DJ Dorian Commode Speaks

by Jess Bean on October 25, 2010

Let me let you in on a little secret. You want to know what’s going on in this town, don’t you? You like to laugh at funny pictures, don’t you? You’re broke, yet adventurous, aren’t you? You believe in the violent overthrow of the government, don’t you?

There are these dudes from around the way who make a zine just for you. It’s called Hi-Five!, it’s free, and can be found right by the cash register at Hub Comics and at Sprout. Hi-Five combines ink drawings of your dreams on acid with listings of “fun shit to do for <$5!” The whole affair is photocopied and stapled together, riot-grrl-style.

A typical issue might feature a cover with drawings of a hitchhiking alien, followed by listings of events at the Growing Center, the Lucy Parsons Center in Roxbury, and all manner of free film screenings and lectures at Harvard and MIT. The listings are punctuated by hilarious rants and marginalia. In their own words: “Hi 5 is your mom on a cosmic level, telling you to eat your mushrooms cuz they’ll make you big (or small) cuz yer gonna need big feet to go to alla this cool stuff we’re tellin you about.”

Hi-Five is co-edited by Dr. Doh Ray Mia and DJ Dorian Commode (yes, folks, those are the names on their birth certificates). The magazine’s founder, DJ Dorian Commode, has hitch-hiked all over this great land, and now calls Somerville home. (In Hi-Five-speak, from Issue #14: “oh yah DJ MD alsoe mooved to tha loverly town a’ scummerville!”) I first encountered DJ Dorian Commode at the Paper Cut Zine Library re-opening in April, where I had a fan-girl freak-out. Thankfully, the DJ still agreed to sit down for an interview, where I found out where the most fabulous zine in Somerville is headed:

Unemployment and the cold – mothers of invention:

I was riding my bike and [starting this zine] seemed like a good idea. I had moved back to Boston on New Years Day, and was riding my bike around all winter, ’cause I hate the T. I thought, I need stuff to do. I don’t have a job. I’ll make this listing for myself. But I kept making them. Hi-Five is towing the line between magazine and zine because it’s regularly published.

The terrifying prospect of publishing without the use of the Internet:

I don’t know what our audience is! I think it’s people who are low-income, college students, and people who do basement shows….I really like when [our readers] write us letters! We’ve only gotten one angry letter, from this hippie who thought our spelling sucked. Like, “Oh, I just don’t see why you can’t spell right!” And yes, they had a point and the spelling is cutting off people who have a cognitive issue and have trouble reading.

Making zines even though it’s not the 90s:

There are a lot of people doing zines, now, actually. I’ve never been into the whole pen-pal aspect of zine-making [where zine makers trade their work through the mail]. But I got involved with the zine library when I was 17 so I was always around it. Now Dr. Doh Ray Mia and I are volunteering at the [Papercut] Zine Library again. We’re not actively trading. Some people want us to send them a zine in the mail. They ask, actually, that the Head of Subscription Services put a copy in the mail. Because we have one of those! We have a huge staff of 20, including someone whose entire job it is to put these zines in the mail. The thing is, I don’t really like mailing things, because I have an irrational fear of the post office. You don’t know what they’re doing with your mail.

Why we must live in Somerville:

I’m not a huge fan of Boston, but I like showing people a good time here. I’m trying to gather around me the energy I want to have. I grew up here, so it’s very familiar and I know the resources. But I love investigating and finding out new places to go and things to do. I’m a wannabe journalist! I love calling someone on the phone and saying, “Yes, this is DJ Dorian Commode from Hi-Five Magazine and I want some information.” That gets you farther than if you were just someone calling to ask. It’s fun to have access and anyone can have access if you know how to work it.

I once had a nightmare I lived in Brooklyn. [Shudders.]

How the “Staph” was recruited:

There was this guy, P Wacko, who I met on the porch in Pensacola three years ago when I was hopping trains with a friend through Florida.  Then his brother stayed in my house in Tuscon. When I got back to Boston, I went to a party in Allston, and there was P Wacko! I told him about my idea for the zine and we decided to make it happen. He was making covers and I was futzing around with them and doing listings.

Dr. Doh Ray Mia joined up when, around the third or fourth issue, she called me on the phone and I thought she was someone else so we talked and she said, “Do you need some staples?” She’s really solid and we share the work approximately equally. Two of her roommates have also joined up.

The Internet:

I’m not big on the Internet, but yeah, I spend a lot of my time there, looking up listings and such. I do read blogs. There’s a lot of good information on anti-oppression, and people sharing their stories. But there’s also a lot of opportunity to be really mean, in the most extreme ways. Comments are not a dialogue, they’re not a conversation. Any print and language in general gives you a mask to hide behind. Any emotion you’re feeling in the present can be hidden. However, I like our zine because it’s occasionally a vehicle for me to puke out my feeee-lings and distribute them widely. I wrote a bum-out thing a while ago and some people wrote in to say, “I like your zine! Don’t be sad!”

On that absolutely horrible unexplained hiatus in Hi-Five‘s production a few months ago where I feared the magazine was gone forever and the staff at Hub Comics started to think I had an emotional disturbance because every week I’d go into the store and ask, “Do you have any Hi-Fives this week?” and they’d say no and then I’d make a nasty grimace and leave the store and walk away, trying desperately not to cry:

We had some health issues, so we took a two-month break. Basically, we thought, “This zine should revolve around our social lives, not supplant self-care.” Plus, it was summer. This place is dead in the summer because the college kids go home.

The process:

There’s a high turnover rate in this city ’cause students are moving in and out all the time. That means there’s new stuff to do all the time. I get listings by following up on the friendships that I have, finding out what people are doing. Basically, just talking to people and going to stuff. Being nice and listening. Then, most of the stuff actually comes from the Internet.

The covers happen in a different way all the time. We’ve gotten commissioned covers, where someone will describe a weird scene and someone else will draw it for them. We got this graffiti artist to do one. And this lady just sent us one! It was the one with the letters made out of puke!

We have a two-week production cycle. Monday through Wednesday, we’re looking for listings. Thursday is a layout party, which is sometimes only attended by me. But last time I went to my friend’s house and everyone there helped me do it. On Friday, we make copies. Saturday and Sunday we distribute and the dates of the listings start on Monday.

The future:

In theory, our readership will build over time, and we’ll get more people involved and be able to distribute more. But that’s not necessarily how things will happen.

Our goal is to have people come together more and hang out more and be with the people they want to be with. Money and quality are not the same thing. Obviously, money and quality of life are related but there are always alternatives. This zine isn’t really political, but it’s implicitly political. Yes, you can be funny without being racist! Yes, you can have fun without having money! I’d say my personal philosophy is the intersection between the personal, the political and the silly.

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

Fathmina October 25, 2010 at 9:05 PM

Those hippies are always so grammatically correct!! Gosh!

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