Half a decade ago, Paul Allworthy and some mates from his hometown in the UK started Bonafide magazine just to prove they could do it. What started as a disheveled hip hop zine rapidly morphed into a superbly designed anthology of street culture that brands actually approached the guys to advertise in. Paul’s move to Melbourne split the OG Bonafide team up, but the magazine wasn’t shelved, in fact it hit more shelves than ever, with the editorial content and distribution widening its scope. Paul still lays out the magazine from his office in Collingwood’s Magic Johnston studio, while the team back home hold down the editorial content. We caught up with Swaggy P to chat about the tyranny of distance, Bonafide’s tag line ‘Documenting Concrete Culture’, and what he’s got planned next.
How long has Bonafide been going? What were you doing before Bonafide and how and why did it eventually come together?
We’ve been putting out two mags a year for almost 5 years now, before that I was mainly drinking heavily and playing Playstation. It came about because I was bored and me and my mate James kept talking about doing a magazine. I just wanted to talk about it because making a magazine is a pretty cool thing to talk about, but then he made us actually do it.
Paul’s favourite G-Shock at the moment is his DW-D5600P-1JF.
Has the magazine changed much over its history? How?
It has changed quite a lot but it has been a gradual evolution. It started as nothing more than a fanzine, something I could use in my folio. Issue 02 was a slight step up, we managed to get some cash for ads, we used actual photography instead of images I bastardised from the internet and we brought in the use of page numbers. That felt pretty legit at the time. We’re currently working on issue 10 and in between now and then, we’ve managed to interview some of my musical heroes – people like Madlib, DOOM, Kendrick Lamar, DJ Shadow, Big Daddy Kane, EL-P, Raekwon, Flying Lotus, Pete Rock and DJ Premier to name a small few. When I get to interview Jay-Z or one of the Beastie Boys, that’s when I know we’ve made it.
We’re at the stage now where we are stepping up production to four issues per year, upping the print run and expanding our distribution to all corners of the world. Our online presence is pretty steady too and we have a guest mix series called Bonafide Beats available for free download – I’m constantly stoked on the people that take the time out to contribute, it feels like a genuine honour.
Is ‘concrete culture’ street culture? How can an abstract concept be concrete?
We went with the strap-line ‘Documenting Concrete Culture’ because our approach to the mag was more of a journal type of vibe. I think we did it more for our own sake than anybody else’s, so we could figure out what the hell we were trying to do. We wanted to create something with a long shelf life that would still be interesting if you picked it up in a couple of years time, with in-depth interviews and thoughtful content, rather than short PR pieces on whoever is bringing a record out that month. One reason was because we were bored of that approach to magazines but also because there was no way we could keep it current and compete with the other mags that were around at the time – quite a few of which don’t exist anymore – not to mention the internet.
We are a music mag but we also cover a lot of art and style too so we didn’t want to limit ourselves. The keystone for the mag is hip-hop music really, but we cover all manner of things that have evolved from that, whether it be art, photography, fashion or related music movements such as grime or the LA beat scene. Things that wouldn’t exist without that key movement that came before it. Then on the flip-side, hip-hop wouldn’t exist without the cultural movements that contributed to that – reggae, soul, funk, disco, jazz and so on, so there are elements of those in there too.
Paul legitimately enjoys Spam, both the taste and branding, no 21st century irony.
I guess you could call ‘Concrete Culture’ ‘Street Culture’ but, along with ‘Urban’ it seems like an over-used and generic term that has been used in too many corny ways. We wanted something that we could own. When we spoke to James Lavelle about him starting Mo’ Wax records he told us “All I was trying to do was create a Universe” and that really resonated with what we are trying to do. You have to be about something and it’s important to have a solid idea of what that is.
An abstract concept can’t necessarily be concrete, but you can definitely anchor it down with something so it doesn’t disappear too far up its own arse.
This Jar Jar Binks head hangs from the office Paul shares, and despite its obvious awesomeness he wants us to leave a disclaimer that he was not responsible for it and doesn’t think it’s particularly dope.
What are some of the challenges helping run a magazine inter-continentally?
Timezones mainly. And being in another country to the physical product you have created, but on the up-side, I’m not the one going backwards and forwards to the post office every day – sorry, chaps. There are now four main guys on board creating the magazine, aside from our many contributors. I’m based in Melbourne, Australia whereas the other three are in London and Leeds, UK. It doesn’t make things impossible but it is definitely a challenge, we manage to get together once a year when I am back over there but we are on email daily and Skype comes in pretty handy too.
We’ve heard you’re working on a new magazine, tell us about that?
Yeah, it’s called Good Sport. It’s a photo-driven journal not just about sport on the field, but the culture surrounding it. The aim is to present interesting stories and interesting ideas from a grass roots level upwards. It’s early days but I’m quite excited about it.
Sounds most excellent. What’s been the lowest moment with Bonafide?
Getting some incredibly bitchy, negative feedback about issue 01 from another magazine, one that was quite well known and popular at the time we came out. But those guys don’t exist anymore. And we do…so all’s well that ends well!
Beleedat! What’s been the greatest moment?
For me, it was interviewing Madlib in a London pub and DOOM dropping in unexpectedly. I wasn’t there but my good friend Kidkanevil was. Me and him go way way back and I can’t think of a better person to do that interview, he’s always been a crazy record collector and DJ since he was at high school and his music knowledge is off the page. He’s also a highly credible and respected beatmaker in his own right, putting out records for many years now and is probably the biggest Madlib fan I know. That combination with DOOM dropped into the mix makes for one of the best interviews we’ve done. It’s the lead feature in issue 09, which just came out.