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Connecting hip hop to queers to humor to beat writing to trans issues

An interview with
the Urban Hermitt


by Elke Zobl

February 2003

One of my favourite zines!!! After I heard Hermitt reading at the Copy and Destroy tour in San Diego, I have read almost all issues and am just reading his book "Urban Hermitt: The Flow Chronicles" (published by Microcosm). Order this fabulous zine at Microcosm Publishing or email Hermitt at
alienpeapod [AT] yahoo.com.


Can you tell me first of all a little bit about yourself? How old are you, where are you originally from and where do you reside now?

i'm almost 25. born in quincy mass in the same hospital as donny walberg from the new kids on the block. but i grew up in seattle and i've been there for a long time. currently, i am traveling and looking for a new place to live in america

What do you do besides your zine?
i mc and freestyle hip hop. perform spoken word. i dj. skateboard. fuck. cook. drink too much coffee. and i just had my first novel published.

For how long have you been running your zine now? How many issues did you put out until now? Are you the only editor or is there a team?
i've been doing my zine since 1998. the last issue completed was number 15. i am the only editor. D.I.M. do it myself.


What made you decide to start this project? How did you come up with the idea and the name?
back in the day (ie: 1998) i fell on my head while riding my bicycle and got a concussion, then my grandpa died, and i got kicked outta my apartment. life sucked BUT life also woke me up and made me realise that i need to get off my ass and do something like a zine. Also, issue #36 of Cometbus where Aaron goes to Europe inspired me to do a zine as well. I came up with the name "Urban Hermitt" myself. To me, it means that i live in the city, do urban things, and have many friends yet i can feel alienated, lonely, and hide at home a lot. "Urban Hermitt" is the ultimate contradiction that a lot of us face. Plus, it kinda sounds cool.

What topics are most often discussed in your zine?
I write stories about everyday life focusing on all the wingnuts i meet, all the insane traveling i do, all the gurls i have crushes on, the hip hop i like. subeltly, i talk a lot bout being a boy trapped in a girls body and how the world treats me because of that. i am also in stream of consciouness writing. and i also talk about funny things and make people laugh.

What do you hope to accomplish by establishing your zine?
connecting hip hop to queers to humor to beat writing to trans issues to putting more good novella writing back into underground press. i want to make people laugh. and secretly. i wanna get famous.

What does zine making (and reading) mean to you? What do you love about zine making? What’s the most challenging aspect of making zines?
making a zine means that you are taking control of you life. you are in control of your creativity (unless some great spirit takes over you when you are writing or drawing or some shit like that) you can make a zine while taking a shit, in prison, on the beach, at yer mom's house. that's the feeling i love best about zines. the challengin part of making zines is photocopying. whether it be trying to find a "discount" on them, or fixing a jammed xerox machine at the kinkos at 4 am. also, many people may not take you seriously as a credible writer if you say you do a zine. they suck.


What was your first exposure to zines? How did you find out about them? What have they come to mean to you?
in high school , i used to walk down to fallout records in seattle and buy maximun rock n' roll, ben is dead, and murder can be fun. they mean fresh young spirit, and new perspectives.


Do you consider grrrl, lady, queer and trans zines as an important part of a movement of sorts? Do you think they can effect meaningful social and political change?
hell yeah. every movemnt whether it be hip hop, indie rock, or independant film is still mostly made up of straight white men, or at least they are still getting most of the attention. trans zines especially, cuz i know tons of queers, grrrls, and ladies who are still very ignorant of trans issues.

What does the zine community mean to you?
a group of real people from all over the world who will write juicy letters, insightful zines, and put you up when you travel. it also means a lotta creepy and annoying people too, but that comes with every scene...oops, i mean "community"

What advice would you give others who want to start a zine?
make bigger than 12 pages. make it all your own orginal material. neatly handwrite it or don't handwrite it at all. and most importantly, realize other people will actually read your zine, so it's better to speak to them than to make it sound like a diary entry. and, start trading and sending your zines off to distros right away!

What are some of the zines you admire?
"emergency" "that girl"

Could you please describe a little bit the grrrl and queer zine community in your country?
big?

Do you define yourself as a feminist? What are the most pressing issues you are confronted with in daily life?
sure. the most pressing issues i face is that when i walk into a woman's bathroom, everybody freaks out and tells me i should not be in there but if i went into the man's bathroom, i would get beat up. one person who sees me thinks i am a boy and then next person who sees me, calls me a "lady." and people being transphobic as all hell.


Do you participate in the feminist and trans liberation movement (apart from doing your zine)?
yes, simply by existing and trying to go pee pee.

What do you think about feminism today? Do you see yourself as part of “Third Wave Feminism” and what does it mean to you?
le tigre on the cover of Bust magazine = Good. Julia Butterfly Hill thinking she can speak for my generation = bad. Feminism is a relative thing, i know people who are self identified feminists who will still see the world through heterosexual eyes and still be caught up on gender roles. As far as "Third Wave Feminism" is concerned, i think it's a privileged term that can mean the same thing as "Third Wave Post Modern Analytical Dawnwism." can't "feminism" still be "feminism" like "gay bear daddy" is still a "gayu bear daddy?"


Which role plays the Internet for you? Does it change your ideas of making zines and doing/reading zines?
the internet is a great way too communicate. the internet to me, is mostly just email communication. i still would never do an e-zine, cuz you can't read an e-zine when you are, for say, taking a shit in a porto potty. but the internet definitely connects people.

Do you have any suggestions? Something you want to add?
Yeah, My novel "The Flow Chronicles" had just been published by Microcosm Publishing. It's a funny book bout coming out, taking drugs, and making fun of hippies. Go to www.microcosmpublishing.com for more information.

and I am a story-novel,-writer. i do zines for underground press liberation. i do not do zines for top 10 lists and band reviews.

and support queer hip hop.


CONTACT:
the Urban Hermitt at
alienpeapod [AT] yahoo.com

and order his zine through
Microcosm Publishing


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