October 18, 2010
After years of being immersed in print media and going through many rough spots, Acclaim magazine have always stepped ahead of their game and conquered all obstacles. Australia is indeed fortunate to have been blessed with Andrew’s work and we at Fat Kids got the chance to sit down with the man behind the magazine to talk about print, street wear, his goals and where he is headed with it all. Enjoy!
Hey Andrew, how are ya’ today and what’s been goin’ on in your neck of the woods?
Hey Benny, I’m well thanks. As usual, a lot has been going on with activity ranging across our main areas of business: Media and Events. We’ve got a mag set to drop soon and I have four major event projects on the cards between now and February.
We really appreciate you taking time off your tight schedule to be with us today… so tell us about yourself and what you do?
I’m a self-employed entrepreneur of sorts I suppose. I graduated with a BA in Advertising many years ago but have never worked a day in Advertising, I’ve never really held a corporate job at all for that matter. I’ve been running my own publishing business for ten, nearly eleven years now and many other projects and adventures have also jumped off from that core publishing business over the years.
Lets talk about Acclaim for a bit… what inspired you to start this street lifestyle magazine that has been taking over the world by storm?
I was still publishing a free hip-hop mag called Out4Fame at the time that I decided to launch ACCLAIM. It was originally intended to be a broader, newsstand title, largely aimed at our existing readers and you can certainly see the strong hip-hop influence in the early issues. As things turned out, it made more sense for us to wind up the free magazine and focus on ACCLAIM. On a personal level, I was kinda bored with only covering hip-hop music and culture after six years and ACCLAIM provided a platform to publish something much more diverse and in line with my expanding interests.
Speaking of taking over the world, you recently had your magazine launch at the Mishka store in NYC. Congratulations on such a great feat, how did that whole project come about?
Our editor Alexandra Weiland approached photographer Ellen Stagg to shoot our last cover and she is well known for her previous work with Mishka. Ellen was happy to introduce us to the guys at Mishka and they were enthusiastic to put something together, especially given that their product was featured in the shoot. We actually released a short-run cover with the models wearing Mishka hats especially for that launch party. I find that many of the most exciting projects we’ve been involved in come about through somebody we’re working with introducing us to somebody else relevant. It’s always a nice organic process when things come together in this way.
I saw a video recap Karmaloop TV did of the launch and it seemed to be a massive success. How did you think it went? And are you planning any more worldwide launches in the near future?
Sadly I had to leave New York a week prior to that party so can’t speak from first-hand experience, but our people who were there all said it was a great night and apparently it’s the biggest party that the Mishka store has hosted to date so that’s real cool to know.
Yep, we are planning several international launches and events. I wont shoot myself in the foot by announcing anything before it’s solid, however we are working towards at least one more international launch this year.
While we’re on the topic of events, you recently got the worlds attention by bringing Japanese photographer Yone (Yasumasa Yonehara) to Australia for his first ever exhibition called ‘Shake That Ass’. Was it an enjoyable process to put on and how did it all pan out?
I can’t take full credit for the Yone shows. We had the connection to Yone through our previous magazine collaboration with him so we helped to facilitate him coming to Australia and contributed largely to the marketing of the tour, however the hard work was really undertaken by Alexander Mitchell from Floating Worlds and Backwoods Gallery who did all the leg work to make the tour happen. From our point of view it was very enjoyable but that’s probably because someone else was dealing with all of the stress haha. Yone and his wife/manager Yoko were a pleasure to deal with on a professional level and great fun to hang with too. We will be posting some pretty amusing video from our time with Yone some time soon…
Lets talk about Andrew Montell before Acclaim… Out4fame. For those who don’t know, would you care to elaborate on what Out4fame was and the other projects that you were involved in?
Out4Fame was a free, bimonthly zine dedicated to hip-hop music and culture. It covered both the local and international scenes and was distributed throughout Australia and New Zealand. It was A5 in size and every issue had a gatefolded cover with graffiti pieces across the inlay. I started Out4Fame with my good friend Sumo178 as a photocopied newsletter in November 99. It grew into a full colour mag. Off the back of the zine, we ran several tours and events and were probably best known for our series of MC Battles known as the ‘MC Battle For Supremacy’ which saw heats around Australia and New Zealand and a final that paired the finalists from each country in a trans-Tasman clash. We were also involved in several inde radio shows on SRA/SYN FM over the years. Outside of Out4Fame I briefly dabbled in a free mag aimed at Asian students called Veeza (that’s a long and absurd story that I wont go into now) and I founded a record label ‘Solid State’ with Weapon X.
I remember collecting each issue religiously because it was a dope read, do you miss those days and would you ever bring Out4fame back?
I guess I miss the time period because we were all so passionate and really motivated to change the hip-hop scene and industry here. We had a lot of fun and probably were never as professional as we should have been. There are tons of crazy memories from that period. I miss working with those people more than anything but I certainly don’t miss the politics. At the end of the Out4Fame lifecycle I was so sick to death of dealing with Aus hip-hoppers and their narrow-minded ways. Not to say that everyone was like that but it felt like we were dealing with more bitching and moaning than gratitude and when you’re struggling to make a living to produce a mag like Out4Fame, well, that gets pretty hard to deal with.
Having said all of that, I seem to be running into people all the time who tell me that they have every Skill Check graffiti cover on their wall. I have spoken with our former editor Steve Duck and Sumo about one day doing a collector Out4Fame book but there’s certainly no solid plan in the works. Who knows? Maybe…
Being such an influential figure in the street lifestyle magazine realm, how do you feel your work has impacted the industry? And what are your thoughts on the current state of print media?
