Djordje at Thoughts Words Action has read all of Tim Cundle's books and recently spoke with him about them and his inspirations...
Tim Cundle is the man behind Mass Movement zine and prolific author who wrote Mass Movement: The Digital Years Vol. 1 & 2, What Would Gary Gygax Do? and Compression. His profound love for punk rock and pop culture caught my eye, so I spoke with him about his zine, books, plans for the future, etc. Enjoy!
TWA: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. How have you been?
Tim: No problem, happy to chat about books, life, the universe and everything in between. Well, apart from a little professional turmoil (my day job involves digital publicity and copywriting) and considering that the world is going to going to Hell in a handcart I’m not too bad, considering.
TWA: First of all, I am eager to hear the Mass Movement origin story. How did you get on the idea to start a zine?
Tim: I’ve been writing professionally since I was 15 years, and used to write theatre and film reviews for the local newspaper while I was still in school. After university, I worked as a substance abuse counsellor and when I lost my job, my girlfriend at the time, and now my wife, knew that my first love has always been, and always be, the written word, so she suggested I do a post-grad journalism qualification, which I did, and started writing for a lot of zines and magazines in the UK and US. Then, at the beginning of 1998, the band that I used to sing for, Charlies Family Crisis, split up (we actually reformed last year, but that’s another story) and I had a lot of spare time on my hands, and needed a project to plough that time into, so my friend Ian and I started Mass Movement, and twenty five years later the rest is history.
TWA: Can you please explain how the idea evolved over the years? Has the ethos/concept changed or shifted in one way or another?
Tim: Well, MM began life as a simple punk rock zine, and that was all it was ever meant to be in the early days. But man can’t live on punk rock alone, and as I was interviewing bands and musicians I slowly began to find out that a lot of them loved the same things that I do (Dungeons & Dragons, comics, books, films, beer, professional wrestling, ice hockey), and so I figured that if the bands liked that stuff and I did, then there must be other people in the scene that did, and I gradually started to increase the amount of geek centric culture that MM included and more and more people started reading it, so I guess we found our audience and they found us. Ethically, MM hasn’t really changed. It still embraces the Do It Yourself punk rock ideal, and it’s always been a labour of love. It’s never made money, it was never meant to make money, it’s always been about sharing the things that I, and our other writers, love with the scene and other people and trying to make spread the word about incredible bands, fantastic comics and genre fiction and the things that genuinely excite us.
TWA: To give a bit of context to our readers, how managing/operating a zine/webzine changed over the past few decades? What are the pros and cons?
Tim: Print has become prohibitively expensive if you want to try and control the cover price of a magazine and keep it low, which is why we moved online. I didn’t want to charge money for MM if I could avoid it, so going online meant MM could become free for everyone, everywhere and I kinda liked, and still like, that. If you love writing, music and reading there are literally no cons, it’s all pros. I mean, what’s not to like? I get to write about the things that I adore and speak to and interview incredibly interesting people. The only thing that has become more difficult is finding the time to do all the MM stuff that I want to, as my family, job, dog and spending time with my friends keep me incredibly busy. But having said that, somehow I do find the time, and maybe one day I’ll actually find the time to sleep…
TWA: Which method do you prefer better? Old school Xerox printed cut-n-paste zines or webzine?
Tim: Oh, old school cut and paste by a long way. One of my old editors when I was training to be a journalist told me “Ink gets in your blood” and she was right. There’s nothing like the feeling of holding a magazine or zine that you’re responsible for creating in your hands, and while digital is wonderful because it’s free. It can’t compete with that feeling. Nothing can.
TWA: Mass Movement: The Digital Years Vol. 1 & 2 are the crown of your activism. You’ve done so many interviews, columns, reviews, etc. Have you had bad experiences with bands, musicians, and other artists during the entire process?
