RIPPED AND TORN-An OG Zine
Q&A with Ripped and Torn creator Tony Drayton
In the mid-1970s the angsty teens and anarchists alike said let there by an outlet for our fury and riot!
Then there came a bang and Ripped and Tornwas born. While nowadays the phrase “punk is dead” is more alive than real punk may be, Tony Drayton knew punk when it was fresh out of rebellious wombs and birthed onto the streets of the UK. It was with this first-hand experience that Tony took pen to paper and conceived the zine that was made by punks for punks about punk.
The first issue was created in 1976 up in the land of the Scots in a small town outside of Glasgow. However, despite not being born in the hub of the punk explosion, Tony managed to create a time capsule with each issue that encases the flesh, the blood and the holy spirit of the anarchistic subcultures of the late 1970s.
Within the space of 3 years Tony managed to spread the scripture of Ripped and Torn anti-establishment youths — with 17 issues published before he finally gave up the zine making business.
Fast forward to the present day and every issue can be conveniently found in a delightful anthology titled (very appropriately) Ripped and Torn.
Created, by and large, with only his bare hands and indecent ramblings the collection follows the progression of the zine, Tony’s writing and the punk patronage who not only bought the issues but who featured in them too. While it gives an insight into the past, the days that I am sure many of wish they could time travel to, it’s also a source of inspiration for anyone who wants to get creative in the same way – especially with the rise in zine culture seeing a resurgence amongst gig goers and youths of today.
Propagating the anarchist ideology and punk rhetoric, it may come as no surprise that Tony’s ode to the misfits and the rebels is being sold in our London store and online. To commemorate the publication of this sacred text, Underground had the opportunity to talk to Tony all things anthology, zine creating, and modern day fanzines. Come and step inside the mind of Tony and you’ll come away galvanised – I guarantee it.
Underground:How did the anthology come about?
Tony Drayton:A chance meeting between Thurston Moore of Sonic Youth and myself in 2016 during a documentary on punk set the ball rolling. For many years I wanted to do it but had no idea how to go about it, then after meeting Thurston I discussed the idea of his publishing company doing a Ripped & Torn book. Thurston always has loads of projects going on, so it took awhile, but thanks to him and the amazing efforts of his people at the Ecstatic Peace Library the dream became a reality. And it looks amazing.
Do you have a favourite issue, or one that you are particularly proud of?
TD:Ripped & Torn 6 stands out. It was my first issue created from living in a squat in London and from that place took on a whole load of influences. On the cover I wrote ‘not just a fanzine’ and within the pages I began to expand what punk meant beyond music and beyond the ‘punk is dead’ stance of the music press. I love every issue and as I go through the book each issue, and every page, has special moments that stop me in my tracks; but number 6 is the one.
Can you walk us through some of the creative process you took making the zine?
TD:Ripped & Torn was created after I saw the Damned at the Hope & Anchor in November 1976. At the gig Mark P. who at the time was publishing the fanzine Sniffin’ Glue told me in a good way to create my own fanzine in Glasgow, where I was living, rather than write for him. So back in Glasgow I got down and produced a 10-page fanzine, to show myself I could do it.
That was the first issue of Ripped & Torn. A walk through my creative processes evenfor that first issue would take too much: here’s some bullet points about the images in the issues, the layout and the writing:
- Images wise generally I would scavenge any magazine abandoned in the street. This was many years before recycling bins – when I first saw those and the treasures within, I wept at how wonderful this would have been at the time.
- Layout and writing wise it was a mix of information and just go for it with what images were available. For example, I would draw out on an A4 sheet of paper where a picture would be on the page, put that in the typewriter and physically manoeuvre my typing around it.
- When colour was introduced in issue 10 this meant creating a vision of the finished product – then braking it down into two separate sheet s of A4 paper – one for the black stuff and the other or the colour. Both sheets would be turned into printing sheets and printed one after the other onto the same sheet of A$ paper which would become that page of the fanzine.
- The writing process was to firstly see live then hear as much music as I possibly could – sometimes seeing up to twenty-seven bands in a week, then hearing new releases daily at the Rough Trade record shop.
- I was also noting and recording developments in clothes, film influences and other cultural changes affecting punk rock generally and me personally.
- How to write? I just went for it; loads of reviews in the book I now wonder why I was so angry and dismissive – but that’s what made Ripped & Torn so valid. I said it as I saw it.
That question is the whole interview really. Why did I do it? Because sometimes what I saw in my head became what was on the printed page, and that inspired me to carry on.
Now the anthology is being sold in Rough Trade, signed copies even, is this a really surreal experience given that Rough Trade was one of the stores where the whole thing really kicked off?
TD: I know what you mean, but given the whole surreal experience of the book being published at all it was Rough Trade who offered a link to the past and a way to publish the book. They booked in a ‘Ripped & Torn festival’ at all three of their UK branches and I went there with two bands and Thurston Moore.
It is great that Rough Trade are embracing their heritage in that way, and at all three shops I’ve spoken to both people who work at the Rough Trade shops and the attendees at length: long conversations about music, fashion and culture. It’s like a time slip back to 1978, and the interest plus the way interested people dress is more surreal, or not surreal but re-confirming that what I did back that meant something: but re-confirming I mean that it was valid then and valid now.
What do you make of the fact people are selling original copies for a lot of money? Is this a strange experience for you?
TD:It is strange yes, but I take no moral stance. Good luck to the person who has held onto a copy for so long. I admit I do take pride in the high prices. If people think my work is worth that much, then thank you for the appreciation. But the higher the price, yes it gets stranger.
