In Conversation: Kevin McCaighy from SALT

By Daniel Eggleston | 14th May 2014

After 14 years and eleven issues the York base zine SALT has decided to print its last issue. With the zine covering the less covered topics of US Black Metal, Japanese Psychedelica and the world of independent wrestling. With SALT coming to an end One&Other decided to ask creator Kevin McCaighy a few question about his time running SALT and his aims for the future.

Front covers of SALT Zine

Front covers of SALT Zine

What was the inspiration behind SALT?

I’d begun to write for fanzines in the late 1990s and had built up to the point where I had more ideas and subjects in mind than I could possibly send out to other editors. It made sense to start my own fanzine, in order to write more fully about what I liked. I was also sick of seeing space in zines devoted to overly negative writing, and wanted to reflect more positive work in a zine of my own. Zines should reflect aspects of culture more constructively and positively rather than joining in with the tide of apathetic, negative writing that still prevails in the mainstream.

What was your initial aim for SALT?

Initially “SALT” was going to be a four-way project between myself and the three other writers and artists, and was quite a different prospect to the first issue that eventually appeared. But once I took control of the project, some ideas have remained fixed since the inception of the zine: featuring artwork by friends on the front cover and within each issue; be international in my outlook, covering artists/bands/musicians from all over the world rather than just focusing on local scenes; and most importantly, write enthusiastically about anything that takes my interest and/or curiosity.

What was the best moment for you when running SALT?

There have been many! Getting the first issue out when all I had by way of resources was a couple of floppy disks was a really great moment.. I had no regular access to a PC and had to hone my typing skills on time-limited sessions using computers at the local library. I only printed thirty copies of issue one but friends of mine still have it and talk to me about it. Following through the drive I had to get the issue finished made it so much easier to throw everything into a second and then a third issue. That momentum was crucial to the survival of the zine. I have so many great zines in my collection that only made it to one issue. I always wanted “SALT” to get beyond that first hurdle. Moving beyond that was a great moment for me.

How did you get in contact with the people in America?

When I first started writing for zines, contact with bands from abroad consisted of whatever address was listed on the sleeve of a CD or LP. The best way to get in touch with a US band pre-internet was to write a letter or card, send it, and wait in hope of a reply. I received many wonderful, hand-written replies from all sorts of artists and bands, notably from Jason Lytle from Grandaddy, one of my favourite bands of all-time. Email is more immediate and rapid, but there is still no substitute for an actual physical card or letter. I’ll always be grateful to those people that took the time to reply to me, as many of them ended up being featured in “SALT” as a result. Another example is how I ‘met’ Andee Connors. I saw an advertisement for his record label tUMULt in US magazine “Magnet” in late 2000. After emailing him and buying some of his latest releases and covering them and his label in “SALT”, his record store Aquarius Records in San Francisco began stocking the zine on a regular basis, and I’m very pleased to say that it continues to do so to this day. This long-running and mutually beneficial collaboration came about from one small advert place in an import magazine. It’s amazing where the smallest thing can take you.

Why did you choose to cover the topics?

Curiosity, pure and simple. If I hear something that hooks me, I have to find out everything I can about the band. My enthusiasm carries me away, sometimes to obsession, as in the case of a label like P.S.F. Records. As a small label their CDs were necessarily limited editions and were hard to find as expensive imports, but I think I own 40 to 50 of their releases. Once I fell in love with the US Black Metal scene that includes bands like Weakling, Leviathan and Xasthur, I hoovered up dozens of albums by these prolific artists and many more. Each issue of “SALT” is deliberately contradictory, featuring pop bands next to extreme metal groups, pro wrestling reviews next to illustrations and comic art. I believe everyone’s tastes are a jumble at any one time, from one end of the spectrum to the other. It felt good to feature a joyful interview with provocateur pop band GRAVY TRAIN!!!! Alongside the utterly bleak pronouncements of Black Metal musician Wrest (who records under the name Leviathan). I loved both bands for very different reasons and am really pleased I featured them within the pages of “SALT”.

Aims for the future?

After thirteen years, I am bringing the print version of “SALT” to a close with my latest and final issue. Issue eleven feels to me the right time to finish. I now write for The Quietus online and for ROCK-A-ROLLA magazine in print, both of which I wouldn’t have achieved without sending out copies of “SALT” on spec. In that sense the zine has achieved its goal, to allow me to reach more readers and to write about the music that matters to me. I pushed the print zine as far as it would take me, further than some of my contemporaries, who moved to blogs and webzines a lot sooner than I did. It has served me well, but it’s time to look to newer, more long-form approaches. I wrote a chapter for a book entitled “Late Century Dream” last year and I’d like to write in a more involved way than I can in a zine. My articles got longer and longer as I went on anyway. The future of “SALT” is as a blog and in all the things I write for other people now.

Read SALT Here
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