Tim: I have, and while they’ve been few and far between, there were a couple of interviews, both with bigger bands in the scene at the time, that left a bad taste in my mouth. One ended up with the singer of the band threatening me over the phone and me telling him that I’d be happy to “speak” to him face to face about it. It wasn’t my finest moment, but you can’t get along with everyone and sometimes things go awry for a hundred different reasons. That said, the vast majority of people, whether they’re writers, bands, fellow zine creators, artists or something else entirely have been incredibly cool, and they’re the reason why I still do what I do, and why the MM writers do what they do and if it wasn’t for them, we probably wouldn’t still be here. They make it fun, and as long as its still fun, we’ll keep doing it.
TWA: Besides your profound love for music, you’re also a sci-fi/horror B-movie and comic book fan. How have you developed an interest in pop culture?
Tim: My love of Sci-Fi, Horror, comics and pop culture has been part of my life for longer than punk rock. I’ve been part of the punk scene since 1986, but I’ve been in love with Sci-Fi since seeing ‘Star Wars’ in the cinema in 1978 and discovering ‘Doctor Who’ on TV the same year. I started reading comics around the same time and played my first game of ‘Dungeons & Dragons’ in 1983, and somewhere in the middle of all that I fell in love with writers like Robert E. Howard, Jack Vance, Ray Bradbury, Stephen King, H.P. Lovecraft and more. I was geek before I was a punk…
TWA: I adore how your writings for the Mass Movement differ from your books. How difficult it was for you to switch from your typical writing techniques and try different approaches for Compression, and What Would Gary Gygax Do?
Tim: I… It isn’t something I’ve really thought about. I guess the story and setting define the theme and pull the words out of the ether. Writing has always been natural for me, so I don’t really know when, and how I jump between the two, and how they vary stylistically. But thank you, you’re far too kind and I’m absolutely flattered…
TWA: Speaking about these two books, what were the initial reactions from the critics? Also, how are you satisfied with them?
Tim: Far better than I ever thought they would be. For the most part reviewers and critics seem to like them, which never ceases to amaze me. I’m just happy that the people who have read, and continue to read them, like them. Like all writers, I’m not satisfied with any of my books, as there’s always things that you think you could have done better, characters and plotlines you could have expanded on. I’m my own worst critic, so I don’t think I’ll ever be completely happy with anything I write.
TWA: How much is criticism important to you? Are you concerned about what they write/say about your works at all?
Tim: It is what it is. You can’t please everyone all the time, and as long as criticism is positive and there’s a reason for it, then it’s fine and you can either choose to embrace it or ignore it. Am I bothered by it? I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t, but as it isn’t something that I can control or influence, there isn’t anything I can do about criticism apart from learn from it and use it become better at what I do.
TWA: What are your plans for the future? Are any new books on the way?
Tim: Funnily enough, there are… I’m currently compiling and editing an anthology of short stories by punk and alternative writers called ‘Hardcore Horror’, and there should be another couple of books with my name on the cover appearing in the next couple of years. And there’ll be much more Mass Movement, including regular episodes of the Mass Movement Presents podcast (which you can listen to on Spotify, Amazon Music and Apple Music) heading your way all the time, so keep an eye on the site, tune it, turn it up and geek out.
TWA: What would be your piece of advice for upcoming writers?
Tim: As Henry and the Rollins Band so elequently put it, just ‘Do It’. Write, and keep writing. The more you write, the better you’ll get and the more you write, the sooner you’ll find your literary voice. Just do it. Write, write and write some more.
TWA: Thank you so much for taking the time to answer these questions. Is there anything you would like to say to our readers at the end of this interview?
Tim: Thank you for asking them, I was, and am more than happy to talk about Mass Movement, books and everything in between. If anyone wants to check out my books, head to Earth Island Books, or if you want to find out more about Mass Movement, surf on over to www.massmovement.co.uk and if you want to listen to the podcast, head to Spotify and you’ll find Mass Movement Presents there. It was an absolute pleasure, and I can’t thank you enough for the interview.