The Fader: Why do Arthur again?

Arthur Founder Jay Babcock on the Magazine’s Return to Print
STORY BY: Emilie Friedlander

Jay Babcock, founder of Arthur Magazine (for which I once interned), made a surprise announcement last week that the longrunning music and culture periodical, perhaps best known for its dual embrace of psych-folk and radical lifestyle politics, is coming back into print after a four-year hiatus. Among other factors that made the magazine’s return possible, Portland, Oregon’s Floating World Comics is coming on board as a publisher, resurrecting the glossy of yore in the form of a broadsheet, part black-and-white, part color newspaper, which is available for pre-order for the very reasonable price of $5 of issue and hits homes on December 22nd. Babcock jumped on the phone with us from his desert home in Joshua Tree, CA to tell us why Arthur is coming back, and how, even if print may seem a risky prospect these days, the medium is kind of the message.

“A: How do you make the best of the analog? How you do what can’t be done in digital? Why do analog if you can just do it in digital for cheaper? Well, do something that digital can’t do, something that takes up a big field of vision. We’re doing Arthur as a newspaper but a newspaper with only ads on the back, so that each page is gigantic, and each two pages is a spread. When you put that in front of your eyes, it’s much, much bigger than a computer screen. The art director gets to take full advantage of that space. We can have things that are suitable for putting up on the wall, which is another thing you can’t do with your computer. And when you’re done with it, you can compost it.

Q:Or you might want to save it, right?

A: Yeah, if you want to save it, it’s easily saved. It’s not going to disappear when Google fails. It’s not going to disappear when the power goes out because of a climate change hurricane. It’s there as long as you can keep it physically near you. With Arthur, we acknowledged that we live in a world that is being overrun by technology, and we use that technology for our own purposes, but we want to have as little to do with it as possible in everything we do. We use every tool that the tech world has put there, but you the know, the tech world has been a really bad thing for the culture. I’m forty-two years old; I watched this happen in my lifetime. I watched [as] the tech nerds and the capitalists behind them always claimed, Just wait. Journalism would come back, everything would resolve, and they were completely wrong. Everything they destroyed has not come back. And that’s in all fields. That’s in journalism. That’s in art. That’s in music. That’s in every single artistic or cultural field you can think of. The internet nerds and the venture capitalists behind them, they said all the destructive work that they were doing was going to get rid of the gatekeepers and open everything up. What’s it’s done is replace the old gatekeepers with new, worse gatekeepers called Apple, Google, Facebook. Worse than ever.”

Read more: The Fader

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About Jay Babcock

I am the co-founder and editor of Arthur Magazine (2002-2008, 2012-13) and curator of the three Arthur music festival events (Arthurfest, ArthurBall, and Arthur Nights) (2005-6). Prior to that I was a district office staffer for Congressman Henry A. Waxman, a DJ at Silver Lake pirate radio station KBLT, a copy editor at Larry Flynt Publications, an editor at Mean magazine, and a freelance journalist contributing work to LAWeekly, Mojo, Los Angeles Times, Washington Post, Vibe, Rap Pages, Grand Royal and many other print and online outlets. An extended piece I wrote on Fela Kuti was selected for the Da Capo Best Music Writing 2000 anthology. In 2006, I was one of five Angelenos listed in the Music section of Los Angeles Magazine's annual "Power" issue. In 2007-8, I produced a blog called "Nature Trumps," about the L.A. River. Today, I live a peaceful life in Tucson, Arizona with Stephanie Smith.

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