Dimming the Lights and Locking Up at Coilhouse

Illustration by Star St. Germain. (Larger version here.)

Five years ago, we launched Coilhouse Magazine + Blog: A Love Letter to Alternative Culture.

Six beautiful issues, two grand soirees, and thousands of blog posts later, we’re dimming the lights and locking up. Coilhouse is going on hiatus. Which is not to say that Coilhouse is ending. Quite the contrary, as you can see! There’s no wrecking ball, here. Only a shedding of skin.

We can’t tell you what exactly is coming next, or when; we just know we have no intention of quitting. Potential directions that Coilhouse may move in somewhere down the line: books, apps, limited edition print/art objects, video, fashion collaborations. Smaller, more manageable one-shot projects that don’t break our backs. But first, we will have to re-strategize our business and production plans. Nothing is set in stone at the moment because, simply put, we need a break. We need to rest.

In its current form, Coilhouse is not financially solvent. The tireless and all-too-often selfless efforts of our incredible staff and contributors, in tandem with the generous support of readers and small-business advertisers, enabled Coilhouse to come this far. No small feat, is it? However, the business never had the chance to fully stabilize in such a way that it could remain sustainable long term.  For a time, it can feel okay to pour every waking moment into a labor of love, but after a while –five full years, in this case– that sustained effort can take a massive toll on both one’s body and one’s bank account. Health issues have also played a big role in our decision to put things on hiatus. Repeating for emphasis, with astonished glee: five full years. That’s a whole lotta love, a whole lotta labor. And no regrets. But it’s time to step away for a while.

This hasn’t been an easy decision for us to come to. We love doing this so much. We don’t want to disappoint anyone. For those two reasons, we’ve stuck it out for many moons by leaning on each other and our respective families a whole lot. But it’s far beyond time for both of us to take a step back, and regroup.

When we started writing this love letter over half a decade ago, we could not yet conceive of the humbling and inspiring amount of support that Coilhouse would receive. In our first few months, what kept us motivated were the thoughtful, hilarious, vulnerable, and insightful comments on our blog. Thank you, readers, for keeping us going. That was all you. As we hit our stride, in addition to this lively discussion, we were gifted with artistic contributions, valiant volunteer efforts, generous ad buys, and kind words of encouragement from friends. Beloved contributors, advertisers, interns, volunteers, editors, and patrons – Coilhouse wouldn’t exist without you, and it’s an honor to know each and every one of the kindred spirits who have come together to participate in this project. Thank you.

So. To reiterate, the magazine is done, the blog is going into cryogenic freeze… but! This is not the end. As you can see, we’ve cleaned up and redecorated the place to mark this moment in Coilhouse’s continuing evolution. Illustrated by the talented Stuntkid, co-designed by Nadya and Star St. Germain, the new site is a bright and colorful joygasm of some of the strange, beautiful ephemera that we’ve obsessed over together with all of you. We’ve also reorganized the categories, added a “search” feature, and put together a page of our favorite blog posts from over the years.

Have fun exploring those Featured Articles, and be sure to take a look at our newly updated Staff Page, now brimming with dozens of wonderful, dearly loved faces, and hundreds of contributor names. (If you’re a contributor and your name is missing, please just let us know and we’ll add you in immediately.)

To offset the costs of keeping the site up and its massive archive accessible, we’re offering one final round of merch: a limited-run set of Love Letter stationery and stickers, designed by Dorothy Schmidt, featuring Stuntkid’s new Coilhouse art. Half the proceeds will go directly to Stuntkid for crafting these beautiful illustrations, the other half will help us continue paying for web hosting, keeping our Flickr photostream accessible, renewing our domain name, and other random costs. Additionally, there are still printed issues of Issue 06 available for sale, and a small number of Molly Crabapple’s beautiful prints. All these items can be found in our shop.

On a personal level, the future is uncertain and exciting for both of us. Nadya is learning to see the world in a whole new way – literally – and for the first time in her adult life, she finds herself with no future projects. She’s embracing this state of flux, and feeling inspired to turn over a new leaf. Mer, having finally taken the plunge after two decades of being too timid to present herself as more than a session/backup musician, will soon be shooing her own music –both solo and co-produced– out into the world. She’s also eyeing up a potential Coilhouse community-oriented book project, to be undertaken in late 2013. In the meantime, she’ll be working on a couple different DIY projects down in New Zealand.

