- KEEPING THE ZINE ALIVE: Matthew Thompson with his daughter Emma.
Matthew Thompson hasn't lived in Arkansas in 15 years, yet no one chronicles the state's punk and DIY culture more ardently. Thompson, 38, stays connected online and has a website (flukezine.com), but his primary mode of publishing, like a lot of his editorial content, is throwback. Since 1991, he's published — somewhat sporadically — Fluke zine, a thick pamphlet-sized book of interviews, essays, photos and artwork. And while he doesn't cut and paste and rely on hook-ups at Kinko's to publish anymore, his methods today seem like a natural evolution: He relies on friends for contributions; lays out each issue in Microsoft Word; prints, for about a dollar an issue, at a small press in Berkeley, Calif., and distributes by mail order.
Thompson isn't a Luddite; he's just nostalgic. “I enjoy looking back in the past,” he said recently in a phone interview from Tempe, Ariz., where he's working a contract job. “Not living there of course, though I did spend a lot of years living in the past.”
The recent issues of Fluke (No. 7 came out last year, and No. 8 followed early this year) feature interviews with people Thompson used to run with back in the late '80s and early '90s, often from “Dogtown,” where, as he writes in Fluke No. 7, he learned “how to ride a bicycle, hit a baseball, catch a fish and later, pop an ollie.” There's a long, wide-ranging interview in No. 7 with Mark Howe, who was at the vanguard of the Little Rock punk scene, toured with Econochrist and, at least at the time of the interview, was a sergeant in the U.S. Army. No. 8, released earlier this year, features an interview with Alan Short on the history of Downtown Music and the local metal scene, and another one with Paige Hearn, who owns one of the few American companies manufacturing skate decks today (in North Little Rock) and is a font of history about the local skate scene (Tony Hawk, Steve Caballero and the dude who did the stunts in “Back to the Future” skated on his ramp in the '80s).
Thompson counts several big names as contributors. Jason White (Green Day), who co-founded the zine in 1991 with Thompson and Steve Schmidt, and decorated cartoonist Nate Powell lend a hand regularly. Thompson's also managed to score a number of interviews with nationally regarded bands. In the last two issues alone, he's chatted with punk god Mike Watt, the East Bay hardcore band Christ on Parade and Phoenix folk-punks Andrew Jackson Jihad. That he places those interviews next to harrowing stories from regular Arkansas folks like Tre Baker, who chronicles his battle with colon cancer in No. 8, and Shane Halverson, who offers short musings on thrash metal, Bone Thugs N Harmony and what it's like to work in a youth residential psych facility in No. 7 and No. 8, only adds to the zine's ramshackle charm.
Don't look for the ethos of Fluke to change. Thompson said a friend once told him that something he'd written “made her laugh, then it made her cry, then it made her laugh again.” That's what he says he's going for with Fluke. “I want people to feel inspired.”
He doesn't take ads, and while he says he remains fervently DIY, he thinks of the project as one produced by a community of people.
Also, don't look for Fluke to take an evolutionary leap and become a blog. Thompson says he appreciates the intimacy of a zine. “It's something you can put in your back pocket and go and read it on the train bridge. You can pass it to your friends. It's something you can touch.”
Get the latest issue via flukezine.com, maxrecordings.com or lastchancerecords.com.