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For Sukeban: A Q+A with Luisa Le Voguer Couyet, Editor of Hate Zine

A Q+A with Luisa Le Voguer Couyet, Editor of Hate Zine


Sukeban: So I guess if you could talk about your background a little, like growing up, where’d you grow up and all that stuff


Luisa: I grew up in East London which is now a really trendy area. My parents were both kind of artsy and they instilled in me this spirit of doing whatever you want and always being proud of yourself, they were always encouraging me to create stuff which I think is a really good environment to bring a child up in. But in terms of academia, I wasn’t so good, I find it really hard to stick to rules. I’ve always wanted to do a publication, when I was in primary school I tried to make one but then someone in school took it off me because they said since the ‘profits’ weren’t going to charity, I couldn’t keep the money. It was 20 pence.


S: Do you remember what was in that first initial publication?


L: It was just puzzles, it was when we first got a computer so it was on Windows, we had paint [the app] and it was really basic.


S: Yeah and I think that’s also kind of ironic because I also wanted to ask you about the fact that it feels like there’s seemingly a shift in the world of publishing to where everything is starting to feel the same again, kind of dry, kind of homogenous, even with Dazed and i-D and everyone is putting out this branded “independent” content. I tried to read some of the press coverage on you gals and there were bits about the fact that you were interning at Love and all that


L: Yeah when I was 18 I interned at Love - I’m 23 now.


S: Yeah so what was that whole experience like working with a name like that in a more corporate environment? I know you said it was one where you felt unfulfilled creatively


L: The thing with Love is that it’s a part of Conde Nast which is a massive conglomerate of, I would say, center-right publications, if you’re talking politically although they’re not technically supposed to have a political point of view. Love is very fashion forward and when I was younger some of my friends worked there. I was interning between uni and I thought maybe I wanted to go into fashion but my experience, which I think is a common experience, is that you’re treated like shit. You’re spending your own money going around London, it was lugging suitcases around and people don’t even acknowledge you. I was thinking about this the other day, that whole industry is run on young creatives and you know, even if you’re talking about content, they write x-amount of content on different people; like this young artist has done this, this singer/songwriter has released this, they’re all doing a shit job part time to pay their rent and live while they do this creative stuff and any exposure is for free, any work under their umbrella is free and it’s if everyone stopped working for free and stopped contributing to that big machine, they wouldn’t have anything to write about, what would they write about? They regurgitate the same stuff.


S: Yeah and it’s so apparent because the majority of it is all about youth culture and they just shit all over it at the same time


L: Yeah and they make it up, I feel like everything is really sensationalized.


S: Yeah I mean having to be defined by that or carry that around as a marker for who she is when she’s her own person kind of a thing. Yeah so I know you gals probably get this a lot, but if you could talk about the dynamic between you two? I know you’re a writer and she does photography.


L: I met Scarlett when I was working at Wah Nails, and Scarlett was doing hair at Bleach. Both those companies were started by young women in East London, ALEX Brownsell STARTED BLEACH WITH SAM TEASEDALE AND Sharmadean Reid started Wah. We met at TOPSHOP and I just thought she was really cool. I didn’t speak to her for ages and then she wanted to take some pictures for some people I knew and I was like ‘oh you should get her involved’. I’d been wanting to do something for a while but I don’t know how to use a computer and I thought that if I had an idea of what I wanted to do and had someone who could help with the visual side of that — Scarlett’s really good, she’s really particular she’s a bit of a perfectionist I think.


S: In terms of the looks of things like the zine layouts and what not?


L: Yeah the way it looks, she brings it all together and ties it up.


S: Do you guys ever not agree with how things are done?


L: Umm maybe in the beginning we didn’t agree on stuff but now as we’re working on our 4th issue, it just gets easier. We want to help each other out, why would we want to make it hard for each other? We both have the same goal. People ask if we ever compete with each other about things, and it’s like no, firstly we do completely different work aesthetically and what we’re trying to say is different, but together, when we’re working as a unit, the end goal is to produce something we’re both happy with. I think it works really well.


S: Yeah and I mean how has this whole journey with creating Hate changed your lives? It’s garnered so much attention, even from publications who kind of think they own this realm in a sense.