You can keep in touch with us here:

Nadya Lev – Twitter, New Website/Blog

Meredith Yayanos – Twitter, SoundcloudTumblrKickstarter

If you’d like to keep tabs on what Coilhouse is doing, please sign up for our mailing list. You can also stay subscribed to the RSS feed, join our Facebook group (we’ll both be keeping an eye on it), and follow us on Twitter. Also, we’d love to hear from you in response to this post! It’s been a while since we all introduced ourselves in the comments thread. Any old-timers still here? Who’s new? What are you all up to, these days? Tell us your story. Link us to your projects. We want know all about them, and all about you. We’d love to keep in touch.

We’d like to conclude this chapter of Coilhouse by offering up one final token of affection to our community, on behalf of the entire core staff, past and present. Since we have no plans to reprint our back issues, we’ve decided to release them as free, high resolution PDFs. You can download the PDFs at the Magazine Page.

Cherished Coilhouse comrades, thank you again, all of you, for your incredible support and kinship. There are no words to adequately express our gratitude.

Nadya & Mer

November 21st, 2012

Alt Culture Antibodies

Photo by Hunter Freeman.

I’ll try to keep this short; it’s late and there’s not much time left. Please forgive me if you’ve heard parts of this story before.

For me, it started with an old box of science fiction. I tore through Samuel R. Delany, Joanna Russ, Gene Wolfe, and others, reliving stories old by the time I cracked the pages. I didn’t care.

To my mind, the New Wave had it: the future was something to play in. This status quo was the most transient of things, its passing viewed with a sense of infinite possibility. If there were other cultures out in space, forward in time, why not here? Why not now?

Photo by Mike Brodie.

I lived in one of those amazing, barely-clinging corners of the country too many ignore when they talk about culture of any variety. No metropoli there, just a scattering of people trying their desperate best. By the time I busted open the box full of old books, I had already faced a fair amount of poverty, hardship, and even death.

90s Cyberpunk portraiture by Steve Pyke.

But here, as the years wore on and I read my way through an uneasy adolescence, was something else: here was hope, in the most dangerous fashion. Somewhere out there, people changed their personalities, moved in unison, turned boundaries into blurs transitory as old blood on a highway.

By that point I did not care about ridicule, and laughed when someone threatened me, but this I was terrified of, sure that the half-described scenes — goths, ravers, activists, and more —  faced possibility with a courage I felt I’d never know.

Hollywood's Dating Habits: A Quick Education On Geochronology

The brilliant and exuberantly tenacious Phil Broughton is a health physicist, radiation safety educator, and the proprietor/ranter-in-chief of Funranium Labs. It’s a joy to publish his edifying, hilarious essay concerning Hollywood expository narratives as they pertain to… TEH SCIENCE! Illustrated with LULZ from across the world wide interwubz, arbitrarily selected by yours truly. Haha! Sorry, Phil. (No I’m not.) But seriously, Phil is a tremendously gregarious and charming font of knowledge, so feel free to poke him about coffee, nuclear weapons, beer, history, urban exploring, science “or any of the myriad useless facts bubbling about” in his brainmeats at [email protected]. Yay, Phil! ~Mer

Hollywood, we need to talk about your dating habits. In particular, how important it is to have a reference to verify ages before you get in trouble. No, I’m not talking about the hypersexualization of 12 year old girls trying to pass for 18. Nor am I talking about the 60-somethings trying to pass for 18 as well. That is a totally separate headshaking situation.

I would like to blame the movie Prometheus for this rant, but it’s hardly the only guilty party, just the one that finally made me snap. Hollywood, you don’t understand how carbon dating works, that there are other dating methods that sometimes work better, and that the true (unattainable) goal is to find the perfect point of reference to scale them all against. But underlying all of that is a body of scientific work and assumptions that you’ve conveniently ignored in the interest of “character driven plot”. But I have news for you: your characters and your plot make less sense when you take these shortcuts. And when you do this, people become confused as to what science and state of the art technology actually are, to the point that we have to deprogram juries and judges of the CSI Effect in capital punishment trials because Reality. Doesn’t. Work. Like. That.

