David McHank’s Perpetually Twelve
I remember one of the first times I corresponded with McHank. He responded to an Instagram picture I posted of the Dum Dum Girls in concert by saying , “Dude, give Kristin, I mean Dee Dee, my love. Old pal!” He did a similar thing with a photo I posted of Mrs. Magician. Later on, John Reis said hi to him from the stage at a Night Marchers/Hot Snakes show at Alex’s Bar. I wondered, Who is this guy and how does he know everyone?
Sometime in between, I met McHank in his hometown of San Diego at Comic-Con. He gave me some copies of his stapled-and-folded zine and I was instantly hooked. It’s like a mixture of Cometbus, CARtoons, and Tiger Beat with tons of honest introspection and observation, cool and random art, and unabashedly loving band interviews–often written by hand or even brushed.
The ninth and most recent issue of the digest-sized publication has cool art (Tim Kerr, Travis Millard, Skinner, Bwana Spoons, McHank himself…), killer interviews (Brandon Welchez from Crocodiles, Mary Animaux from White Murder…) and all-star contributions (John Reis writing about discovering the Ramones, Joey Cape in memoriam of Tony Sly…). Even so, my favorite piece of all time is still McHank’s essay about growing up in the Bay Area and not knowing how to drive when he moved to San Diego and how he had to ride bikes or take the bus to get to shows. Can you get more personal or street level than that?
But the zine is not why he has so many friends. It’s because not only does he goes to every show possible but he is shamelessly unedited in his fandom. He bleeds the PMA and reminds everyone how it feels to be excited about music, art, and life. No wonder I’m a fan of his and am proud to consider him a friend as well.
MW: How long have you been making Perpetually Twelve?
MH: Well, I started it around 2002 and made the first four issues by 2004, but I paused making the magazine until about 2010. I had all kinds of plans, like making a DVD with every issue, but then YouTube happened so I made a show online. I did 29 episodes from 2007-2008 and called That Perpetually Twelve Internet Show, but the magazine was always in the back of my head. I have to say, the first person I texted about contributing when I started it back up was Danny from the band Menomena. Had he not been absolutely enthusiastic, I might not have brought it back.
MW: When you were 12, were you really into cool music and art at that age? For me it wasn’t until 15 or 16 maybe…
MH: The truth is I have always been attracted to all kinds of art and music, even if it hasn’t all aged well, I was into it. I’m trying to remember 1987. Specifically, I know I was way into comics around that age, I really loved Arthur Adams and Rick Leonardi’s art. Of course I loved Pushead and VCJ’s stuff for Powell Peralta. I for sure was way into Duran Duran, INXS, and Depeche Mode around that age, but also The Beatles, Beastie Boys, Iron Maiden, Bad Brains, and Dead Kennedys. I think I was still in that mode where I got one album every three months and it was your main jam for that entire three months. That doesn’t happen quite as much in this day and age.
MW: I like how you just put art in between articles. Do you ever want to run a Q&A with an artist or is it more like a break in the layout/rest for your eyeballs, like in The New Yorker or Harpers maybe?
MH: Well, I think it’s to let you know one article is over and another is starting. I also try to give each art piece a full (half-size) page. I have only ever sent one interview to a visual artist and he hasn’t gotten back to me yet, but that’s kind of the neat thing about sending stuff out in the mail. Maybe they’ll respond, maybe they won’t.
MW: You have some pretty impressive contributors and subjects. Has anyone ever said “no” or been uncool?
MH: Nobody has ever been flat out uncool. Ever. People have said no. I mean, I understand, people are busy and I really don’t have money to offer them. I have sent out maybe seven interviews that haven’t come back yet, but I feel like at least three of those will show up someday. If they don’t, you know, it’s cool that they were engaged enough to let me send it. I see every interaction with someone that I respect enough to try to bug them to be in my zine as a positive.
MW: Is distribution strictly you mailing to readers or do you give them on consignment to stores, etc.?
MH: I have had issues in a few stores. M-Theory Records, Thirsty Moon Records, Double Break Art/Museum (RIP), 1-2-3-4 Go! Records, Igloo Shop (RIP), Needles and Pens, A Shop Called Quest, and Powell’s Books have all carried it at one point or another. But I kind of feel bad if they sit there and don’t sell. Can you tell I over think that?
MW: How many do you print? Do you have stacks of back issues laying around the house?
MH: I typically start by printing two per contributor. The most recent, there were 30 people involved, I think, so that was 60 off the bat. Then I try to guess how many more people might want. The newest issue is #9 and I’m at about 200 already. Kind of a shock. I don’t have any back issues at home, rather, I usually print them up if people express an interest.
MW: Do you lose a lot of dough per issue? Do you ever get free records or gear?
MH: Typically, yes, I have lost a lot. Especially because of mailing–these things are fat. I am happy to say I have just about broken even on this one, thanks to the responses I’ve gotten on Instagram.
I don’t really do reviews in Perpetually Twelve, because I kind of want to keep the magazine a little more timeless, kind of because I change my mind on what I think of a record after three months sometimes.But I usually get free records because I am lucky enough to know bands and I support them in every capacity that I can when I believe in them. They usually will give me a free album because they know I won’t shut up about it.
MW: Do you have goals like getting to issue 20, having a bound collection, or making a Broadway musical out of it?
MH: I don’t see why I wouldn’t get to #20. I don’t have advertisers, so I can print anything I see fit. I have thought about doing a bound collection, but I worry about how bad it will look in the future, I mean, I believe in the contributors’ stuff but I look at the first four issues and cringe at how bad I was.
Honestly, one of my biggest regrets was that I was trying to make it a humor magazine and I feel like it got too mean because I was trying too hard to be funny. That never works. Now it’s much more confessional. We grow and change, even those of us that are perpetually twelve (that was bad). I don’t want to be remembered as mean. I don’t think of myself as a mean dude.