L: I don’t know, it’s funny. When we did the first one I was living with my grandparents in Liverpool for three months and me and Scarlett would speak on the phone everyday, all the time. We had no idea what we were doing and the first one was based around these drawings I’d done and we got contributions from our friends who were already published because it was easier to access but we had no idea what we were doing, it was 50 pages. When we got it from the publishers, and I got it out of the box, I was so happy with it because we had something we could hold in our hands and that was way more satisfying than anything. I remember being so proud of us but also really ecstatic and not knowing if people would respond to it or not, but also not caring because we’d done something. It was at a period in my life, a year and a half ago, where I was going through loads of shit and was really wary of becoming one of those people who talked about doing stuff yet never actually achieved it, so to actually see it through was insane. Because no one tells you beforehand that you can do whatever you want, that you could save up some money and send something to the printers and they’ll print it. It’s not crazy, but I’m still like whoa.


S: Yeah it’s kind of like a freedom we’re not taught to think is tangible or embrace in a way almost


L: Yeah and that’s pretty shitty, it’s like work for someone else, that’s the route being taken if you want to achieve something. I didn’t have any expectations of it and that moment when I first held it, the first one, I don’t know if I’ll be able to replicate that because it was so new.


S: Yeah especially with the latest issue and making a magazine and having a platform for something like the subject of mental health, it almost becomes a responsibility. Yeah you guys are doing this for yourselves but more so, for other people now too


L: Yeah that was quite a hard issue to do because our friend Matt Irwin killed himself a few months before we did it. We’d been speaking to him about contributing some stuff anyway so we published some of his photographs. We spoke to some of his closest friends and included their memories of him, he was always really supportive of us and so it seemed like the right time to do mental health in light of that - we’d been wanting to do it anyway. It did feel like a big responsibility and for ages I just didn’t know what to say, I wanted to write so much and had so many ideas but I felt a massive burden too because what authority am I to talk about these issues? I don’t want to tell anyone how to live and I also don’t want to be too self-indulgent. At first I was like this is our chance to talk about whatever we want from the depths of ourselves. But then it became, ‘is that appropriate?’ ‘Do people want to see that?’ You start to become aware of the fact that you have an audience in a way.


S: So what have you found? Do you think it’s appropriate?


L: Personally I didn’t know how much I wanted to share with strangers, let alone my own family, in print as well. I think there’s this duality of it being potentially cathartic an experience to pour yourself out. But then you end up doing that anyway, whether or not you’re explicitly saying, I feel like this, you can’t help but put how you feel in a drawing or a photograph.


S: Yeah and I feel like that’s like the scary part about being creative in general, or putting your work out there. It is so much of a reflection of who you are and you don’t know who's going to be reading it, how they’re going to interpret your work but that’s the risk you take and that’s a huge part of why a lot of people don’t go off on that limb to do their own thing


L: Yeah totally, it can really strangle you. I’ve never really responded well to being told what to do, which sounds like a cliche, but really, I hate it. I think it was so good for us to do this thing on our own, especially the way things are now for young creatives in London. You’re working a shit job to pay rent and then on top of that, you have your own personal projects and then on top of that, you have to write for free, or work for free to get your name out there and break through that — it’s like wait, I’ve got some stuff I want to write, why do I need to ask someone else to publish it when it’s still under their name? I should just do it myself. You don’t need to ask permission to express yourself if you feel like you have something to say.


S: Yeah I totally feel that. What’re the shit jobs you’re working? I was working at a coffee shop at one point and had to wake up at 4 AM every weekend, getting paid minimum wage


L: What’s minimum wage in America?


S: I think it changes by state, I think Hawaii is $8.50. Then they try to reconcile it and tell me, oh you’ll get the first hour of tips and we open at 6 AM but no one comes in at 6 on a weekend, it’s the freaking weekend, no one wants to get up at that time. It’s complete shit.


L: I was just working two jobs but I got fired last Friday, I was working in a pub, like a craft beer pub, which was horrible and I’m still working in a pizza restaurant which is just a bit random. But yeah, minimum wage is seven pounds, if you're under 25, you’re not entitled to £7.20 which is the government’s new, sparkling minimum wage. Now the pound is at its lowest ebb (ever). When we did the first issue of Hate, I was living in Liverpool and working in a call center, that was particularly fun haha but whenever I do shit jobs I’m railing against them, moaning to everyone but all I hear from people is just, ‘it’s formative’ or ‘everyone has to do it’, which I guess is true but it doesn’t help at the time.


