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In an attempt to update our readers on the latest in the continuing history of MK Magazine, DePaul University intern, Jeremiah Chiu, conducted the following interview w/ founder Alex Zander.

Please click on the icon on the left for the history prior to the formation of MK Magazine from the ashes of MK ULTRA Magazine.


First off, what is your background? Where are you from? Did you know what you wanted to do at a young age? How did you grow up?

AZ “I knew when I was really young that I wanted to write. I wrote a lot of fiction in grade school. In fact, in 6th grade I published a monthly zine for grades 1-6 called Monster Monthly. Inevitably, I got into rock n’ roll and started listening to a lot of radio and saw WKRP in Cincinnati and thought, “I want to be Dr. Johnny Fever”! At the time I didn’t know he was stoned, or playing a guy that was stoned. I just thought he was cool. I liked the atmosphere of the inner-workings of the radio station. And then I started playing music. I started playing guitar and was in a couple little bands in school. I always wrote throughout high school. I wrote, of course, the rock n’ roll column for the school paper. During high school, I took summer courses out of state in radio broadcasting and I got on the radio, then taught radio at that school a year later! Then I went to college and got an internship in radio. I started working at clubs because clubs pay better and the women were better looking. I met a guy in Ohio, who allowed me to do an article on The Romantics, which was my way of getting in the local paper. I started doing interviews and loved it! I got to see what it’s really like backstage.”

How did you go from just doing interviews to starting your own magazine?

AZ “In 1994 I got into this band Type O Negative that I really had a good feeling about. I wrote for two papers at the time, and neither one of them would print [what I wrote about Type O]. There was this publication called Rock Out Censorship, and they were going to run it, but they had some money problems at the time, and they didn’t come out for a year. So within that time, I decided I was going to start my own publication. Then I had to learn how to do it, because I had no idea about layout. We did cut and paste back then, so it was a mess. The hardest part was coming up with a name. I didn’t want to be Rolling Stone, I didn’t want to be Spin. I thought about Groovy Tunes and then the name MK Ultra (which, for legal reasons, I can no longer use). And for some reason it just took off. I though it was just going to be a local paper, and now I’m distributed in just about every country around the world.”

What does MK Ultra mean? Is there something behind that name?

AZ “The name was MK Ultra… It was a smart ass idea, like the government wants to censor. They want to put all kinds of laws on drugs and music censorship, but yet they are dosing people with LSD and controlling minds, and snoops. They are ultimate snoops. I thought it was a smart ass way [of taking a stand again control and censorship]. And then I just learned more about that.”

How hard was it to go from cut and paste magazine to a 64 page with color centerfold?

AZ “We started out with 28 pages, Back then I was just getting some things in the mail, interviewing anybody I could. I mean, I did Sheryl Crow. She would never fit in this publication now, but I did it because it was given to us. We did the Mighty Mighty Bosstones in the first issue, we had Pigface and Type O on the first cover, and they are two band that we still work with till this day. The more popular it got, people starting ordering it in the mail. The publication was free for years, and then it was just a matter of getting on the computer. Once we got on the internet, that was it, it went crazy. Our website is huge, the magazine is everywhere. The internet changed everything. I used to be one of those guys, I’m never gonna do- I’m never gonna buy this internet thing, it was just inevitable, you had to do it. And that’s how I spend all day now.”

A lot of the magazine is more goth/industrial/electronic music? Did you plan this, how did it come about?

AZ “When I started DJ-ing in clubs, that was the music I played, and I like it better than most kinds, I love rock n’ roll though, I love the guitar. And if you noticed, the bands that I write about are bands that have electronics in it, heavy guitars in them and vocals. A lot of electronic music and EBM had no vocals, no songs, nothing makes sense, but Nine Inch Nails changed it. Nails were coming out right when we came out. Type O just embraced darker themes in music. A lot of its based on the male perspective where we live in a world where we are not supposed to show emotion, we’re not supposed to break down, we’re not supposed to cry, and these were songs from guys who weren’t afraid to admit how they feel and I don’t think anybody is going to call Peter Steele a pussy.”

What kind of music did you grow up listening to?

AZ “KISS, KISS, KISS, Blue Oyster Cult, Cheap Trick. Then I got into new wave, once I got into Devo, it was over for me. KISS was cool. I went from comic books to KISS which was a natural progression, and then I heard Devo and got really excited about electronic music, and so I started exploring bands like that, then I got into Adam and the Ants. I like bands who have fun images, that play with fashion and play music that doesn’t sound like anybody else. I think that the bands I listened to didn’t ever sound like anybody else, but nobody else sounded like KISS, nobody else sounded like Cheap Trick, nobody else sounded like Blue Oyster Cult as least as far as I could hear, I think I have a pretty good ear in music, so they tell me. But the music I listen to also goes along with the kinds of books I like to read and the movies I like to watch. Darker themes, there’s nothing more fun than a scary movie, and so I like scary music, and so that’s where you get Skinny Puppy and GWAR and stuff like that.”

Are you happy with where MK MAGAZINE is right now? Do you have goals for the future? Where do you see the future of your magazine going?

