn’t happen. not on purpose; you just don’t, for whatever reason. but Nate and i did keep in touch. i can’t even remember the specifics. we just did. so, again, i can’t remember exactly how, but at some point Nate said to me “have i ever told you that i wrote a book of 50 stories of exactly 50 words apiece?” and i said no Nate, you did not tell me that. would you send it to me? and he said “why yes zak, i will”. and i thought, oh, this’ll be funny. about 5 pages in, i had this overwhelming feeling that this HAD TO come out on La Mano, and so i called Nate and told him so, and he said “i was hoping you’d say that”.

so, this was the first book that the whole La Mano idea really went into practice: i got all the paper from Twin Cities (as well as this metallic cover stock that usually sells for 20x what i paid for it), made the printing plates on this hopped-up/ modded HP laser printer, i even had an ancient right angle folder at the time:

foldy_small

(insanely loud and capable of crushing any and all hands within 50 feet of it, also did not work very well), so i folded all the printed sheets into 8 page signatures before delivering them to the bindery. in fact, the binding was the ONLY thing i didn’t do in-house on that book. pretty much every single element listed above gave me no end of trouble, but  Centaur was exactly what i had in mind when i bought the press– it sort of looked like a normal book, but it wasn’t; it was just too wonky, somehow. add to this the cd taped into the back cover (each with an elephant hand-drawn by nate) and it stops being what you think it is pretty darn quick.

so Nate, being Nate, got Adam Jones from Tool to write the intro to the book. and when it was finally done, TOOL put up a little blurb on their site. TOOL, you see, is a very popular rock band. i’d done a print run of 700 on the book, and they were all but gone in a matter of 6 months ( i kept some aside for me and nate, but you can’t have them). pretty great. so i immediately went back to press, and did another run with the guts printed commercially (but i still did the cover, and taped in all the cd’s). spent a bunch of $ to save myself the time and headache, and to try to keep the ball rolling.

this was La mano’s first brush with death: after i repressed, La Mano stopped getting orders completely. i believe i had a stretch where i did not get a single order for FOUR MONTHS. and i don’t mean “on Nate’s book that i’d just repressed” i mean at all. in part one of this history thing (wait, part 2?) i said i rebooted La Mano thinking someday, somehow, maybe it’d be something i could eke a small living off of (i know–think big). this was my first hint that…maybe that wasn’t a realistic goal. and that maybe it wasn’t why i was doing it in the first place, regardless of what i was telling myself.

centaurs

but, right, the book– this was also the moment of truth for me: the white covered version (on the left) is the first run, where i did everything. the printing is dodgy, the pages stick out all over the damn place on the book face (due to the aforementioned ancient right angle folder), the cd barely fits inside it.

the second version: perfectly printed, binding and folding and everything just exactly where and how it should be. the books are, for all purposes, exactly the same– the only difference being that one of them was produced under “professional” conditions, with all aspects hitting the accepted marks of quality and such.

and, there is no question whatsoever; not to me, not to nate, not to anyone. the first printing is absolutely superior. we can go on about the magical qualities of art and sweat and love and all that stuff, but to be honest i’ve always been wary of that kind of dippy romanticism. anyone who hold the 2 books in their hand and thinks the blue covered one is the more beautiful object… i couldn’t agree less. and don’t get me wrong– the blue one is still a NICE BOOK; it just looks and feels like many other nice books you’ve held in your hand. call it dippy romantic sweat talking if you want, but the fact is, the one made by hand; you can tell. you can feel on every level that somebody put some serious love into this, from conception to the physical object itself, that no part of this was taken for granted. no one was kicking out product. could you tell all those things specifically, if you knew nothing about it and picked it up cold?

no. and yes, absolutely. you would know that this book is something different than 99% of the books you’ve seen in your life. that’s not my opinion, it’s fact.

and it made me realize, maybe not even on a conscious level, that doing “normal” books was something i wasn’t really that interested in.

pretty sure i also realized (again, not consciously) that “normal” books are what sell, and what makes money.

anyway, between Will and Nate’s books, an aesthetic was coming into shape– i didn’t feel as much that “i” was doing it, as that it was just happening, led by the collaborations with these particular guys and what i had available to get it done. but i liked it a lot.

WAIT YOU’RE NOT A CENTAUR is one of the only books La Mano has done that…if you don’t enjoy it, we probably have nothing to talk about. i cannot imagine someone looking at the “Viking Whale and Consenting Bee” drawing and not laughing like hell. if you don’t like this book, there could very well be something wrong with you, in  a way that makes me sad not happy.

and, as with Will, Nate and i were even tighter when the book was done. in fact, Nate is one of my favorite guys in the world to this day. i could tell stories about him til i was blue in the face, and i’m tempted to do exactly that. we did an acoustic bookstore tour together on the west coast in 2009, and…i shouldn’t even start. he’s honestly the closest thing i’ve ever met to a superhero; he could undoubtedly kick your ass in a heartbeat (the 100 pull-ups was no lie) but more than likely if you ever meet him he’ll be saving your life (particularly if you live in the LA area), because that’s what he does for a living. he is entirely in cahoots with the forces of good, on a cellular level. and he sort of shreds on guitar. and he’s got this weird thing where hummingbirds follow him around. i’m not sure they make em like nate much anymore. i wish they did.

he did a second book of 50 50 word stories last year, called HAUNTED ARMOR, and La Mano didn’t publish it, but i helped some. go buy it.

3 down, 2 to go.it’ll get real good at the end.

–z.