Ahead of the Sort Zine issue 4 launch event, we talk to the founders Joseph Delaney and Matt King. In an interview with us, they describe how they find inspiration from "seedy sex books, old fetish mags and erotica photography" and comment on how "we're all slaves to Instagram." It comes as no surprise that SORT is a now a multidisciplinary creative studio capturing the dystopian existence of London’s underground “We are the freaks, fuck ups, aliens and outsiders – join us.
Why is Sort Zine relevant now?
MK: What is relevant and not relevant? I find this impossible to comment on, I think everything is relevant to someone and at different times. There are so many interesting pockets and scenes in London, we've both been here 10+ years and it's forever changing. You kind of get carried away with it - the club nights evolve and reform - the style switches and comes back around but in the end within all the changes you come back to what really sticks in your head or heart. Are we relevant? Who knows. Who cares? We just want to create what we like and create a movement or a scene or something for people around us to experience with us and hopefully take something away with them. Things are only relevant when people decide they are. People shouldn't care so much what other people think.
JD: We started this project as an antidote to what was on offer at the time, and to try reconcile the different worlds we found ourselves working/living in. So in terms of being relevant more widely, I’m not sure that’s something we’re that concerned by. It’s definitely more about offering something relevant to a particular audience, who identify with what it is we’re doing, particularly in a moment when the world has gotten so much more fucked up. LGBT rights being rolled back across the world, the attempted erasure of trans people in the apparent leader of the West. With all that’s going on the spaces that this project was borne out of are now more than ever safe spaces for people, so in that respect getting a single order from somewhere in Middle America, rural Eastern Europe, or a small town in the north of England feels like the kind of connection that might mean something.
Where do you find your references?
JD: Pretty much since the moment I was old enough to leave the house alone, colouring in my nails with sharpies and tramping around the goth market in Birmingham, I’ve been obsessed with collecting music, books and clothes, and not much has changed. Our flat resembles something between an all-black vintage shop and an erotic library.
Without giving too much away most references are found from seedy sex books, from Araki to some old fetish mags, erotica photography books from Jeff Burton to Tillmans or Mapplethorpe, the energy of punk posters and album artwork of 80's industrial and synth bands to club photography from the same eras, video artists from Derek Jarman to Bill Viola and the post-punk, EBM noise and industrial music scenes past and present. As you can tell music has entirely informed this issue too...
Do you think this generation has as much to say as the punks and new romantic’s era?
Yes + more! or maybe its the same cycle of culture and politics and art and music and film and sex and clubs and drugs.
I’m always surprised by how little people acknowledge how extremely short and without real boundaries the punk era was. When you really look into it, it was so chaotic and its boundaries blurred with the industrial bands, the queer artists, and anyone else who was bumming around at the time – which sounds a lot like now. Also, we’re all fucked, so there are some similarities there too.
Can we be authentic in a world with Instagram?
JD: We can, though that doesn’t necessarily mean we will.
We're all slaves to Instagram we're all our authentic selves and inauthentic selves. Instagram will die, something new will start and we will do it all over again.
This issue is about nightlife, what is it that interests you and inspires you so much about nightlife, are you mainly referring to Berlin and London? If not where else inspires you?
People talk about nightlife being this space to lose yourself without judgement, and I can imagine that sounds a little much when you’re spending your nights knocking back Rosé at All Bar One. But the nights we’re talking about really do feel like that. The extremity of the music and the energy and often literally the lateness and darkness and other less safe-for-work things that envelop and blur everything are quite liberating.
We actually met via nightlife at a night called Trailer Trash, Shoreditch (circa 2009) so nightlife has always been a re-occurring theme in our life and I guess naturally now our work? London is a very special place for the underground nightlife and LGBTQ community, I don't think there is anywhere else quite like it other than of course Berlin, (as you mentioned). The film Drome (premiered by DAZED) is actually inspired by a club experience at our Sound & Noise exhibition after party back in Berlin summer 2018.... this film also features as a photographic story in one of the 5 parts in the issue.
As for other inspiring places... most recently we made a video diary for (Another Man) in Mexico City which explored the underground night life, and Day of the Dead Festival. A warehouse party we went to there was one of the best parties I'd been to but then maybe that's because it felt new and being in a strange place. Either way, I would advise everyone to go and explore the nightlife of Mexico City.
This issue comes in 5 parts, can you go into why?
Each series acted as a personal exchange between collaborators, so it made sense that each of them had their own literally separate part. It also felt a little truer to the culture of making a zine – collecting something personal and responsive and textural and even throwaway, that ephemeral nature somehow making it more precious than could be said for a magazine or book of the same subject.
Last issue we played on the format of a collection of zines and other print media brought together in one package and we wanted to continue that this time and for some reason went mad and created 5 a5 zines + postcards + patches + a poster I think the issue makes up 160+ pages in total all presented to you in a little black box. It's also nice to give our contributors Amy Gwatkin, Edith Bergfors, Begum Yetis and Sarah Piantadosi the space to explore their images under our creative direction as each zine was a collaborative process between us exploring the performative aspect of each of the musicians we selected for the issue. (Brooke Candy, Naked, Pan Daijing, LGBTQ performers from London nightlife)
Issue 4 is a bit of a turning point for a publication in terms of long Gevity, where do you see SORT in 5 years?
JD: Every issue we do takes on a totally new jumping-off point and a new format, so it’s impossible to say. The zine itself we always want to remain at the same kind of level as it currently is. It’s the other connected projects that we undertake as a studio – largely film, events and exhibitions – that we hope will continue to grow. We have a plan to take the project to Asia at the end of this year, which is about as far as my anxiety will let me plan ahead.
Building on the creative studio aspect, actually opening a studio would be great! And we always wanted to open a store called SORT, naturally, it would be full of metal concrete latex and leather interiors, selling our favourite brands, our own merch and amazing books and magazines.
With it being Valentine's day yesterday, what are your thoughts on Love?