Low's Zak Sally talks La Mano Report, comics and small press

Low's Zak Sally talks La Mano Report, comics and small press
photo via MNartists.org

La Mano is the small comics-oriented-not-delimited press owned and operated by Zak Sally, former bassist of Low and generally prolific guy who has organized the second annual La Mano Report at Eclipse Records this Saturday. Seven bands including Gay Witch Abortion and Marijuana Death Squad will be performing, in addition to mega discounts on comics from Sally's press and local artists and zinemakers. We spoke to Zak about La Mano, the La Mano Report, some notable upcoming releases, and the necessity of holding beautiful things.

What's the backstory on La Mano?
La Mano, I guess it's been around since the early '90s, but back then it was just kinda what I called my "label," me and a pal of mine would put out stuff and we called it La Mano. And then I sort of turned it into a "real publishing thing." I put out a book by a guy named John Porcellino, I bought a printing press...and what La Mano is, is sort of a micro press. Sort of. But I also put out my record, the record I made last year, I put that out on La Mano, so that's what it is. It's basically me. I put out six or seven things and I have two more things coming out next year.

Did you buy the printing press and know how to use it? Were you learning on the job with that?
Yeah. It took me about five years to get passable on the thing, but I got it for $250 bucks and sort of taught myself to use it, and a couple of my friends who are printers helped me out to  learn the thing. Part of the benefit this year is I bought -- that printing press was, as far as I can tell, from the '40s -- so I found a new printing press and bought that a couple months ago.

Yeah, I suppose operating a press from the '40s is fun until it's not.
Yeah, when it's fun it's really fun and when it's frustrating it's unbelievably frustrating.

And what kind of stuff is gonna be available at the La Mano Report?
There's gonna be all of the La Mano things. What I hope for it to be this is like it's kind of a benefit for La Mano, but I'm leaving it up to the bands if they wanna kick down some money. They don't have to. But more than that I just want it to be a cool local event, you know? Lots of bands for cheap, there's gonna be people selling zines, people selling posters. I wanted it to kind of be a one-day cheap festival whatever the hell and if I can also move some La Mano books that's great, you know?

La Mano is what it is, the stuff I love. A celebration of stuff that people make and create by hand. Last year was great, and if every year there could be a sort of one spot where all that stuff is able to happen in, I'm happy as a pig in shit!

From last year's take, were you able to fund more stuff?
For me, a couple hundred bucks is like a total windfall. So yeah it was totally helpful. I actually do have a couple sort of large releases that are gonna happen in the next year or so.

Can I ask what they are?
One is um, kind of a secret? But it might be a very, very long interview magazine with someone incredibly great. And the other thing is a portfolio by an underground cartoonist named Kim Deitch, and he's kind of a contemporary of Robert Cumb's. So we're doing a portfolio of drawings by him. He's been in comics for 40 years...he's kind of a cartoonist's cartoonist.

And what about you? What kind of stuff are you working on?
Actually about a month from now there's gonna be I've got this ongoing project called Sammy the Mouse the third issue of that is gonna be out in time for -- I don't know if you've heard of this thing MIX that's going on at the end of August?

Nope. Do tell.
It's the Minneapolis Indie Xpo and it's kind of another small press event, but it's more comics-oriented. It's a one day event that shaping up to be really really great. So the night before that me and a couple of the guys -- I think that's on the 21st -- are gonna have a release at Big Brain. So the third issue of my book will be out, and I've got a bunch more projects that I'm just workin' and workin' and workin' on.

Where is MIX happening?
It's at the Soap Factory. There's gonna be some biggish comics publishers that are gonna come and I predict that five years from now that it'sll be if they can keep it going it's gonna be...you know that huge Comic-Con thing is going on in San Diego? That just used to be for nerds, and now it's just for like, Hollywood types. So there's kind of an increased awareness of that sort of stuff. There's been this real resurgence in interest in zines and small press in the last couple years and I couldn't be happier about it. You think everybody would just quit doing that and just start their blog, but zines and and small published stuff is in a healthier place than it's been in years.

I've been thinking about that recently, I've noticed the same thing. I think because of the ubiquity of blogs and the ease of it, I think the value is kind of taken out of it and people are kind of reverting back to...they're becoming Luddites in a way.
The only thing going on with the small press, my only complaint about the small press these days, is I can't keep track as much as I used to be able to. There's so much stuff coming out. But yeah, there's something about having to put yourself through the process of making this physical object and getting it to people. It automatically requires a little bit more dedication than blogging. I mean I don't have any problem with blogging, but people used to think it's just an either/or thing and it's just that zines and blogging are just...different.

I would say there's not a lot of um, beauty in blogging.
No, but some of my favorite zines are like, ugly pieces of shit too. You know some thing that some drunk slapped out and put it out the next day. I mean I love that stuff too. I don't read a lot of blogs but I think that's a totally valid deal. It's just different.

Yeah, the point I mean is: you give someone a 50-page screenprinted zine and give them a URL. I think it's a pretty obvious choice.
I think people near this whole that's going on, I mean I have a box of zines and it's like... they're never going anywhere unless I throw them away. And I do pull them out and look at 'em, and it's like "wow, look at this thing" from whenever, even if I hate it. But you can't say that about computers, you know? I mean you might remember something that you read six years ago, but it doesn't exist. You can't hold it in your hand. And I think people need that. I do.

5-11pm, Saturday, July 24, Eclipse Records
$6 door (redeemable for that amount off most La Mano products)

In no particular order:
CAMDEN (Cole from Daughters Of The Sun project)
NOSE QUEAN ANT (newly reconstituted)

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