S: Yeah it’s like everyone has to deal with it but no one should really have to per se, it’s ridiculous. I’ve never been to Europe, so could you talk about the zine scene in London? More than anywhere it seems like London in specific is such a hot bed for all these new publications, designers, whatever


L: I think that over here you can be a weirdo and get away with it more, there’s less conformity and that’s something it’s renowned for, in terms of fashion anyway. It’s a really diverse place. I feel like it fosters that environment. I don’t really know what’s happening in the zine scene. We called Hate a zine because it’s an independent publication but loads of people know and don’t know what a zine is and I almost feel like a bit of a traitor calling it a zine because originally fanzines were in reaction to music or sub-cultures or underground politics and I do want to add those elements into it but it’s a bit broader than that. We try to cover art, photography, writing and we pick a theme to make it easier based on what we think is relevant or important to cover. There’s a few good publications run by our friends and they’re doing really good stuff. Our friend Keiron does this publication called The Nervemeter, and they give it to homeless people for free and any profit they get they can keep. There’s also Polyester, they’re quite big, the Mushpit or our friend Dan Mitchell does a lot of independent things, there’s actually loads and they’re all responding to different things.


S: Yeah and that being said, with this whole independent spirit of London itself, to what extent do you think that spirit is genuine? There’s a difference between being truly original which I think is so hard in the age of social media but I mean, do you ever feel like people are ever forcing it in a way because it seems like such a necessity in terms of self-validation? That must be draining because so many people are trying to be something they’re not.


L: Yeah definitely but I feel like that’s something I’ve felt my whole life around other people. I think there’s a lot of people — what concerns me more I guess is you have feminism being a trendy topic which is then commodified by brands and now activism is the new thing, anyone can be an activist if they use a hashtag. How many people really give a shit or care or are making conscious decisions or live what they say? I’m trying to be conscious and I’m not an activist but there are people who are less involved than I am, or less aware of stuff, I don’t know,  if you have good intentions maybe that’s what matters. I think we’re going through a weird shift in the whole world right now.


S: Yeah and I feel like especially in Hawaii it’s very homogenous and Asian influenced culture. A lot of people here try to fit in rather than stick out and that’s just the culture and so that whole dynamic of “growing up weird” isn’t really a thing here — or if you do, then you kind of feel like you don’t belong here which is what I’m finding now and it’s frustrating at times. Yeah and that’s another thing that I wanted to talk about, as a creative person what’re your self doubts?


L: Oh god I guess there are so many. I feel like I can’t even call myself a writer. I feel stressed out all the time, not all the time, but a lot of the time. I’d like to say ‘I don’t care what other people think’ but that’s just a lie and I think people are surprised to hear that, which I find surprising. I feel like I’m getting more and more anxious and this doesn’t have anything to do with what I’m doing with Hate, this is more just this age and this period of time we’re living in. I don’t want to be working shit, menial jobs for minimum wage, hopefully something would’ve taken off by now but that’s not the reality so it’s trying to combat being idealistic and wake up to the fact that it’s just not easy and good things are worth waiting for and everything takes time. I’m really impatient as a person and I get really distracted easily and have too many thoughts all the time, constantly writing lists of what I need to do. I have 20 notebooks that I’m going through to try to find things I’ve written down,  trying to organize them on the computer, it’s like why don’t I just start something? Procrastination is a massive thing. That’s what I find hard. I think self-doubt is something you're always going to have. What I ask myself, is that if you’re not worried about something, or if you’re not being critical, if you’re not nervous about things, how much do you care? I don’t mean being crippled by nerves I mean, excitement. It’s easy to become really over-confident and cocky about things. I think the day you stop being a bit worried, or hold your breath, that’s kind of when you don’t care anymore about what you’re doing.


S: Yeah and with that being said, where do you see the whole future of Hate going? Or even your career in general? I feel like I’m in the same exact boat and it’s scary, we’re 23, still young but we wanna obviously have a sense of fulfillment in our day to day that’s not just like here we are working at a pub or coffee shop, selling our souls. I’m always half at work and half thinking about people to interview or when that person is going to submit or something.


L: Umm the future, I’m constantly worried because I have certain expectations which can be bad for myself — like when you’re like this age, you’ve got to be doing this. But I think to try to find any fulfillment in the present, you have to get rid of expectation for yourself and for everything, try as much as you can to live in that moment which is something I need to tell myself too. I think with Hate, I’m really considering getting some kind of funding, it’s never going to be something that makes money which is what the currency of the world is run on, sadly. Maybe we’ll do a Kickstarter, I’d like to be able to pay people a small amount towards their work because even as a token, it’s a significant thing to be able to do. If that comes in the form of fundraisers or putting on nights, a lot of this stuff is organization, I would love to grow Hate into something which sustains itself even more, I have really cheap rent luckily, but nothing feels secure in London right now. I’d like to take it to America and take it to other places. In one respect, it could stay as it is and that would be totally fine and it would still work but I want it to be bigger haha.


