Issue #1: Birth: A Final Announcement and Update

Several months ago, we announced our first physical zine. Since that announcement, Benjamin and I have been working hard to make Issue #1: Birth a reality. On the same day as this post’s publication, we’ve made our final order for the complete batch of debut issues. Once we’ve received them, we’ll send out individual copies to our subscribers. With its release just a few days away, this post will take a look at each of the zine’s talented contributors. In addition, I’ll detail a few of the difficulties we’ve encountered in the process, and how they’ve helped us to develop.

Though we originally expected an earlier release date, a number of factors have pushed it back to mid-November. Our decision to include a full compilation album of music stalled production of the whole package significantly. That said, I believe that the end result will be incredibly satisfying to our subscribers. Click here for some more information on Volume #1: Birth, the zine’s cassette tape counterpart. As we collected material for the tape, we concluded that we have enough available music for some exciting plans. This is just one of the numerous ways that this project has acted as a catalyst for evolution.

Similarly, traversing a rocky printing process proved an uphill struggle that we’ve both learned from. For the future, many of the templates we’ve designed will allow us to move at a faster pace. We’ve also been able to nail down such specifics as page type, weight and size. All of these considerations have presented hurdles for us to get past, which is part of the delays we’ve come up against. Fortunately, we believe that this initial issue will be the most problematic when it comes to the minutiae of its creation. Social lives and career obligations have also slowed our movements, though I mention that out of pure transparency.


In the end, I’m strong in my conviction that Issue #1: Birth is worth the wait. Every page represents days of consultation between Benjamin and I. From the smallest elements of visual design to its overall tone, we’ve given everything we have to make sure that this zine is the best it could be. Yet, what really gives it the flavour we imagined is the work of our outside contributors. We each hand-picked several examples of art, photography and writing. Our selections were made specifically to fit our intended style. This is another development, as we now envisage our zine to be a communal celebration of cosmopolitan expression. As such, don’t hesitate to contact me through Twitter if you’d like us to print your own toils.

Due to the greater contribution of other artists and writers, we actually wasted a fair amount of time on content you won’t find in the issue. In deference to the superior work of featured creatives, we left a lot of our second-rate ideas on the cutting room floor. The zine is markedly better for this approach. I’m glad that my writing has been dwarfed by other sources, and think it makes for a far more engaging experience. For future instalments, we’re going to nearly double the page count in order to account for even more submissions. I’ll be writing an in-depth post here about upcoming editions as we cross that bridge. Here’s one of the first pages we designed, which was to accompany my sole article for the issue.


So, beyond our struggles, who exactly have we invited into the Secret Cave for Issue #1: Birth? Using the above picture as a jumping-off point, let’s start with its replacement. Now, the zine features Roses by Shanell Papp; a striking piece of artwork. Papp is an impressively dedicated artist, who uses a wide variety of materials and textures in her work. I’m hoping to write something about her many expressive avenues for our next issue, but you can check out her website in the meantime for more information. Below is an untitled piece that she submitted, but we chose not to use for fear of it losing potency when rendered in monochrome (a necessary limitation).


Among the first that we contacted was Gary Stafford, a British photographer. My personal history with Stafford goes back several years. In fact, his photos appeared alongside my first published words. Stafford and I regularly attended gigs and festivals together as a team for a couple of online outlets, before eventually landing some work for Clash. To this day, Stafford has continued with his gig photography. His skills have only improved since our old association, and his output has become synonymous with quality. Go over to his website for a prime display of his considerable abilities. Some of Stafford’s more experimental work actually opens this issue. A riff on the lauded “Brassai” style of photography, here’s a shot from the same set as our chosen picture.

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Stafford isn’t the only photographer we’ve featured. We’ve also called on our old podcast guest, Adam Volerich. Besides his work for Magnalux Pictures, Volerich has a striking catalogue of still photography. His history in the field came up in our talk, so I’m particularly glad to bring a still of his to print. Together, we’ve chosen a piece that hits many of the notes we aim for at Secret Cave. Coincidentally, another previous podcast guest, Dominick Nero, serves as the picture’s subject. Both Volerich and Nero have given Secret Cave a lot of support, so it’s nice to cross paths with them once again for this issue. Follow any of the links in this paragraph to learn more about Volerich, Nero or Magnalux. We discussed using the image below, before settling on the one you’ll find in our pages.