I guess we’ve pioneered on several levels for the industry. To this day there are really no other ‘Street Lifestyle’ magazines being produced in Australia, at least, not from the same point of view as ACCLAIM. There have been a lot of small yet significant things we’ve done for the industry that have gone unnoticed. For example, Out4Fame was the first publication in Australia to feature a dedicated Sneaker section, before the Sneaker collecting madness took hold. I think we contributed to a lot of trends early on and that is important for a credible lifestyle title in my opinion. I’d like to think that broadly, my work has helped to expose our audience to a wider world of street culture.
The current state of print media is fairly grim to be honest. So many great magazine titles have died in the last two years and every day some ‘media expert’ is signalling the demise of print. For me personally, print has never been an easy way to make money, so the latest downturn is just another in a long list of challenges. Point blank, the only magazines that will survive into the future are those that are seen as an accessory to a lifestyle, collectable and quality. Anyone trying to sell a magazine based on the same information that can be obtained quicker and for free online is dead in the water. I learnt a long time ago that you have to think on your feet to survive in this game and like the other titles that are surviving, we’ve diversified our business model. Our online presence is growing much faster than we anticipated and I made the ACCLAIM Events side of our business official a few months ago. In fact, I spend more time developing event projects now than I do on the print side of our business. We’re also set to launch a new distribution strategy for the magazine that should significantly improve our visibility and see the publication in the hands of many new readers. The print game is not for the lazy or faint hearted!
What motivates you to keep putting out a new issue of Acclaim every time?
Hmm I ask myself that regularly haha. For real, nothing beats the feeling of getting a new issue back from the printers. If you’re truly proud of your work, having something tangible to show for it is a great feeling. My team work their asses off to create each issue so the payoff and motivation for me is seeing the end product of that hard work and knowing that others are enjoying it also.
In everyone’s career, there is a moment where they look back and think…”Wow, I can’t believe that happened. That was a really humbling experience.” When was that moment for you?
Good question. There have been a bunch. One that stands out was when we ran the final MC Battle For Supremacy and arranged for the winner to fly to the States and compete in Scribble Jam. Justice won our event that year and we sent him over to compete at Scribble with no real expectations and he won the damn thing! That was pretty cool and humbling. Other than that there have been several instances of people in the industry whom I respect telling me how much they enjoy reading ACCLAIM. That is always a humbling experience.
Your family must be really proud of you. What do they think of the career path you chose?
Yeah my parents are great, they are proud of their son, however I think they would have preferred for me to pursue a more traditional career path with financial stability. In the words of The Fresh Prince, sometimes “parents just don’t understand”.
I’m sure you’ve been really busy working on your next issue, could you give us an insight to what’s on the horizon?
I can’t give away too much before it drops but our next issue will be our last for the year and it will lead into our 5th Birthday celebrations. It has a theme of ‘Renegade’ and we’ve got some really great articles based around that theme.
On a lighter note, everyone is a fan of super human powers. If you were given a super power, what would it be and why?
Well I’m already super-strong and super-handsome so I guess I’d have to go with being able to turn invisible. I would abuse the shit out of that power! Can you imagine? I could find people who owed me money and follow-them around slapping them in the side of the face all day and they would look crazy to everyone else! I could sit beside marketing advertisers when they slept and whisper in their ear “advertise in ACCLAIM” until it became a subliminal thought at budget time. Matter of fact, I’d be privy to so much confidential information that I wouldn’t need ACCLAIM to make money, I would be rorting every system out there!
What’s your favorite Youtube video and why?
‘How to Wake Up Your Girlfriend’ because I have a juvenile sense of humour and love a good prank.
Being immersed in the street lifestyle culture we are all bound to collect something, be it toys, shoes, clothes, or records. What do you collect, how did it all start for you and why collect the things you collect?
When I was a kid I collected the original Star Wars figurines and Phantom comics. As a teen I collected Source magazine until it went totally wack and hip-hop albums, these days I guess I collect clothing. One of the perks of my job is that we get a lot of free clothing and sneakers and as I’ve become increasingly interested in men’s fashion design this has been something that I’ve enjoyed building a solid collection of. I didn’t have any good clothing or sneakers in school and always envied the kids that did so maybe my desire to have a slick wardrobe goes back to that time…
I’m sure you must read a lot being the editor of a magazine. What are some magazines / books besides Acclaim that you read or have read that you find really interesting?
Magazines: Complex, Monster Children, Sneaker Freaker, T-world, Juxtapose. My favourite magazine was probably Mass Appeal which is sadly no longer in print.
Books: most recently I read ‘Siberian Education’ which is a book about the criminal culture of the Siberian Urkas in Transnistria and I’m currently reading ‘Lush Life’ by Richard Price which I highly recommend.
For those who want to know where to keep up-to-date with your work and to purchase your magazines, where would they be able to do so?
You can keep up to date with most of my projects on our website www.acclaimmag.com or join the ACCLAIM fan page on Facebook.
Within Aus our mag can be purchased from most decent newsagents, all Borders and Mag Nation stores and via a handful of boutique streetwear and sneaker spots (the good ones).
Any final words of encouragement and inspiration for those reading this interview?
I’ve always followed my dreams and done my own thing despite the best advice to the contrary. I really believe in striving to do what you love. It is truly the secret to a happy life. It’s better to have a go at it while you are young than to regret never trying when you’re older.
Andrew…Thank you again for taking time off your busy schedule to be with us today and giving us an insight to what you do. We at Fat Kids wish you all the very best and will be looking forward to seeing more dope issues of Acclaim from yourself and the crew. Keep up the awesome work bro!
Thanks Benny, all the best to you guys too.
Words by Benny Teh