I am an avid reader, there’s no doubt about it. From the labels on the disinfectants to big tomes of ancient knowledge, I read basically everything. But there is one thing I like the most – zines. Professional looking, with glossy papers, or crude work of cut’n’paste fashion, there are millions of interesting titles and lot of information one could fill their minds from. Apart from music-oriented publications (and, as mentioned above, books of any genre), I love to collect and peruse movie-related zines and magazines, and because just recently I was able to get a first issue (I’ve already had the second, and the last issue) of short-lived, but very interesting, British magazine DIABOLIK, I wanted to know those responsible for this nice publication.
After a little searching and messaging, I’ve found the “culprit” and I am thankful for Mr. Jay Slater to give me some of his time to answer a few questions.
Hello, Jay, and thanks again for your precious time to do this short interview. The magazine DIABOLIK might be long gone (unfortunately), but I’d saay its content remains sort of timeless (at least with me). So, can you tell me and the readers of Rubber Axe, what was the main impulse for you to start this adventure? Did you have any experience doing it, or it was your first attempt of creating a publication?
You are most welcome, Rudolf, and I am very glad to learn that you enjoyed the short-lived Diabolik. As for the reason of launching the magazine, I had always loved the Italian horror/exploitation genre and once I had started writing for the likes of The Dark Side, Rue Morgue and Fangoria, I wanted to diverse and edit my own title dedicated to Italian cinema. I am also well-connected and know people, so thought why not? I knew of Harvey Fenton and we both worked on the first issue and from memory, it did very well and was warmly received when launched at a film festival in Montreal; however, Fenton’s publishing house became a full-time job and he demanded a very low royalty rate and I decided to take it elsewhere, which was a far better-looking title and on glossy art paper. To cut a long story short, I believed that I was short changed to what was owed and left (it happens in publishing, sadly). I have enough for a third volume but failed to find the time to find a publisher. Perhaps one day! With my issues encountered, I am most grateful for those who took part and backed the project. Another aspect was the London scene at the time and horror was a huge social undertaking with a cult following of the same old faces: writers, journalists and publishers. Indeed, it was incestuous, Asperger’s and from memory, I do remember the editor of another Italian horror magazine ask: ‘Do we really need another magazine dedicated to Italian films?’ In essence: ‘can it (or else)’. I decided to do my own thing and still do; however, this ‘legacy’ of mine fails to leave me as I have been asked to be interviewed for a documentary next month.
Pre-Internet (and early Internet) age in the UK was full of amateur zines devoted to various stuff, and because we’re talking about movie zines, there were quite a few interesting. Did any of these inspired you, and if so, which ones? Do you still follow those existing, or at least, movie blogs?
No, nothing inspired me as such, but I was well-versed in the publications at the time. As I mentioned previously, the London scene was buzzing with social events, film fairs and screenings/festivals. I just wanted to a do a more ‘mainstream’ title that dealt with all aspects of Italian horror and cult cinema. Ernesto Gastaldi even provided his own one-page Italian cookbook of the dishes he made at home. Offbeat for sure, but fun! And I also travelled to Rome to interview people from Claudio Fragasso, Nick Alexander, Renato Polselli, Sergio Bergonzelli, etc. Good times and it is great and therapeutic to meet your idols! Hell, I even went to Spain to visit the locations for Exterminators of the Year 3000 (I failed!).
For those of a younger age, who might know not how it was before the almighty Web, how difficult was to actually let people know about the existence of Diabolik and sell it? Did you rely on just a word-of-mouth, paid advertising or any of more established distributor?
There were publications that would announce new fanzine and magazine titles in the press and industry. Of course, word of mouth was also very important. From memory, Diabolik sold well as did the David Warbeck booklet we did earlier.
Diabolik was dedicated to the Italian cinema, well, Italian B-cinema. What has fascinated you about this particular part of the world cinema, do you follow this fascination to this day? What would you say it’s your favourite genre in it? And for those stuck in the big blockbusters of Hollywood, how did you actually get interested in the world of movie exploitation?
Yes, I follow it to this day although I am more focused on Australian and New Zealand cinema for a new project. I would say that my passion for Italian horror has waned somewhat as I have seen so many films and there is little I can cover in-depth. With that being said, I still follow it and buy releases (and own a killer poster collection!). As for being exposed to the films, I was a child when Zombie Flesh Eaters was released on VHS and rented it, which shocked me to the core – not bad considering it was the cut BBFC version. From then on, the Italian names on the credits fascinated and horrified me: I had to learn more! I had no idea that years later and after he passed away, I would sleep in Fulci’s bed!
Unfortunately, Diabolik has seen only two issues. Can you tell us little about why have you been forced to stop its publishing? Do you – in the wake of self-publishing possibilities via Lulu or CreateSpace – think of reviving the magazine for today’s market?
I have described as to why there are only two issues; however, this might change at some point. But it is all about time. I work as a book publisher and as well as researching for my new book: there are only so many hours in the day, sadly. Perhaps if someone wants to take over the editorial interests, I would consider it. I do not regret Diabolik and am hugely in debt as it helped me forge a career in book publishing.
In our initial conversation you’ve mentioned you were still writing…can you name a few publications your stuff appear in?
I have written for many leading magazines, including Total Film as well as video game and DVD titles. For me and as a younger chap, it was all about learning my craft and writing for magazines can be hard work for little reward financially. For example, I still have unpublished material for Hawk the Slayer and The Haunting of Julia. I was a tad miffed with the former – I had interviewed many of the cast and crew as well as buying posters, etc. – as SFX wanted to pay me fairly well; however, my name would not be credited to be replaced by a staff member. I walked as I felt it was insulting to my hard work, and my reputation. As before, perhaps one day! With regards to the latter, I had interviewed the director, screenwriter and Tom Conti. And a great spooky film!
I have to say I am glad to check your profile on FB as I was able to find a great publishing company/house you work for! Fonthill Media grabbed me instantly and I’ve already found at least two books I need for my library, lol! Tell me, how does one go from movies to historical/aviation/transport/maritime etc. topics?
I grew up in the 1970s when war films were very popular. Suffice to say, I grew up with a love for horror films, the stars and directors, as well as Spitfires and Tiger tanks. My first role in publishing was commissioning New Line Cinema screenplays – The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, The Butterfly Effect, Blade: Trinity – as well as 2000 AD further adventures, so that was a dream role. Also, being the Publisher of history and military books also thrills me (and we have published entertainment titles too!) and can combine both passions professionally.
Well, I guess that would be all for today, let me thanks you once again for your valuable time and all the best in your writing endeavours!
You are most welcome, and may your website live long and prosper! Dream large!