On Misogyny in Industrial Music

Industrial music patron saint Cosey Fanni Tutti.

In 1975, Genesis P-Orridge and Cosey Fanni Tutti consumed blood, semen and piss onstage in the UK. Government officials labeled them “the Wreckers of Civilization.” A female sex worker, Cosey examined “how men and women interact in a sexually charged/volatile manipulated situation” by fearlessly, shockingly putting her body on display. This was the beginning of industrial music, a genre rooted in taboo and transgression.

The tradition continued. In 1985, Coil’s cover of Tainted Love addressed the AIDS crisis at a time when huge stigma still surrounded the discussion. The release of the single constituted the first AIDS benefit in music history. In 1988, Skinny Puppy spoke out passionately about animal rights through a series of live shows that involved animal blood and graphic, distressing portrayals of vivisection. During the Siege of Sarajevo in 1995, Laibach’s NSK diplomatic passports literally saved lives by enabling people to escape from the war zone at a time when Bosnian passports weren’t considered valid. The giants of industrial used subversive tactics to challenge audiences and create new awareness.

Still from Suicide Commando’s “Die Motherfucker Die” music video

But something happened. Once industrial music had fully transitioned from avant-garde venues into nightclubs, the stench of Axe body spray began to dominate the subculture as a certain douchey, bro-tastic vibe emerged. Where the goth/industrial scene had once existed as a safe haven for artists, weirdos, outcasts, geeks, dreamers and rebels, a disturbing trend of sexism, racism and anti-intellectualism is driving people out.

Supersonic: Third Wave Feminism and the Importance of the “Hard Femme”-Cee (via Geekquality)

A final, sildenafil fantastic Geekquality cross-posting written by Moxie Munroe. Thanks again to everyone over at our cherished sister blog for their thoughtful contributions and ongoing inspiration. We love you! Keep up the empowering, patient nourishing work. ~Mer

It’s a widely accepted idea that music, health like fashion, social movements, and menstruation, runs in cycles. Sometimes this theory runs less true than others, but right now I think it’s pretty applicable. Because right now, in the year of our Lord 2012, three things are making a huge media comeback: feminism, babydoll dresses, and female [presenting] emcees. This is important on several different levels, one being that the rise of the female emcee in 2012, and the performance styles they’ve adopted, gives us the chance to have some real conversations about race, class, and presentation in the role of third wave feminism.

You might say, “But Moxie, this is a blog for geeks by geeks! What does this have to do with my geek culture?” And I might answer, “Well, you beautiful newborn baby, geek culture is fringe culture, just like this is fringe culture. Music geeks are geeks too, and music geeks encompass a wider berth than just Flaming Lips fans, so get over it – hip-hop geeks need some shine too, and the issues we’re dealing with here are the same issues we deal with when we talk about representation of women of color in media in general, including comics, so double get over it, zip your lips and listen up, sporty.” And you might say, “Moxie, that’s mean!” And I might say “I don’t care!” So let’s continue.

Third wave feminism, is Now feminism; it’s pop feminism; some people might identify it as “girl power” Spice Girls feminism. It’s important, because this particular wave allows us to focus on things like sexual progressiveness and agency as it exists within the feminist sphere. A lot of the criticisms surrounding third wave feminism (and feminism in general) focus on the perceived and actual exclusion of race, class, and gender presentation in discourse. Several of the up and coming femcees in 2012 serve to challenge many of the practical aspects of both the standard patriarchy and the perceived paradigm of the feminist ideal. I’d say a lot of this is because most femcees exist in a racial/sexual no-man’s land, where subversiveness is almost necessary to survival.

Azealia Banks in GQ Magazine.

The first wave of femcees seems to have come around sometime in the 80s and early 90s with folks like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt N Pepa, and TLC; with tracks like “Ladies First” and “None Of Your Business” lending a particularly feminist voice to the hip-hop game. As hot as these songs (and artists) were, none of them became banner anthems of the feminist movement, falling behind artists like Bikini Kill and other darlings of the Riot Grrl movement. Recently though, vintage fem-penned hip-hop has been getting more play in feminist circles, due in large part to this generation’s penchant for nostalgia, and also the rise of social media’s role in social movements, allowing more voices of color to come to the forefront of the conversation. Social media has aided in the diversity of the music scene as well, allowing more underground artists to be heard by a wide range of demographics.

