Printed Matter's LA Art Book Fair is an annual, weekend long test of the senses, celebrating art books, monographs and zines. Currently in its fourth year, the concept continues to summon thousands of attendees, and 2016's installment was another success; but instead of recapping zines, we spent the weekend chilling with Bay Area-based zine camp, NIGHTED, and taking in founder Nick Garcia's perspective.
Nick drove 800 miles round trip from the Bay to LA to spend LAABF weekend with us : "The drive down was great. I rode with a bunch of people and stopped at a really cool truck stop gas station; it was like a mall, but in a mini mart. We got in around 4:30pm on Friday afternoon, went to the liquor store, got beer and went to Echo Park to sit by the lake, where I took a photo of an old white guy in a Master P shirt. When I got to LAABF, I went straight to the zine room, felt overwhelmed, then made my way to the Deadbeat Club and Hamburger Eyes tables to pick up their new stuff. "
The problem and the purpose of events like LAABF is found both in its sheer size and its exclusivity. Based off of nothing more than my shoddy opinion, there is honest-to-God no other reason someone would buy Ed Templeton's Teenage Smokers zine for $1,000 USD in a room past capacity, for any reason other than exclusivity; I love the Tempster, but not everyone has a rack to stunt. Someone does though, and that's part of the reason the event exists in the first place. It can be pricey both inside and outside the fair, which may not work for everyone.
At $150 a table, and with $7 hotdogs for sustenance, the decision to sell by the terms of a duffle bag boy made sense for Nick, if not for the many other zinesters from around the world who happily sold their wares in the packed zine sections.
Nick used social media to announce his location, making swift, no nonsense zine transactions with LA fans sans overhead. "It was definitely a hustle. Sitting behind a table, you get tons of foot traffic, but have to deal with the stress of trying to 'sell yourself' to a bunch of people who don't give a shit about what you do. The duffle bag move was cool because everyone I met was really into NIGHTED and already understands what we do."
As a zine publisher, trading titles is a portion of the magic as well. "I traded for the new issue of Hamburger Eyesand gave Ray of HE the latest NIGHTED group zine, NIGHTED Life 8, plus my personal zine, Comfy Life. I met up with my homie Kate Fobert from Vancouver, and I traded her Comfy Life for a photo/ drawing zine she did with Mike Chmil. I got this newsprint zine from Nikki Greene who was tabling for 8 Ball. I got a really cool art zine from Emma Kohlmann who I've printed zines for in the past. I also traded Shugs from A Love Token for a black and white design zine he titled, Vessel. I gave him the new Leave Your Head zine by Kris Kirk, a book documenting Motorhead's recent Motorboat cruise."
I met Nick for the first time a couple years back when I ventured up to Oakland for a weekend of blunt smoke, vegan smoked-duck sandwiches and more blunts. I arranged to meet up with him my second day in town at the Oakland swap meet, where we ate chicharrones, and I learned about the origins of NIGHTED for the first time.
"I found out I was having a daughter in 2011. It was such a humbling and emotional experience. It made me start to rethink who I was creatively and as a person. I decided to quit writing graffiti and started reflecting back on my teenage years before I had responsibilities. I was eating a lot chain Chinese food during the time, and one day, got a fortune cookie that said, 'You are going to have a very comfortable life.'
"It was such a ridiculous concept to me during the time," Nick continues. "I had never been less comfortable, and I'd realized I'd never be quite as comfortable as I'd once been, ever again. Is that even the goal in life, to be comfortable?. . . I decided to make a zine around that fortune cookie called Comfy Life Vol. 1. I had been taking photos for years, but never cared to do anything with them until I saw them in zine form.Through that, I realized that there was a whole world of people making photo zines. I decided to put together a group zine called NIGHTED Life, compiling photos and stories from people I've met through zine trading. That's how NIGHTED began, and here we are four years and 80-something issues later."
Four years later -- angry at rock deodorant's ineffectiveness, tired and with one LAABF behind him -- Nick Garcia of NIGHTED made way back to The Bay. "I drove back by myself hung over on Valentine's Day, missing my kids. I stopped at Del Taco, and that was the highlight of the drive home." Till next year...