315 E Pine St.
Mon-Sat 11 am-8 pm, Sun noon-6 pm.
Zine culture hit the mainstream hardest in the mid- to late '90s, when publishing houses like Re/Search released popular anthologies and big corporations attempted to capitalize on DIY culture with Do It Themselves merchandise. Part of the commercial outtakes on zines like Beer Frame and Cometbus were feeble ideas, like that of the Mudd zine that came with Mudd jeans, an item Confounded Books & Hypno Video owner Brad Beshaw remembers as jeans packaged with "a corporation's idea of what a zine would be." "It used a thousand-dollar computer-design software to create something that was supposed to look cut and pasted," he recalls. "It was ridiculous and had nothing to do with someone's original thoughts. It wasn't an individual creating something because they couldn't help themselves--which is what I love about zines, they're about obsession. Like someone can't not write about their subject."
Although the commercially driven, faux punk aesthetic has thankfully moved away from zine-packaged clothing, the independent publishing industry has far from disappeared. In fact, Beshaw says we're currently in an underground literary boom. "In 15, 20 years, if anybody looks back, they're going to say that the late '90s and early 2000s were the golden age of small press. It's an explosion." When asked what's causing the boom, he answers, "Dissatisfaction. That's the only reason to do this, because you don't like what's out there. TV sucks, most magazines are rewritten press releases, it's bullshit and kids know that. It's born out of the idea, 'I can do better.' This wall is testament," he adds, gesturing inside his new storefront located at 315 East Pine Street, packed six and seven shelves high with self- and independently published zines, comics, literary journals, and graphic novels. "They are doing better."
Beshaw is a huge advocate of the small press. As an independent press vendor since '94, he's deeply entrenched in the independent-author culture. The Richard Hugo House boasts a zine library, and places like Sonic Boom, J&S News, and Singles Going Steady sell select zines/small magazines, but Confounded Books is its own unique entity in Seattle. Beshaw, a wiry, excitable guy with a passion for discovering new authors, not only caters to the small-press community, he's also expanded the public's idea of what constitutes a typical reading. Whether it was Al Burian's (Burn Collector) comical improvisations, David Rees' (Get Your War On) hilarious overhead projections, author Camden Joy's musically narrated tangents, or local comics artist Randy Wood's live interpretations of his work, the quality and creativity of the people who have come through Confounded's door (which shares space with indie record store Wall of Sound) sets the bar high.
Although he's held a number of readings for national authors, Beshaw contends that the writing boom has really flowered locally with publications like Mike McGonigal's Yeti, Gregory Hischak's Farm Pulp, Adam Voith's TNI Books, Chris Estey's Bandoppler magazine, and Dave Lasky's Urban Hipster, among others. "It's amazing," Beshaw says of the Seattle writing explosion. "It's one of the best things about being in Seattle right now."
As he continues settling into his new Capitol Hill space (Confounded and Wall of Sound had to move from their Belltown location after receiving a 45 percent rent increase), Beshaw says one of his biggest goals is to inspire people to create their own publications in the great DIY tradition. "This is all about showing people that you can go to the copy shop, put something out, and people could actually buy it and take it home," says Beshaw. "It's not about hoping that 'Vintage young hip and contemporary' will send you a letter. It's not about being discovered. It's about putting your own stuff out and taking down the wall, which is what punk rock was all about for me when I was a kid."