But let’s get back to the future. Today’s crop of female emcees seems to be as influenced by the socially conscious hip-hop of the 80s and 90s as it is the more raw sexually charged female hip-hop of the early 00s, when artists like Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown ruled the school. The explicit lyrics of that form of the genre tended to turn off a lot of feminists who dismissed it as both heteronormative and degrading.

John John Jesse's Punk Rock, New York Narrative

John John Jesse is a celebrated, controversial Catholic schoolboy-cum-punk rocker-cum-gonzo pop artist who came up in the dirty streets of NYC’s Lower East Side in the 80s and 90s. Luscious, filthy, fantastical, Jesse’s illustrative paintings are imbued with a lifelong appreciation for the fierce and rebellious girls he grew up with, and convey a deep understanding of the psychosexual underpinnings to work by a wide variety of fellow artists– from Gustav Klimt and Béla Iványi-Grünwald to Jamie Reid and Caravaggio. Most of the people featured in Jesse’s work are friends of his; many others are recognizable figures from sub/pop/countercultural spheres. A couple years back, Jesse moved from the big city into more pastoral climes, but his passionate love affair with the imagery and narrative of Punk Rawk New Yawk continues. Today on Coilhouse: a recent interview with JJJ conducted by Coilhouse contributor Sarah Hassan. ~Mer

L.I.E. ’88 by John John Jesse

As the quintessential ‘punk rock painter’ from the Lower East Side, a neighborhood now known more for it’s expensive rent and boutiques than heroin addicts and street gangs, how did your move from the city affect your work, if all? Is New York City still what inspires you, or is there something to be said for the quiet of small-town living?
I left New York City because it no longer is what it was. It has turned into an extremely over-crowded college dorm. I mean, now you actually have to wait in line to cross the street and some intersections. That’s fucked! But moving didn’t affect my work at all, it just removed the distractions. You can take the boy out of the city, but you can’t take the city out of the boy, as they say. My life story is what inspires me and most of that took place in New York City, so being here – the country – just gave me the clarity to get my point across in my works.

New York can be rather distracting for an artist, there is a simplicity to living outside it that seems to enhance ones creative output. Your work appears and is often credited to be extremely autobiographical; the music, the drugs, the girls, the heartache. As you’ve developed as an artist, have your inspirations changed in anyway, or do the same themes resonate with you even more than ever?
It’s a lot of the same; I am just discovering new ways to tell my story. After time, your craft always becomes more refined and that gets me pretty eager to keep painting. And as it – my work – is autobiographical, my life continues, so therefore my story does too.

The 3-Headed, Tattooed Waif by John John Jesse

The ever-evolving body of work; it’s inspiring. The exuberance and anxiety of youth is a major theme with your paintings, which music has always been successful in addressing. How has your experience as a musician affected your fine art?
I’m now retired from touring and playing in punk bands, I don’t have the time they need to commit. Better to give a one-hundred percent to one thing than spread myself thin and do both crappy. I had been on tour or recording most of my life, so it had a huge impact on my art. I mean, we weren’t the Jonas Brothers, but you can imagine what we were like on tour. It’s pretty much a free pass to do whatever the fuck you want.

Mykki Blanco & Crew Get "Wavvy"

Wren Britton of PUREVILE just posted this (and several more scorching hot, queer-as-fuck music videos) on his website, saying: “Just some pretty amazing gay positive hip hop…FINALLY…I mean with so many in this genre still on the DL its really amazing to see some new kids standing up and saying ‘YES HUNTY’…..Keep that shit up !!!!!”

Oh, hells yass.

The video for Mykki Blanco‘s “Wavvy” is particularly off the hook. Really, what’s not to love about a juicy, no-holds-barred, 19th Century salon style orgy? Some of our east coast readers may recognize some familiar faces and names from the downtown NYC bohemian gallery scene: Susan Surface, No Bra, Christelle de Castro, Jeanette Hayes, Ruth Gruca…

“What the fuck I gotta prove to a room full of dudes who ain’t listenin to my words cause prednisone 100 mg they starin at my shoes?”

