Matt Lewis 'The Radvocate' Interview
By Todd McInerney

Who are you?

I am Matt Lewis. I am 25 year old male, a writer, and currently living in San Diego, CA.

What inspired you to start "The Radvocate"?

The Radvocate first began as an idea for a parody magazine between my friend Geoff and I. We wanted to lampoon the super-serious ads that were featured in rollerblading magazines. That didn't work out, but I resurrected the concept after I was struggling to find writing work after college. Most of the time, any job that required my educational background was temporary at best, and non-existent at worst. I saw in my own community a group of supremely talented young people who were not getting the exposure they deserved, simply because they didn't "know the right people." By deciding to leap-frog the traditional means of production, The Radvocate became a free and un-advertised forum for artists and writers to express themselves and make their voices heard.

"The Radvocate" seems to be influenced by punk literature - Punkzines and Punk Fanzines of the 70's and 80's. How is a magazine of this style relevent to the "Culture" of Rollerblading in the year 2012?

This 'style' came about as a result of a factor which has a similarity with punk rock at that time: the character of the 'deviant niche' crowd that starts from nothing. The Radvocate mirrors these older zines because the idea behind them is still there, despite the vast difference between the two groups. The idea that you have to Do-It-Yourself, because nobody else cares about what your doing outside your niche group. If you don't like the way things are, you can't just wait around hoping that someone follows up with your complaint card. If you want to produce what you think should exist, something that represents your voice and not everyone else's, then you have no choice but to take matters into your own hands.This goes for the people who rollerblade, as well as the burgeoning group of highly educated and artistic people who can't even find a job, let alone a platform to express themselves.

In this digital age, why produce a physical copy?

I think the physical copy holds an interesting power, now that so much of our lives are spent online. I've tried the blog thing before and seen a minimal response. It's hard to get people to read something when it comes into their mailbox in the flood of spam, notifications, and other messages to delete. Unless you're creating some kind of exclusive visual material (i.e. videos, images), the fact is that few people have the attention span to read something online. An online magazine seems like an obvious choice, but I've seen them come-and-go many times (especially in the rollerblading community) and fade into obscurity.

Handing someone a physical copy is an entirely different experience. First of all, you are meeting the person face-to-face, not approaching them as a faceless message. Instead of a brief synopsis, you can explain to them what you're doing and answer their questions about it. When they have it in their hands, they use all their senses: they feel the paper, see the words and images, hear the pages turning, and yes, some people have even smelled it. In fact, when I got the first Be-mag back in 2001, I loved it because of the way it smelled! Those sensory experiences leave a much more indelible imprint on a persons mind than a digital copy could.

Also, the idea behind the initial campaign for the first two issues was to distribute to as many locations as possible. This was to maximize our advertising in the places where our contributors and clientele would normally be - coffee shops, art galleries, music venues, skate shops - as opposed to a solely web-based campaign. Instead of just hearing about it, they could have their own issue and judge whether it was for them or not. In addition, no matter how wired we become, I think you're always going to see a larger response from distributing to 200 locations as opposed to 200 e-mail addresses.

Was it easy for you to decide to use the name "The Radvocate"?

Yes, the name came quite naturally - in fact, it was more of an afterthought. The idea for this forum zine and the parody Radvocate zine were two separate entities that didn't collide until early 2011. The name is by no means exclusive - there are quite a few "Radvocate" things on the web, and also nearly parallels the largest LBGT magazine in the country, called The Advocate (which was not intended.) As I thought more about it, "The Radvocate" became more and more appropriate for the forum zine. Simply because it combines "Radical" (thoroughgoing or extreme, especially as regards change from accepted or traditional forms) and "Advocate" (A person who publicly supports or recommends a particular cause or policy.) I think of myself and everyone involved (by contributing or reading) as radical advocates for an independent and unbiased (by advertisers) media source.

Do you use rollerblades? and if so, why?

