Chiaroscuro is probably one of the most blatantly in-your-face zines ever to come out of Utah; a boastful statement that most likely wouldn't be dignified by most of the contributors. --- The black and white zine made its presence known around the downtown SLC area in late 2002, taking shots at local culture, obsessions and underground mentality, mixed with pop art, news clippings and personal manifestos to become one of the most sought-after publications in the past few years -- even more so with its infrequent release schedule that has frustrated even the most loyal of fans.
In November, the publication will become one of the longest running zines in the state when it hits the 10-year mark – an anniversary that even well-produced zines of the past never saw. Today, I chat with one of the co-founders of the zine, Wes Sadler, about the past decade's worth of content and where Chiaroscuro is headed. (Photos courtesy of Wes Sadler)
Gavin: Hey, Wes. First off, tell us a bit about yourself.
Wes: My name is Wes Sadler and I'm 6'4”. Having a pen name was originally a response to paranoia and now it's tradition.
Gavin: How did you first take an interest in zine culture, and did you have any favorites you liked reading while growing up?
Wes: An interest in copulating with punk-rock chicks led to an interest in zines, though if I could draw worth a damn, I may have made "comix" instead. Other than PUNK from the '70s, I'm not sure I'd seen any zines prior to making one.
Gavin: What inspired you to start your own zines and content, and what were some of your early attempts like?
Wes: I'd been interested in writing for a long time and had some material stored up before finally getting around to making Chiaroscuro #1.
Gavin: When and how did you and "Doomlazer" meet up and become friends?
Wes: Doomlazer and I met in a creative-writing class up at the U. We shared an interest in cheap vodka and the rest is history.
Gavin: How did the idea come about to start up Chiaroscuro?
Wes: I genuinely can't recall. I know from the first conversation to the first issue was a timespan of roughly a year.
Gavin: What was it like putting the first one together, and what was the initial reaction to it when you released it?
Wes: We met in the Union Building with a few things printed out each. Doomlazer was into children's drawings at the time, and our first cover was a collaborative effort based on some kid's drawing of a dog. We didn't have enough material prepared so we taped down leaves, coupons, and drew spirals and shit to fill the negative space. Believe it or not, we received fan mail after that first malformed issue!
Gavin: What made you decide to bring contributors on board rather than just do all the content yourselves?
Wes: It's a form of marketing manipulation. The more people I can trick into being emotionally attached to it, the more people who will tell their friends. Also, I enjoy encouraging creativity. By diversifying, there's a better chance there will be something in it that a reader might enjoy.
Gavin: Who are some of the people you brought on board to contribute to the zine, and what made them stand out to you?
Wes: I've encouraged all of my friends and many strangers to contribute; it's a source of constant wonder to me how many people will claim to want to do something creative and never do.
Gavin: Over time, you introduced a lot of varied content, a lot of it popular and some of it considered trash. How was it for you hearing feedback instantly from readers and the responding to it in the next issue?
Wes: Another aspect of the pseudonym is that I could give it to people at parties and they wouldn't know what I was responsible for and therefore would give me honest feedback, most of it positive. I've seen lots of people laugh while flipping through it and I've met others who didn't appreciate the sense of humor.
Gavin: For you, what do you believe have been some of the best pieces you've printed since starting it?
Wes: Doomlazer and I are each others' biggest fans; most of the contributors are just plain awful.
Gavin: How has it been for you seeing previous writers go on to create new zines or find professional work in writing and publishing?
Wes: It feeds my already absurdly large ego to think that I was such an influential force.
Gavin: Over the years, the releases have slowed down, going from monthly to now almost yearly. What has caused the slowdown, and do you ever see yourself bringing the zine back to full speed?
Wes: It's ALL Doomlazer's fault. I'd love to put out three or four a year, but am handicapped by my friendship to DL's useless ass.
Gavin: Most recently, you were a part of the Alt Press Fest and received a lot of favorable praise from the library and fellow creators. What are your thoughts on having that kind of impact on the city?
Wes: I don't trust compliments; there's a lot of disingenuous fucks out there who want something. In general, I think Chiaroscuro's primary selling point is merely that it still exists.
Gavin: In a few months, Chiaroscuro will hit the 10-year mark, making it one of the longest running zines in the state. What's your take on that milestone?
Wes: By refusing to stop, though we've certainly flirted with it, I've successfully defined myself as someone who refuses to grow up and move on.
Gavin: Knowing you have that kind of anniversary coming, what are you planning to do to mark the occasion?
Wes: It would sure be nice to have issue #39 out before the end of the year, but I doubt that'll happen. Everybody has jobs and families these days and they refuse to organize their lives around my silly zine.
Gavin: Going a bit local, what's your take on our local publishing scene, both good and bad?
Wes: I'm primarily ignorant. I nearly exclusively only go to the library for the Alt Press Fest.
Gavin: Is there anything you believe could be done to make it more prominent?
Wes: If you want to write, then you should write. I'm not interested in being the ambassador for a "scene."
Gavin: What are some of the local zines you enjoy and think people should be checking out?
Wes: Chiaroscuro is pretty good, and I'm sure there are many other great ones out there.
Gavin: What can we expect from both yourself and Chiaroscuro over the rest of the year?
Wes: We're going to focus on spreading STDs for now.
Gavin: Is there anything you'd like to promote or plug?
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