In FADER 58 we got deep into gay zine subculture and came out newly acquainted with a colorful genre. One of our favorite zines, They Shoot Homos Don't They?, particularly sparked a visual interest, so we recently sat down with TSHDT editor-in-chief, Shannon Michael Cane to talk more about the makes and shakes of his glossy magazine and to touch down on a few of the darker questions broached by the mag about the global gay community. Read the Q+A after the jump.
Interview by Erin Hansen
Where did you get the name They Shoot Homos Don’t They?
The title comes from a film from the late ’70s, it’s a play on words of They Shoot Horses Don’t They?, this amazing Jane Fonda film where basically a dance competition takes place and because it’s the depression, people desperately want to win the prize money. They pretty much dance themselves to death, which I thought was kind of a great reference to gay lifestyle. I’ve had a few other projects, like I used to run a club, and I always think the longer, more confusing a title is, the more someone’s going to pick it up.
It’s full of confusion about gay lifestyle too, right?
Obviously, the magazine title is it’s a reference to a Jane Fonda film, and a play on words, meant to be humorous, but the more in depth idea is that the magazine is a response to people who would quite easily say, “They shoot homos don’t they?” and we’re saying “No they don’t shoot homos, here is what homos are doing.” I knew that people had this really preconceived idea of what gays are doing creatively and socially, but it’s a misrepresentation. The magazine is a platform for challenging this idea of what a gay artist is, and what a gay man does.
Or even what being gay means.
Totally. I mean there’s enough gay trashy magazines to support the stereotypes, big glossy coffee table books of buffed hairless men. That’s out there in the mainstream media, as well as the “metrosexual.” There is micro-minority of gay men that are making really interesting art and some really interesting writers and filmmakers. But because they don’t fit into this idea of what the general population think gay men are doing, it becomes this alternative lifestyle thing, which has always drove me nuts. If something is a bit different it gets thrown into this alternative category.
It feels like a subculture research project in many ways though. Have you always been a subculture enthusiast, or just particularly in gay subcultures?
No I was interested in subculture before I was interested in gay subculture because it’s really hard to find as a young gay kid. You’re walking around feeling totally helpless because you don’t identify with this whole stereotype gay lifestyle and you really have to find it. Pre-internet you’re not going to find another gay person that’s into punk music, art or photography. I was definitely into subcultures, not just gay subcultures because I didn’t even know it existed before I discovered this whole gay subculture of artists and creative types. The issue, with JD Samson on the cover is all about this brotherhood where we kind of feel that all these major cities are interlinked with this subculture of gay creative types.
JD Samson is an iconic lesbian. Is she included in the idea of the brotherhood or is it supposed to be ironic?
We always put pop stars on the covers. When I was living in the ’burbs growing up, The Face magazine was my only salvation because I flipped through the pages and knew there was this other world outside my neighborhood somewhere where amazing things were happening: art, fashion, and music. So I’ve always been this enthusiast for pop culture and glossy magazines, that’s my vice. When we did the magazine, we thought it’d be cool to have someone on the cover but not necessarily inside the magazine. JD is so iconic. She is this person that gay men and women look up to, and not just gay. She’s very unique.
Who do you work with?
Timothy Moore is the editor and Nick Dimopolos is my designer. I had the concept for the magazine and I knew Nick was a really good designer, and I basically took this idea to Nick who was amazing, he got Timothy on board, and took the influence from Dutch architecture magazines. We’re influenced of course by BUTT Magazine, I mean we didn’t want to make another BUTT, we thought it was great that BUTT existed, and they do profile of artists but they don’t profile the work. That’s where we wanted to be different. We wanted to have nice glossy pages to show the work.
They Shoot Homos is much more extensive when it comes to the art.
BUTT would print the art on pink pages, which totally distorted the image. We wanted to give a bit more of a platform for the work, so people can treat it like a catalog or a look book. We always called it a look book because we wanted people to be able to see the art. Each issue is a different color of the rainbow. The rainbow flag being supposedly representative of the gay community, which we’ve always thought was funny. The new issue has a positive theme, so we have the positive plus sign as the patent, all the way through, but then the thing totally evolves into positive and negative.
What’s the issue about?
This issue’s so important. This issue started off as an AIDS issue, but then we felt that no one wants to pick up a magazine all about AIDS, instead we’ll do a positive theme and what being positive means to people. Infection rates for AIDS and HIV for gays is getting back to what it was in the ’80s, especially in my hometown of Melbourne. I had a friend pass away a two years ago, before that I had older friends with HIV but I never had friends my age with HIV, and suddenly I have four friends with HIV. We wanted to address that in this issue but we didn’t want it to be overriding, so we kind of subtlely talk about HIV and being positive. There’s this guy Richard Sawdon-Smith, he’s an HIV positive artist and actually makes art about being positive and takes self-portraits, and the interviewer asks about would he change it if he could, and he basically says, “No HIV has changed my life for the better and I wouldn’t change it.” Its kind of crazy to say something like that, but becoming positive has become a positive thing for him. It’s about being positive, having a positive outlook, positive reinforcement.
It’s about living with AIDS and being HIV positive and making your life work with it, not around it.
Definitely, it was really good to do this issue and this guy I’m like, obsessed about, David McDiarmid who died in 1994. He came to New York as a textile designer and made these screen prints, but he got HIV while he was in New York. When he went back to Sydney in ’93, his partner had died from HIV, in the last year of his life he made this book called Toxic Queen, which is this really aggressive response to being HIV positive and how he was over having friends die, it’s really powerful work, but there’s a humor to it as well. When his partner died of HIV, he took a full page ad out in the gay street paper with a little photo of him, and it said, “Moody bitch died of AIDS” and in small print it said, “Will be missed by,” and it listed all his friends. There was this outrage that he had done a full page ad with this powerful statement. It really struck a chord with me that people were that outspoken about their HIV status and about their loss and I think that passion is kind of lost now. People are so kind of apathetic. I just think this whole epidemic is going to get really bad before it gets any better, so I think its really important that we put this issue out.