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More than a Radio Schedule

Bringing Back the ‘Zine


Depending on your dedication as a KCSBeat reader, you may remember when we chronicled the station’s activities in the late 1970s and early 80s, a time of many changes, upgrades, and expansions at the station. This was also the heyday of the Live Wire (or the Livewire, depending upon which issue you’re holding), which was KCSB’s combined program schedule and newsletter.

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The editions that remain in the historical archives are packed with station news, music reviews, impassioned editorials from all types of KCSBers, and a good deal of cut-and-paste artwork, a lot of it still kind of funny. It’s an inspiring thing, one that’s no doubt fired up the impulse to bring it back to life in many a KCSBer since it last fell out of publication in the early 1990s.

Unfortunately, just as these projects have a way of losing momentum, they also have a way of failing to regain momentum. The stories of attempted Live Wire/Livewire resurrections are many, and they all seem to follow the same outline: Someone at the station happens upon the old issues, they get it in their head that the time is right to publish it again, they make plans, they recruit staff — then they graduate. Or move out of Santa Barbara. Or simply forget about everything. I stood on the verge of assembling an entire KCSBeat column on the many incontrovertible reasons why it’s a “cursed” publication.

That idea must be scrapped, though, because the time has apparently come: A brand new issue of the Livewire (the compound-noun title seems to have won the day), the first in over a decade and a half, is now available. Put together by a team of seven KCSBers including General Manager Rebecca Redman, Promotions Director Avalon Jeffrey, and, appropriately, Publications Director Alex Smith, the magazine, black and white in the tried and true 5.5” by 8.5” format — think a “hamburger-folded” sheet of standard printer paper — looks suitably “lo-fi.”

While that retro, do-it-yourself aesthetic is certainly inexpensive, it’s also pretty advantageous in this new print media landscape. As the much-discussed large-scale fragmentation and multiplication of media outlets continues apace, opportunities open up for creators to try things new and different, or, in Livewire‘s case, partially new and partially old, but definitely out of the ordinary. The migration of what’s best expressed on the Internet to the Internet leaves open a space for the adventurous to explore what’s still best expressed in print.

Half the content has very little to do with KCSB or radio in general,” writes Redman in her front-page introduction to this Winter 2010 issue, “but it is all very interesting.” And indeed, eclecticism does appear to be the order of the quarter. KCSB’s weekly schedule? That’s to be expected. A calendar of upcoming concerts? Also pretty standard in for local-radio publications. Personal stories of collecting classic punk vinyl? Not too big a surprise. But poetry? An anonymous tale of music turning out to be the salvation of an extremely troubled life? A history of attempts at U.S. health care reform? Someone called “Dray” interviewing himself? Things are pointed in a different direction than they were in the Livewire’s previous iteration, that’s for sure.

Much of this is a callback to a past era in personal publishing when those who today would set up blogs, then had no technological recourse but to pick up their typewriter, scissors, and paste, and head over to the nearest Xerox machine. The golden era of “‘zines,” as fans of these handmade publications called them, spanned the 1970s and 80s, and much of the fascinatingly unorthodox content they produced is still fervently sought-after by collectors today. The new Livewire reflects this sensibility and manages to capture it in some ways that even the original issues from the 70s and 80s didn’t.

But things remain in the experimental stages; the Winter 2010 Livewire is more of a trial balloon than an etched-in-stone statement about the future of KCSB print media. “The ‘zine subcommittee started it recently to just test it out and see how people in the KCSB community would respond to it,” wrote Jeffery in an e-mail conversation with the Indy. “Some of the members went to a UC Radio Network conference and saw that UCLA had a zine.” That ‘zine, the B-Side, seemed an easy enough model to replicate, so Livewire’s re-creators decided to follow it. “We didn’t want to have this large enormous task on our shoulders, but another outlet for the KCSB community to express themselves.”

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