Throughout the anthology it’s really interesting and exiting really to see how the zine begins to grow and improve, I presume, the more popular it got. What made you hand the editorial position over to someone else?
TD:I was writing straight from the heart, in many ways the progression from issue 1 to issue 17 is a diary of my development from seventeen to twenty years old.
I grew and improved, discovering the Ants and Crass along the way – and it was Crass in the spring of 1979 plus the inevitable election of Margaret Thatcher that made me leave the country, in the process hand the R&T concept over to someone else rather than see it die. Crass came into my life via Pete at Small Wonder giving me a cassette in December 1978. Listening to it and then reading their material like International Times kick-started my beliefs that punk was meant to mean something, mean EVERYTHING. I’d opened loads of squats in 1978 for the punks coming into London from all over the UK, Europe and the world; but all of us were settling into a comfort zone when we should be changing the world.
Then the right-wing media were relentlessly promoting Thatcher in the forthcoming elections, which meant to me the threat that the alternative hippy and punk scenes would be crushed without mercy – along with the working-class unions and meeting places. Upon Thatcher’s election this repression did come to pass at nationally recognised events such as the Miners Strike, Football fan deaths at Hillsborough and the Stonehenge Festival. Squats and alternative lifestyles were also targeted by police and thugs with no fear of recrimination – my fears came true big style.
In March 1979 all this was going on, Crass’ call to action and the media siren call for Thatcher: our squat was raided, and we were out on the streets in a pre-election show of strength and malice by the London police. I’d had enough and decided that the Crass message meant I should go abroad.
So I did, getting a one way ticket on the Magic Bus to Paris to see what would happen next. Before I went, I spoke to one of my contributors, Vermilion, who had connections with our regular advertisers by being on one of their record labels and asked if she would like to continue the R&T concept. She made one issue which was completely different to my concept but interesting, and then did nothing with it.
Are there any artists or persons that you think still withhold the punk essence that your zine really worked to encapsulate?
TD:No one could live up to the high standards I was demanding in the Ripped & Torns! To bring it down a notch or two I think Crass carried on pretty well, and two members still live in Dial House continuing the ethos.
I have to say I admire Adam Ant for coming back so strongly after his mental health issues – and he does not deny the punk ethos. Those two were so important to the R&T ethos I’ve followed their careers with interest.
There may be loads of people who have carried on without ‘selling out’ that I’m not so aware of. However, the person I admire most for continuing the punk essence is Spizz Energi. (Spizz Energi is his facebook name – it is Spizz who had the hit ‘Where’s Captain Kirk’ ). Spizz continues to do everything I hoped punk would be, apart from the building houses and creating food shops – as an individual he is the pure punk essence in every move he makes and not selling out. When I’m out and about at events and Spizz is there I am in awe and am humbled.
What do you think of modern day zines? Are you a fan of any in particular?
TD: Cold Lips is a printed on paper zine that I really like, but with the internet I find myself reading blogs and online ‘zines’ rather than regularly purchasing a particular magazine. I’ll probably find out that there is a new Cold Lips issue online, and that will make me find it on the street.
It’s difficult to buy magazines these days even if you want to. A friend of mine was in a magazine called Striped – and I went round the shops in Soho that would sell hundreds of independent mags and none had it. To go a step lower to the fanzines available – I’m not privy to the gigs where fanzines are on sale. In my day I’d always take a plastic bag full of Ripped & Torns wherever I went, selling them relentlessly.
At gigs I go to these days there is no one selling like this. At a recent Membranes gig in Islington, the three bands involved in the evening had their own separate merch tables – possibly there were fanzines on those tables, but the confusion of many tables threw me. It was interesting though that all three merch stalls were thronged with people buying stuff: there is a huge untapped market for a unified fanzine at this level of band in the same way that fanzines filled that void when punk started.
Do you have any advice for anyone who wants to start creating their own zine?
TD:Anyone can create their own fanzine. Just take ten sheets of A4 paper and write ideas on them – one is the cover the last is the end page; write what you want on the other eight. Sometimes one idea will span across loads of pages, sometimes an idea dies on the vine. For me that is the great feeling, pen to paper and not bothering with the details, and seeing what comes out. That is for both those wanting to do a physical, paper zine or an online zine that you want to blog in issue format rather than occasional posts.
To side track a bit, I have both a Ripped & Torn and a Kill Your Pet Puppy website (actually word press blogs) and post occasionally rather than do specific issues; that is the joy of the internet as I’ve bypassed the whole physical demands of regular issue dates and distribution schedules, and subscription copies to be mailed out. KYPP has around 80,000 visitors each month without any rhyme or reason for my posting stuff, R&T more links to the Facebook page where I do most of the new writing.
Back to the advice: The jump is from creating your physical product of a fanzine then to take that product, sell it to the world and face apathy and critics who will attempt to put you down. The way to beat the apathy and critics is to write about bands that you see regularly playing live in small venues, tie these bands together into a loose movement in your fanzine articles and then do two things: sell to the fans of these bands at the gigs, Promote your fanzine to distributors and larger music websites as the only one covering this great new scene.
Hopefully someone wanting to start a fanzine will have a scene or bands in mind; so bringing them all together into a scene is not as random as I make it sound. Bottom line, take copies of your zine everywhere you go, and go everywhere seven days a week (I used to sometimes go to three gigs a night with R&T) – sell, swap and give away at every opportunity and work your socks off at it, whilst at the same time make sure you are noticed and known as ‘that guy’.
Crikey, writing this makes me want to get out there again myself!
BUY RIPPED AND TORN ONLINE HERE: https://underground-shop.co.uk/product/ripped-and-torn/
OR IN STORE: 8 Berwick Street, Soho, London, W1 0PH