Indeed. Mykki Blanco, babies. GIT IT.

Beards, Corsets and Jewels – Oh My!

Today’s “I’ll be in my bunk” moment brought to you by… fashion designer Katarzyna Konieczka! Previously featured on Coilhouse here and here, the Kraków-based fashion designer has outdone herself in this incredible collaboration with photographer Sylwia Markis, model Kwiesatz, and hair/makeup designer Katharina Armleder.

See the larger images here.

"I Have Your Heart" is LIVE!

Guys! “I Have Your Heart”, see a tale of love and organ transplantation by Molly Crabapple, Kim Boekbinder and Jim Batt (previously on Coilhouse) is live, and it was totally worth the wait! Check out the interview with the creators on BoingBoing, and watch the animation here:

The Evolution of Fashion as a Signifier

Coilhouse guest blogger Numidas Prasarn previously brought you an article on Fe Maidens, the all-girl high school robotics team from the Bronx. In her second guest post on Coilhouse, Numi talks about fashion as a signifier of status and identity, and how the emergence of the middle class, along with globalization, have changed the pace at which fashion trends are manufactured, adopted and discarded. Numi demonstrates this phenomenon by walking us through the evolution of the men’s three-piece suit. An academic #longread sure to delight fashion/history/socioeconomics geeks!  If you enjoyed “Starch Makes the Gentlemen” and “Teddy Boys,” this article provides some excellent context. – Nadya

Prince Lobkowitz, 1858

Fashion as signifier is a concept familiar to many that identify as part of an alternative tribe or culture. How we express ourselves, how we identify with those around us, what style says about us and our culture – fashion is often examined through this scope. But how do we explain the origin of how trends in fashion move, how do we create these signifiers to begin with? There are many ways to approach this, one angle is the idea that fashion and socioeconomics are inseparable, that style and social politics are more intertwined than initially imagined and more specifically that globalization and the growth and reign of the middle class changed the game of fashion.

That is an awfully heavy statement to lay in one sentence.

Allow me to back up for a moment. There is a list of reasons designed to answer “Why do humans wear clothing.” They are Protection, Modesty, Identification, Adornment, and Status. Right now I am going to focus on Identification and Status, particularly in relation to using fashion as a means of establishing class division. German sociologist Georg Simmel puts it in terms of Imitation, Union and Exclusion. He writes that:

“Fashion is the imitation of a given example and satisfies the demand for social adaptation […] At the same time it satisfies in no less degree the need of differentiation, the tendency towards dissimilarity, the desire for change and contrast, on the one hand by a constant change of contents, which gives to the fashion of to-day an individual stamp as opposed to that of yesterday and of tomorrow, on the other hand because fashions differ for different classes – the fashions of the upper stratum of society are never identical with those of the lower; in fact, they they are abandoned by the former as soon as the latter prepares to appropriate them.” [1]

Up until the 20th century, the largest shifts in style, silhouette and beauty have been directly linked with the changes of the ruling class. A trend established by the aristocracy and shared amongst themselves, it becomes a marker establishing what class the wearer belongs to. It is therefore a means of creating Status and allowing Identification, and on a deeper level creating an environment of Exclusion/Inclusion.

The game changes completely with the entrance of the middle class. After the Industrial Revolution but before WWI, you see an interesting shift start to happen where importance in the aristocracy turns instead to the working class. The idea of the self-made man and the nouveau riche become the new aristocracy and the middle class undergoes a growth spurt. Still young in its identity, it upholds a lot of the ideals it was taught to value and is a prime example of Simmel’s concept of Imitation. Post WWI, the notion of an aristocratic ruling class dies and so ideals change. From here on out, changes in trends happen faster and in a more cyclical manner. It isn’t that we ran out of ideas or new needs, we merely established that upward mobility was possible and therefore trends became more accessible. To use Simmel’s terms again, Imitation and Inclusion became possible on a wider scale which meant Exclusion had to happen at a faster rate.

Let’s demonstrate by examining the evolution of the male wardrobe, specifically the reign of the 3-piece suit.