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Benjamin, whose purview is slightly different to mine, sourced his own submissions too. In contacting Pat Hines, the man behind Camp Redblood, Benjamin has perfectly expanded on an article he’s written about Microsoft Paint and its effect on art. Hines exclusively, and masterfully, uses Microsoft Paint as his platform. It eludes me how a rudimentary tool can achieve such evocative results. You have to see his art to believe it, so click here for his website. There, you can also find some backstory on his use of Microsoft Paint that makes for a rewarding read. The following image particularly surprised me with its technical skill, though Hines ended up submitting a wholly unique piece to our zine.


Similarly, Benjamin’s interest in technology vastly exceeds my own. His authority on the subject has become a key feature of Secret Cave. Without his tastes, I would never find intriguing artists like Okti W. Though Okti W utilises more traditional methods, such as watercolour, her use of software afterwards adds a powerful twist. Processing is described as a “flexible software sketchbook and a language for learning how to code within the context of the visual arts”. By applying it to artwork in the human, physical world, Okti W allows for an exploration of perspective. In this piece, which we were going to print for some time, you can see some of Benjamin and I’s humour throughout the design process; incorporated purely to stop us from going insane through numerous drafts and volleyed attachments.


Though Benjamin and I primarily handled the writing duties for Issue #1: Birth, our words aren’t alone. We also received some great flash-fiction. One of these stories, penned by Adrienne Lotto, has found its way into our zine. Though it stands as the only outside writing contribution, it’s an area we’d like to grow in subsequent instalments. Lotto brings a tale of neurotic obsession to Secret Cave; a trait we know very well. I’m sure that our fans will recognise some of the spiralling thoughts of the fiction’s protagonist. Eventually, we’ll be posting it up here along with the rest of the zine, so you can read it freely.

Finally, in our round up of valued creatives, we’ve used two artworks from Tristen Brookshire; someone I met through our mutual appreciation for the comedy of Tim and Eric. Her imagery frames a few paragraphs of my own, where I spend some time appreciating the output of Brookshire and her contemporaries in our zine. After seeing her website, which you can visit here, I was quickly sold on her suitability for Secret Cave. Thankfully, she was receptive to the idea. We have hopes that she’ll bring her style to a regular role in future issues. We’d like Brookshire to be more involved in the layout of our pages, and we’ve also invited her to guest on SCP3, our third season of podcasts. Watch this space for her appearance, which we’ll endeavour to record before the year is out.

This piece from Brookshire, Warped, was key to our first issue right up to the day of our final order. Unfortunately, its fine pencil lines presented a number of hiccups throughout printing. At the last minute, we gave its space to Split, an extract of a larger artwork from Brookshire’s oeuvre.


In the end, that leaves only our own writing. For my part, I’ve put forth an article, an interview with Vic Berger and the first chapter of a novella we’ll be serialising. Though I’m proud of my own graft for this issue, I adore that so many other talents have put their stamp on it. I’m equally as happy with Benjamin, whose aforementioned musings on Microsoft Paint take up three fascinating pages. I owe him my thanks and appreciation for his visual design, where he went above and beyond. If that weren’t enough, look forward to his piece about artificially generated landscapes. It’s a thoughtful and imaginative read, despite an imposed brevity.

For this first run, our subscribers will receive Issue #1: Birth completely free, including postage. This is, in many ways, our introduction to the physical world. If you are one of our subscribers and enjoy our zine, we’ll be packaging it with details on how to get our follow-up. If, however, you missed this first run, the issue will be available here in PDF form. Digital versions of the zine will incur you no cost, and we simply hope you like it. Further tangible copies will be purchasable, at a reasonable price, in our store when we launch it next year. In the last few days before release, I encourage you to follow the rabbit holes of our contributors.

Don’t forget Volume #1: Birth either, a compilation cassette tape we’ve produced as a special gift. This will be on our Bandcamp, which is still under construction, with a “name your price” model. Of course, you will be able to download it without spending a single penny or cent. We merely hope that the obscure music we’ve collected gets heard. That said, we’re keen to remind anyone who chooses to pay that any profits will only fuel the growth of Secret Cave. To conclude, I’d like to give anyone who has supported us my gratitude. At the moment, this is the passion project of two individuals. We would like nothing more than to see how deep this cave goes, but we can’t do it without your interest. That we’ve reached even the point of a self-funded zine has changed my life, and in some unpredictable ways.

From both Benjamin and I, thank you.


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