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Interview—BITE ME
Written by Max Olijnyk — 25th November 2014
BITE ME issues 1 and 2

BITE ME issues 1 and 2

A quick scan of a magazine supplier’s stock list reveals some really wild titles. A few standouts: Earthmoving Equipment Magazine, Greyhound Recorder, How to Care For Your Poultry, Submerged and What Tradies Want; which actually don’t stand out at all, because they all sound insanely boring to me—but people are into all sorts of stuff and why wouldn’t they want to read about it in a specialist publication? It’s more that the existence of these magazines is a reminder of how wide and crazy this experience of life is, and how narrow my own view of it is.

Though we don’t let any of the aforementioned titles anywhere near our shop, one of the magazines we proudly stock is BITE ME, a great art, design, fashion and all-round thoughtfully cheeky publication from Hong Kong that focuses on a different body part every issue. The brand-new second instalment—‘The Hair Issue’—features a big mix of artists, photographers, writers and designers including Bless, Gasius, Mona Hatoum, MISO, Peter Sutherland, Perks and Mini, Wendy Syfret… oh, and me! It’s a sweet read, I tell you.

After we had calmed down a bit from the excitement of receiving a package containing the first copies in Australia, we flicked BITE ME creators Katrina Tran and Jason Schlabach a few questions about their magazine. Ever obliging, they answered thusly:

Max of The Good Copy—Can you tell us a bit about your background? Whatever possessed you to make a magazine? 

Katrina and Jason of BITE ME—We made a magazine because we love magazines. It’s really as simple as that. Nothing beats flipping through freshly printed, well-edited, funny, completely mental printed matter. We highly romanticise the era when The Face, Nova, Smash Hits, NME, National Geographic, etc. graced the newsstands. I may have even cried when LIFE discontinued the first time (lame right?)! They really speak about a time and a place, and the good ones you talk about forever. I know that’s really subjective, but mags and zines mean a lot to us.

We completely nerd out on an excellent typeface or a bold layout—I guess our day jobs need us to be so tapped into mainstream culture that it was great to make something that is so singular and weird. But at the end of the day, we make BITE ME because it’s a fun project and we didn’t see this mixture of content elsewhere.

Jason and Katrina in a traditional Hong Kong tea house. Photo by Jason Capobianco

Jason and Katrina in a traditional Hong Kong tea house. Photo by Jason Capobianco

The idea of theming issues around body parts is great. What is the motivation behind that, and what will happen when you run out of body parts? 

The first issue being about butts was the result of a really spur-of-the-moment decision that we had to make an issue that was anti-ego. We wanted to do something that wasn’t about the celebrity of the people on the page, but instead really focused on their work. Butts were the perfect anonymous counterpoint to your “visage” (cue frantic circular motions over your face for added effect!). We continued the theme with hair, and plan to do more. We’ve got a ways to go before we run out of body parts—and if we ever do, we have stacks more content. We could easily do multiple issues without ever repeating ourselves.

Spread by Ren Hang from Issue 2

Spread by Ren Hang from issue #2

You’ve had some pretty heavy names on your contributor list for the first two issues. How do you lure the talent? 

The contributors for BITE ME are everything! They make it awesome and remind us why we make the magazine. We lure them with the promise of freshly printed pages and still-wet ink! Just kidding.

We’re happy to say that our contributors are a mix of friends, friends of friends and artists/writers we’ve admired for a long time from afar. In this issue, we worked with some people, like Ren Hang, that we found through Instagram and they turned in amazing work. We simply write them funny emails that tell them about this chance to do something for a cheeky magazine!

The clever and iconic Beauty Hairbrush Z by BLESS, as seen in Issue 2

The clever and iconic Beauty Hairbrush Z by BLESS, as seen in issue #2

BITE ME has a mix of fashion and art-based spreads with some creative writing and interviews, but it all makes sense together. How do you strike that balance? 

That’s a great question, and we have no idea (insert hysterical laughter!!!)… The closest we can go to explaining why it works is because it’s pretty intuitive. The first test is: would we read it? Does it make you look at the subject matter in a different light? I mean butts and hair are pretty normal subjects but everywhere there are artists and writers doing extraordinary work on both subjects. We’re just providing an outlet for it and making sure the editing and quality does the incredible content justice.

I don’t know many publications that come from Hong Kong. What is the magazine scene like there? Are you a part of it? 

The scene is thin on the ground. There are a couple of strong niche, commercial magazines such as Hypebeast and Obscura, but independent cultural publications like BITE ME are not common. A notable exception is Ha Wan Pao, a great interview zine that explores makers, creatives and hard-working people in Hong Kong. We know a lot of the people working to bring unique voices in magazines to the city and we’re optimistic about what’s next.

Elle Waldmann's John Waters interview from Issue 2 - kind of a big deal!

Elle Waldmann’s John Waters interview from issue #2—kind of a big deal!

Have you ever checked out the other Bite Me, the Scottish vampire magazine? 

Damn them and their more easily searchable url! Great name though! I don’t think that anyone would ever get us mixed up. Their covers are so glossy and vampy! Come to think of it, we should have gotten Buffy to do a spread for us or something…

You’ve covered butts and hair—what’s next? 

Oh, that’s definitely a secret. It’s above the waist and that’s all you’re getting from us until next year!

A spread from Issue 2's 'Postcards from Cleo' by Diana Yen

A spread from issue #2’s ‘Postcards from Cleo’ by Diana Yen