While paper magazines are migrating to the internet and visual content is pushing away from the web, there are still people out there who believe in paper magazines.
Heroes of our material are living in different cities, which is not stopping them from publishing together. With the only printed magazine about skateboarding in Russia. We walked through Moscow streets together with Alexey and traveled to St. Petersburg to meet with Artem.
Let’s talk about how it all started. When you invented the magazine and why?
ALEXEY: The idea was born in winter, about 4 years ago. At that time a lot of Russian media, about skateboarding were closing down. I had a good amount of photo material, but there were no appropriate places where I felt like I could publish them. Then I thought that it would be cool to create my own online - magazine.
My journalist experience was allowing me to write the texts for the photos myself, therefore the only thing I needed to deal with was the design of the layout. I started searching for a talented designer and through friends was able to link with Artem.
The first online “Asphalt” received great feedback.Which helped us to raise money by advertising. The Readers alongside with the advertisers were inciting us to publish “Asphalt” on paper.
It was all looking insane from the beginning, but we decided to give it a try.
ARTEM: I had an idea to create a paper magazine about skateboarding for a pretty long time. Together with friends, we started to develop the concept and collect material, but at that point it never past the conceptual stage. We got a better understanding of what we were doing after publishing a small zine for the Faces & Laces exhibition. It was, let's say “test of a pen”, after which I realised that apparently, it is not that difficult to create a paper magazine without any additional support.
In 2015 Lesha wrote to me and proposed to participate in creation on the “Asphalt”. From him - texts and photos, from me - design. It was a win-win as all of my thoughts and desires were becoming a reality. One year after we published the first online issue, which became in a way projects viability test. In the next few days we will be releasing the six-issue of the magazine.
What is happening in Russia with skateboarding in general and skate oriented media in particular? Which niche was occupied by “Asphalt”?
ALEXEY: New powerful wave of interest to skateboarding appeared 2 - 3 years ago and is now getting to its peak. The industry is on the rise. New shops are opening together with a multitude of small DIY - brands. However we can feel that there is a shortage of people who are able to take a fresh look at skateboarding and reinterpret it by passing through themselves. Unfortunately there is a lack of photographers and writers who are able to explore the topics that we are and our readers are interested in taking a deeper look into.
Currently, “Asphalt” is the only magazine of its kind in Russia, which in the same time is one of the rare paper magazines, which are highlighting subcultural youth movements.
We are trying to formulate the taste and understanding of the contemporary and the beauty of skateboarding. We want to believe, that this task is giving us a particular niche in the Russian local market.
ARTEM: Each year I am following the development of the skateboarding in our country. Often I catch myself trying to distance myself from local skateboarding as such. I really like how my friends are skating and enjoy to see their progress a lot. Apparently, with age, you grow your own opinion and inevitably start selecting something that is more significant for yourself.
Do you compare yourself to any publications (in the world)? What do you like to read?
ALEXEY: I am following a lot of sources, but I do not try to compare us with them. We are writing our story. If before there was a temptation to adopt something from the materials of our more successful colleagues, with time a lot of our targets had changed. Currently in Europe there is only one magazine which has our full respect and support - english Free Skateboard Magazine. With all of the other European editorials, we can equally compete by creating relevant content of fantastic quality.
Recently I’ve been rewatching first and penultimate issues of “Asphalt”, - the quality of the materials have grown several times. In the 6th issue, we will have even more texts and un-obvious literary decisions.
With each new publication, we are growing and slightly changing the vector of our interests: separating from skating as a from of physical activity, and are speaking about it through the canvas of cultural phenomenon, which connects very different people, - not only sportsmen, but photographers, painters, and musicians. On the pages of “Asphalt”, they are developing their own vision of life through the prism of skateboarding.
ARTEM: We definitely take time to browse what is happening in printed magazines: reading about design, art and photography. The world of skate magazines is fluent. Giants such as TransWorld are closing while almost in all European countries you can find projects just like ours, without offices and with small modest teams which consist of several people.
They are the people who are not afraid of experimenting, trying new techniques and formulas to develop new ways of speaking about skateboarding. One of the good examples is - Berlin-based Place Skateboarding Culture. These guys are braking the rules of “how to write” about skateboarding and can allow themselves to publish a magazine almost without any photos of the tricks.
What was the most difficult thing with launching the magazine?
ALEXEY: To find money for the first printed issue - was the biggest problem and the real challenge. To be able to pay for the printing, you need to make a deal with the advertisers, which does not happen so easily. Because we have a very small and specific market, the laws of this market are difficult to understand and even harder to work with accordingly.
If an ad was once placed in a magazine, it does not guarantee paid advertisements in the next issue. It is no secret that all over the world skate magazines exist due to advertising of shoe brands and major clothing manufacturers. Unfortunately, in our country, many brands are presented extremely weakly. Often, employees of marketing departments have never skateboarded. Some of them have not even heard of their companies support for skateboarding. To convince such people to place advertisements in a specialised magazine, which is produced in small editions, is the most difficult thing. All the time we have to flounder in this suspense: without a clear understanding of whether we will be able to collect the necessary amount for the next circulation.
How do you see your reader? How did he changed through the time of the magazines' existence?
ALEXEY: We are being read not only by skaters. We are interested in changing, and realising that our audience is wider than originally intended, only encourages us. “Asphalt” is bought by students, representatives of creative professions - everyone who is interested in something unusual. We ourselves like to look at sociopolitical phenomena, global events and subcultural movements which inspire them. We are also trying to add our local identity to our magazine. Tricks do not fade into the background, but no longer play the main role. For instance, on the cover of our fifth issue, the trick is actually hidden. It is inside, and at a quick glance, you see only an unusual architectural object.
In my opinion, magazines like Thrasher, dedicated only to skating, are gradually becoming obsolete. With a skater, I find it more interesting to talk about his life than about from how many steps he can do another trick.
What do you have in mind for “Asphalt”? Any ideas for side projects?
ALEXEY: The main thing for the near future is to release the sixth issue. As it seems to me, this should be our best issue to date. It will be larger, more meaningful and slightly shifted to a different plane. We plan to become more independent by selling merch: t-shirts, sweatshirts and tout bags with the symbols of “Asphalt” Perhaps soon we will release a mini - collection.
ARTEM: The new issue will be much stronger than the previous ones, more mature text-vise and visually. For the first time there are more texts than photographic material, and again this means that we are moving in the right direction.