Interview: Harmony Korine On His New Collected Fanzines

"It was an insane time, we would stay up for days at a time and smoke George Burns cigars and listen to Henny Youngman standup routines and watch W.C. Fields movies and write jokes, homemade jokes, jokes with missing punchlines. Those were really good times."

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By the age of 22, Harmony Korine had written the screenplay to Kids and was notorious the world over. He's 35 now, and the artist/filmmaker's bulging rap sheet of books, films, and artworks continues to inspire, disgust, and elude in equal measure. The Collected Fanzines, released today, compiles eight long-gone booklets from 1992 to 1999, a period that spanned Korine's graduation from high school, Kids, and his first two features, Gummo and Julien Donkey-Boy. Scraps of thoughts strung together--impressionistic jokes, story fragments, Hollywood apocrypha, and lists--offer unaltered evidence of the artist's creative process through his 20s. We spoke on the phone as Korine took a morning dog-walk in a Nashville field dotted with old folks combing for Civil War artifacts with metal detectors. "If there was anything here you'd think they'd have found it years ago," he said, perplexed but unjudgmental.--William Pym

I hear there are dramatic times at your end.

Because my wife's about to have a baby? Yeah, it could happen at any time. Waiting for it to drop. It's pretty crazy.

There's a little bit of commentary in your new The Collected Fanzines: A sentence or two describing where you were at when you made each one. Were you looking at the zines now for the first time in a long time when you were putting this together?

To be honest, it took six or seven years to get these things, because I didn't have any. Five years ago, we'd put together a set, and most of the initial runs were so small, like a hundred copies max, so it was difficult ten years later to find people who still had them. I finally did, and somehow they were lost on the way to the printer in Italy--this was years ago. It took another four, five years to find new sets, scan them and turn them into a book. I hadn't looked at these in a really long time. You'd see them popping up on eBay and things and people selling them. That was never the intention. I thought it would be nice to put them all together.

It's a narrative of an entire decade of your life in these zines. Was it weird to revisit what's in there?

I didn't think about it at all. I didn't let it disturb me: Let's put it that way. Most of the memories that are attached to making them are good memories, fun memories. I had a great time with [skateboarder/writer] Mark Gonzales making some of them, it was an insane time, we would stay up for days at a time and smoke George Burns cigars and listen to Henny Youngman standup routines and watch W.C. Fields movies and write jokes, homemade jokes, jokes with missing punchlines. Those were really good times. And we would just go out on the street--there used to be these hunchbacks, this hunchback family who lived on my street and we would give them to them, distribute them, go to Kinko's, sell them to galleries. There are ones in there that maybe reflect a darker period, more bleak, but for the most part these were done in good humor.

Did you put a lot of thought into who was gonna get them or how they were gonna be received?

I was making films, and the film business, the film industry, that business. There's such a wall, it's such a game and it takes a lot of time, and you involve a lot of people. It can be frustrating. Making these things there was almost no thought in any of it as far as who gets it, where, how many are made. I remember the spirit of making things, making up a language almost, and giving them to friends and family and forgetting about them. The immediacy of the whole thing was attractive and the collage aesthetic was attractive. Sometimes it's nice to not have to think about things too much, how things have to sell or where they fit in, or what the reaction is going to be. It was about playing around. You just wanted to make people laugh.

There's a few characters that you go back to from zine to zine.

Like Harrison Ford or something [laughs]?


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