S: Yeah more than anything, like we were talking about before with the whole responsibility to others kind of a thing and Hate now is this platform and to have it go on to be a global thing to where people from all over can contribute to or engage in a certain topic or whatever would be really amazing and is seemingly the beauty of it all in the first place. There’s so much shit content out there, or soulless content should I say. So I mean what’ve been the biggest rewards for you and the biggest burdens so far with Hate?


L: So I think two weeks before we print, it always gets really stressful because up until then we’re still waiting for contributions and we can basically print until a week before the deadline which is also a self-imposed deadline so that’s kind of subject. I guess the hardest thing — and that’s why it’s good to have a responsibility and have other people aware of it and involved in it and strangers you don't know asking when they can buy it because it’s good to get out of yourself and that responsibility means me and Scarlett -  individually we have projects that we can take or leave - can’t let the other one down so that’s a really nice thing. That gets stressful as well but more often than not, it’s really positive I think. The really nice thing about it is that it becomes this community and up until recently we just had our friends involved, or friends of friends, people we knew secondhand and of course things are going to start like that and we’re lucky we have the friends we have and know the people we know but I’m not going to completely discredit us and say people are doing us a favor. People wouldn’t invest their time or their work if they thought it [Hate] didn’t have any merit. One of the biggest fulfillments is just meeting new people. I find it really satisfying talking to younger people, or when they want to get involved because I think the biggest thing that you can give people, or not give people, is this sense of self-belief; if you can say to someone, “I think your work is good, I want to publish it”, it’s not the fact that they’re getting published in Hate like that’s going to lead anywhere, if it does, that’s a bonus but it’s more like, I remember the first time I got published, or me and Scarlett talk about it, it’s really a boost to your self-confidence. That boost then pushes you on to do other things. Having negative experiences in the publishing world or magazines, as an intern, that’s really how you shouldn’t do things, these interns are actually running shit, you know. I think it’s important to appreciate people as people, people as individuals. Everyone who emails I really try to respond and I’m grateful that they’ve take time out of their day to email.


S: Yeah and that’s kind of like ironic and I’m sure you guys get this all the time, but Hate kind of sounds like an anti kind of a thing, so what was the thought process behind naming it that?


L: When I was 16 or 17 I wanted to start this magazine with my friend Rae called “Fluffy” or “Sludge” or something and that was way more fashion but with Hate, I’m not really sure. I had this discussion with some of my friends four or five years ago. I’d been interning at Love and I wanted to do an eco-magazine, I wanted to make the environment cool(!) and I remember having this conversation because I had the notes on my phone from five years ago and one of my friends had said, “why don’t you call it Hate because you worked at Love?” It’s not built on what I hate it’s more stuff I’m angry about and I don’t think we should be denying ourselves these feelings.


S: Yeah and it doesn’t make you an less of a legitimate creative because you weren’t happy with an experience that a lot of people are clawing at each other for or one that will “get you a job”


L: Yeah it’s not going to get you a job


S: Do you think that there is such a thing as an over-saturation of magazines?


L: Yeah definitely and that’s part of the reason why we chose not to put it online. Our only online presence is Instagram and that’s a really good tool for keeping in contact with people and you have to have something nowadays. A website seems too stressful, it seems like a lot of hard work and you have to be constantly churning out content which is where you get saturation in those major publications. Everyone is competing with each other. They’ll talk about the same stuff and you see it over and over again. If you follow the major publications on social media, you’ll get the same article with a different headline. It’s a good and bad thing about the Internet but there’s no way we could compete with that. The amount of time we put into it as individuals juggling other things in our lives, it would completely discredit it, for me. I do want to for the next issue, have an adapted zine online only because it’s about the environment and I want to highlight the fact that we don’t need to print everything, I want to donate an amount to an environmental charity but we need to work out all these little details. That’s going to take loads of thought though, like how to get this thing online and for free?


