Interview: Madison’s Toothtaker Zine goes retro with print and cassette offerings

Toothtaker Cover

“It’s Okay to Feel Lonely, It’s Okay to Feel Wanted”

The theme for Toothtaker’s inaugural zine sets the tone for an influx of graphics, commentary and music. Editors Claire Nelson-Lifson, Aiki Coxhead and Mary Begley are the co-conspirators in an effort to contribute to Madison’s creative inertia. A supplemental compilation cassette tape accompanies the first issue of Toothtaker that includes a cross section of independent bands including many Wisconsin musicians.

We especially like Chicago’s Absolutely Not with “A Hole in Yer Heart.”and the Hussy with “Appleseeds.” The Nervous Ticks from Richmond, Virginia offer a unique look at eating “Food from a Can.” Dusk from Appleton, WI is a new band discovery for us featuring members of Tenement.

How did we get here?

Before the Internet and social media became the go-to norm for the distribution of information, printed magazines and newspapers dominated. To get an underground buzz going in the pre-digital age, independent DIY types resorted to producing photocopied multipage zines to serve niche audiences. Early punk culture patrons used the resources for producing band fliers to publish small circulation zines focused on music, photography and art that didn't get covered in mainstream media. The poster kiosks in downtown Madison are a testament to that era when smartphones and Facebook invites didn't exist.

Early Wisconsin zines
Wisconsin punk icon Rev. Norb got his start with an infamous ‘80s Green Bay zine called Sick Teen before he began writing for Maximum Rock 'N' Roll and then later forming Boris the Sprinkler. Catholic Guilt was an ‘80s Madison zine that was so unique, Sonic Youth’s Thurston Moore referred to it glowingly during his solo show (with Chelsea Light Moving) at the High Noon Saloon in 2013. Original copies of both these zines can command up to $50 online. Hey, check your basement or storage room now!

Catholic Guilt
Toothtaker continues the tradition of Madison as an independent creative voice. A launch party earlier this year at Mickey’s Tavern was successful enough to lay the groundwork for a second issue currently in progress. Editor and local musician Claire Nelson-Lifson answered a few questions for Rock of the Arts on the new endeavor.
Tell us about the origins of the Toothtaker Zine?
Toothtaker originally came about because of my seasonal depression. I am a person that needs many creative outlets to keep me busy, because when I get bored I tend to get sad. I felt that a good way to express my feelings would be to publish a zine, that could be helpful for my own well being and potentially others. Early on, I joined forces with Aiki Coxhead and Mary Begley. Aiki heard that I was attempting to collect submissions, and wanted to be a part of this zine because she has been involved in other literary communities. Mary has been responsible for quite a few zines, and had plenty of experience with formatting. I came up with the theme (It’s Okay to Feel Lonely, It’s Okay to Feel Wanted), and Aiki came up with the name Toothtaker.
How often does it come out and where can people pick it up?
We had a release show at Mickey’s Tavern in February. The crowd was overwhelming with support and we nearly sold out. We put our remaining inventory on Bandcamp. We’ve still got a few issues of the zine and tape for purchase. We are getting issue #2 ready to roll, and the deadline for submissions is July 4th. The theme of this issue is "Peripheral People Connected by the Grid; How Technology Feeds our Perceptions."
How do you hope to enhance the Madison music/arts scene with Toothtaker?
By encouraging my peers to reflect on their feelings, I hope we can provide a community of positivity and support. I already feel that the tight knit scene in Madison that spans over different genres of music and art seems like a big group of friends. By providing an outlet for people to be published I hope that everyone can feel as supported by the community as I do. 
The compilation cassette sampler (It's Okay To Feel Lonely; It's Okay To Feel Wanted) is a great cross section of bands. What was involved in pulling that together?
Initially, I had wanted to make cassette tapes of my playlist of music to cry to, but I thought it might be tricky to do that due to copyrights and all that. So instead I turned to my friends and asked if they wanted to include a song. I ended up having too many submissions and couldn’t include all of the songs on the tape, but luckily will have plenty of material for the next tape. Some of the songs are pertinent to the theme, while many are not.
Are all the bands on the sampler from Madison?
Many of the artists on the tape are from the Midwest, but not exclusively. Some Madison bands included are the Hussy, Dumb Vision, and the Minotaurs. Other bands included are Sweet Spirit from Austin, and Platinum Boys from Milwaukee. 
Any shows or fund raisers planned for Toothtaker? It would be cool to see all the bands on the compilation cassette play somewhere in a one or two day setting.
It would be a dream to have all of the bands in one place, but no plans for that as of now. We will undoubtedly have another release party to celebrate Issue #2. 
(Editor's note: If you’re interested in contributing to the Toothtaker Zine contact Claire, Aiki or Mary here.)

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