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Interview with Special Request

11 juni 2013, Marc Robbemond
Paul, you were art editor for Clash magazine before, why did you start Special Request?

Paul Sethi: I still am art editor for Clash Magazine. I've designed and helped produce about fifty issues over the course of four and a half years. It's what I'm passionate about, and what I know well. Doing another magazine on the side is even more fun.

Which magazines inspire you as a magazine maker?

Paul Sethi: WET: The Magazine of Gourmet Bathing, THE FACE, TOILET PAPER by Maurizio Cattelan and Pierpaolo Ferrari, The Plant Journal, Fantastic Man, The whole crop of contemporary fashion/food/whatever titles and countless self-published fanzines.

Tom Viney: I grew up on the New Yorker and the LRB and ArtForum which are all incredible, and always filled with writing of superb quality, so it felt very right for Special Request to have similar contributors. That said, none of those magazines are hugely groundbreaking in terms of design. They've hardly changed their layout in decades. Of the latest crop of independent magazines I love Mousse for being so (there is no proper word for this, without sounding dickish) iconoclastic and relevant (I guess). I love Apartmento, for doing interiors so well. Fantastic Man, obviously, for defining almost everything you see in magazine journalism now. And then more nichey ones like The Anonymous Sex Journal. There are millions more, but that's what I'm reading right now. They're all good.


For each issue you will take a different topic, for the first it's food and the next one is about television. Why television?

TV: Television seemed to us a good way forward after food. They fit, somehow. I think initially we were messing around with ideas and threw in "TV" as a sort of joke, but, after a few moments, we realised it was an enormously democratic subject that nobody had ever really looked at in any great detail. It's something people do every day, but never really think about. Also, it means we can write about Dr Zoidberg from Futurama, without crowbarring him into an issue on lobsters or whatever.

There seems to be a trend for new magazines now to come with very still, calm, peaceful designs, like Kinfolk, Wilder or Cereal. Special Request is quite in your face compared to these titles. Certainly if you look at the design but also at the articles and stories. What do you think of this new wave of magazines?

PS: I'm a big fan. They are well considered, relevant to now and executed impeccably. The sheer quality of what's being printed is encouraging people towards buying magazines in their physical form again. From our perspective this can only be viewed as a good thing. Editorially and aesthetically our vision has remained consistent from the outset. I'm just glad that in the time it took us to produce Special Request, no one else decided to bring anything out that looks or reads quite like we do.

TV: Everything is very, very tasteful these days. And that's great. I mean I love it. My house is painted grey, it's full of Dieter Rams storage solutions and Hans Olsen sofas; it's the kind of house I like to think people might one day pad around in, barefoot, carrying mah jong sets and drinking green tea. BUT I think if everyone produced magazines that were tasteful and understated, newsagent shelves would be a little dreary and mostly monochrome. We knew right from the start that we'd go for something a little different, so we threw a pastel-pink pig up in there. As for the features, who wants to do a feature that's quiet and peaceful?

What's your favourite food?

PS: If it's made with love, then all of it. Everything… Everything apart from insects. My flatmate cooked using them last week. Not only did they look disgusting, the smell lingered for days. I couldn't even bring myself to taste them. Vile.

TV: My girlfriend and I make pho about once a month. We get a load of beef knuckles, brisket and Vietnamese spices, then pressure cook it all for hours. You're left with about a gallon of thick broth which is about the most warming liquid on earth. Throw some noodles and an egg in there and everything's ok. But aside from the pho, tacos and pizza play a big role in my life. Only perverts don't like tacos and pizza.

 

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