Yes, I use rollerblades. The reason has changed a lot in the last 13 years that I've been blading: to fit in, to stand out, to prove something, to gain respect. Nowadays, I've realized that the only important things about blading are the friends you make and the fun you have. Rollerblading for me now is simply a fun and stimulating way to exercise, as well as to express physical creativity. It is my "playtime".

What have you learned through putting together "The Radvocate"?

I've learned to cherish my supporters and to not take the actions of non-supporters personally. Also, PDF conversions are key.

Why do you think it's important to express yourself, make stuff, mind barf, create art?

The day job where I work does not give me much opportunity to express myself, especially in the writing capacity. I feel the need to write, to blade, to create funny little magazines because it is me proving my existence to the world, without having my work diluted by outside influences. The way modern society is set up is to cater to the consumers; to watch TV, buy food, work mindlessly, and repeat. But human beings are not consumers by nature. We are creators. Otherwise the first tools would never have been created, early civilizations would never have appeared, artistic expression would never have blossomed in human history. What separates people from animals is our capacity to understand and appreciate art; to become inspired and make creations of our own. No matter how useless or insignificant our creations appear to other people, they are always important. Why? Because it's YOU. It's not pepsi, it's not your parents, it's not catholicism. It is you telling the world what matters to you in the purest form imaginable. Put simply, I believe mind barf is as essential to our state of mind as nourishment is to our bodies. It's what makes us human.

Is it difficult to find people to contribute content to "The Radvocate"?

It's somewhat difficult, mostly because people sometimes have a hard time understanding the concept. That's good, though. The Radvocate isn't designed for hundreds of people to be beating down the doors to get in. It's an intimate space where a few like-minded folks can share their expressions with an audience they might not reach in ordinary circumstances.

"The Radvocate" features, without restricting to, work by Rollerbladers. What is it about Rollerbladers that has inspired you to create a place for them to mind barf?

The main idea for the forum zine began as a reaction to blading media that was 'available' at the time. I say 'available' in quotations because I think 'forced upon' is more accurate. I was disgusted that things were being released by corporations as unapologetic propaganda for their products, and there were few (if any) places where real opinions or creativity could be seen. That goes for online media, too. Many of the blading magazines and web sites are simply too focused on the idea that they are the sole representitives of rollerblading, and that there's no room for fruity bullshit. What I remembered about magazines from my youth was a much more relaxed tone, where jokes, poetry, and strange illustrations, all created by bladers, took the stage. I wanted a new generation to experience that as well; to relax, to not be bombarded with marketing, and to enjoy and experience the unconventional, whether it fits with "what's cool" or not. I wanted to create something for bladers to enjoy that didn't necessarily revolve around blading; like real life, blading is only a small (but fun) part of a larger puzzle. If only one of my hopes for The Radvocate comes to fruition, the one I would choose is for the reader (blader or not) to feel more comfortable with stepping out of their comfort zone.

Thanks for taking the time to answer some questions Matt. Is there anything else you'd like to say that you didn't have a chance to talk about?

I'd like to talk about anarchotranshumanism, the tenants of buddhism, the mystery of life and the surrealist movement of the 1930's. But I'm tired of typing so I'll just do some lame shout outs.

I'd like to extend thanks to Geoffery Acers, who came up with the name, and all my other friends and loved ones. I'd like to thank Jim Ruland and Todd Taylor at Razorcake for all their help and for encouraging the seed of inspiration to grow. I'd like to thank Jon Elliot for being my favorite blader. I'd like to thank So Say We All for their constant inspiration, and San Diego Writers Ink for the premire party and for encouraging local writers. I'd also like to thank SDSF Skateshop, Roc City Skateshop, Tri-State Skate, Shop-Task, The Lazy Dog, Paras Newsstand, Thirsty Moon Records, and Bluestocking Books for believing in the zine.

Even if you don't read the zine, PLEASE REMEMBER: don't take life so seriously. It's not worth it. Express yourself and don't worry about the consequences. Love and appreciate your friends and family. Don't be afraid to try something new. Don't be afraid to see the world in shades of gray. Above all, stay rad.

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