S: Yeah but that’s amazing that you have a thing that can have a huge effect, even a monetary effect, though that’s probably the shittiest way to say anything is worth something but money is money. Going back to the whole mental health thing, when I get stressed out, I have mental breakdowns and especially as a creative person in today’s world, you scream, cry, yell, do you think all this is kind of part of being creative? I just feel like there’s such a stigma against it and people saying you’re not “strong enough” or able to “handle things” or whatever it may be when the reason behind it is simply because being creative or having a creative career doesn’t really mean you can expect to be well-off, send your kids to college or even have any sense of stability altogether, it’s a black hole. Art, being artsy is viewed as being such a desired trait or part of the human experience but that doesn’t translate into this mold of “success” society has built


L: I really just think it depends on the individual. I don’t think it’s good to bury any feelings, ever. I feel fortunate enough in the fact that I have really good friends or a good relationship with my mum, I can tell anyone anything. I really don’t feel any shame about things that I’ve experienced. I could tell a stranger about my life, only because I think you need people like that. Not everyone can talk about the shit experiences they’ve had because everyone’s different, it’s subjective, but I realized that I’m quite a strong person in terms of the stuff that’s happened in my life, I’m fine. Maybe my problem is that I’m always just fine and I don't deal with my own stuff and it manifests in other ways. I also feel like there is link between creativity and mental disorders. Two people wrote articles about that in this issue. There’s one that talks about a scientific link between creativity and schizophrenia/bipolar disorder and then you have the art world or pop-culture fetishizing and glamorizing mental health. I think there’s a duality in that, I think it’s more acceptable to have a mental health problem if you’re creative. Whereas if you’re working as an estate agent and you suddenly have a breakdown, I think in a job where you have to conform more on a day to day basis even the fact that you have to wear a suit everyday, and you have a mental breakdown, there’s more of a stigma attached to that because you’re supposed to be “normal”.


S: Yeah and all that stems from a sense of fulfillment and it’s crazy that that’s such a concept or something to be attained even when it seems like such a natural thing.


L: I feel like there’s just a wider system in place which encourages a suppression of humanity and feelings. People are told to make more money for this higher system that we’re out of control of, there’s no time for you to break down, so you suppress stuff. In the UK right now within the NHS - which is our health system that is free for everyone - there’s going to be mass change and it’s probably going to become extinct soon. It’s basically being sold off to private companies and businesses and so we’re going to have to have a new system, mental health in the NHS is really poorly treated, there’s so many problems. It’s not focused on or seen as something that’s important and I think that’s reflective of society’s stigma towards it in the first place. You can’t really see a mental health problem, it’s not a physical injury, you’re not bleeding.


S: Yeah and I know it’s like personal but what’re some things you’ve gone through and through those experiences, what would you tell other people who may be struggling with the latter? And what advice do you have for other young creative people out there?


L: When I was a kid I was really angry. My parents broke up when I was quite young and my dad has mental health problems and there was a lot of stress so I was just an angry kid. When I went to uni, I found it really alienating, my mum thought I was a very difficult child haha. I find it really hard to concentrate and I’ve always had really bad problems with my sleep and had periods of depression. I don’t know if I would call it depression, when I was in my first year of uni, I didn’t leave the house, I didn’t make any friends, didn’t eat or do anything, I just stayed in bed all the time and I thought I was fine but looking back I think it was anxiety or severe depression. When I went to the doctor I was like, I think I’m going to have a heart attack and she said, no you just need to go on Prozac (which I refused)  but no other help was offered and then when I was in my second year of uni, I was really stressed all the time or anxious. I just never really connected any dots with that and I think if you look at the wider picture in retrospect you can see that, now I kind of feel like yeah, I have anxiety problems or I’m really neurotic, or yeah, I don’t like change and things stress me out. How to deal with them I guess is to do the opposite of what I do, which is sleep well, eat healthy, exercise. But those things are really hard and I think in order to do those things or to get to the position to where you can do those things, you have to give a shit about yourself in the first place and that's really hard sometimes. No one wants to hear about that, I feel like people find it hard to talk about their own problems. I went to CBT once and I just found it really unhelpful because I thought, oh that’s not me, I don’t identify with this or, I feel like I’m quite functional. I feel like I’m finally becoming a functioning, dysfunctional person, I’m somehow trying to make it work and get stuff done. I think I internalize a lot of stuff, although I talk about it with my friends, I probably bore them to death. I think there’s better ways of dealing with that so you don’t have to stay awake all night, or have crazy amounts of energy, or sleep all day. I do think the first thing to do for anyone involves just talking about it, whether you’re creative or not, whether you have the same problems or not, just talking to someone. Writing is really cathartic, creating in general, whether you’re creative or not, if you think you’re shit at drawing, or you’re shit at art, it doesn’t matter, just trying to get out of yourself, stopping thinking, being in your body, breathing, going for a walk, actively doing stuff with your hands, it’s really important to connect with that. This stuff sounds so easy but it’s not easy, otherwise I’d be doing it ha but you know.