AZ “I never saw it getting this far, last time I did an interview, I said I would like to see myself in Chicago, doing a magazine, and taking it to a bigger level, promoting shows, (which I’m doing). What’s very important for me to do is for people to see that, yeah, we do have some industrial type bands, and a lot of darker music, but we do a lot with bands like Nashville Pussy, and Nina Hagen, and there’s nothing dark about her other than her eyeliner. We deal with a lot of pop bands, but we mostly deal with bands that are fun. And plus, we like to help break ground for bands, and get them exposed. And then a year later, they’ll be on the cover of other magazines. Like Type O was on the cover of Alternative Press a year after our first issue, White Zombie, the same thing. There I go talking about darker bands again, but as long as it’s fun, as long as people like looking at girls. We do a lot with film now, books which is great, our website is selling toys. I just wanted to be this, just bigger. I want more orders from our distributors, I want it to be available everywhere, and I want people to read it and not get offended. I want people to understand that if we use the F word, that we’re not trying to offend anybody, that’s just the way the people talk that we talk to. The sky is the limit. I adapted Andy Warhol’s work ethic, I want to do everything, right now I DJ, I’m going back into TV, I never did TV, I want to get that started by the end of the year, I want to get my radio show back on the air, promoting concerts, I throw pretty good parties, I put on great concerts and events, and I’m a music publisher, and my internet gets over a half a million hits a month. I just want to do that only more, I don’t ever want to act, I just want to be me.”

Everyone wants to know where you get your ViXXXens?

AZ “That’s a shame too because we get half a million hits a month and I spend every morning, I’d say at least 6 out of 7 days, collecting news stories in the morning, I do it, even before I put my clothes on in my bath robe. I spend a lot of time getting pictures up to go with the stories, a lot of time researching, a lot of time getting them together to put them online so the site is fresh. I also do an online diary, where I talk about the people I hang out with, what I do, and what kinds of funny things may or may not have happened. And then we have the ViXXXens, and more people go to the, ViXXXens, and to my diary, than to the news. And the news is the hardest part of it. But to answer your question, the girls in the pictures we’ve never gone out looking for them. We put a thing on the site a few years ago, saying that if you wanted to be an Ultra ViXXXen, you had to be at least 18 years of age, there are some things we can’t show, some things we won’t show, and then in the end I’m the judge and I pick who goes on and who doesn’t go on, and it’s not necessarily because I don’t find them beautiful, I just find them not original enough, I go for original looking girls. Again we talk about what people consider these goth-girls. I think they are just an extension of punk rock, and you can pick up a Maxim, FHM, Stuff, Cosmopolitan, the girls all look the same. Our girls look different and there is not point in me putting Britney Spears on the cover of MK because somebody is going to go buy it somewhere else better when they put Britney on SPIN or Rolling Stone, or they put J.Lo on Esquire. There’s no point in going up against them because these publications are legendary, I look up to them, I read them, and this sets me apart from everybody else. Maybe somebody will pick up MK because it’s got Messy Stench on the cover.

We’ve also begun to focus more on Wine Women and Song by becoming Flashy, Trashy and Nasty. It’s a glam way of saying Sex Drugs and Rock n Roll. I’ve always been aware that sex sells and that is why we started putting models on they covers back in 2000. Now I am forming a sort of unofficial marriage of Rock And Porn by focusing more on the Adult Entertainment Industry. This was something that people I’ve worked with in the past were afraid of and wanted to avoid. By forming my own corporation I call the shots. We’ve done work with some of the legends of the industry and now I want to focus on the whole pop appeal of industry. We have a great sex advisor now and started a fetish column called ‘What’s Love Got To Do With It?’ Besides, there’s no denying the whole rock and porn connection. Look at Britney and Christina, it’s softcore but its still erotic.”

What is your favorite part about your job and your least favorite part?

AZ “I love to work, and there’s nothing more I like doing than what I do, the entertainment business. My favorite part is having friends in the entertainment business, having friends that are rock stars, actors, and actresses and how flattered I am when they call me up and say hey were in town, what can we do tonight, lets go have some fun. Or when I’m in their town and they make time for me. That’s my favorite part, I’m not an ass kisser, I’m just friends with them, and it’s a blast. My least favorite part about it is that it contributes to my high blood pressure. It’s the stress, getting people to work together, going to concert night after night after night, it kills me. It’s killing me. I’m on medicine I have to take for the rest of my life because of it. I do it 100%, I live it, this is my life, and the good things come because of it, and the bad things come because of it. I have literally sold my soul to rock n roll.”

Is there any one experience that has stuck out to you over the years, either good or bad?

AZ “A good thing, I gotta say, when Shirley Manson of Garbage dedicated a song to me in front of a sold out Hockey Arena stadium, I was blown away twice. When Tairrie B of My Ruin dedicated a song to me at the House Of Blues when they could only do a twenty minute set. That blew my mind.

The worst part of it is when I work so hard and I do what I do, and people see me having fun and say, ‘look at that asshole.’ I mean I worked to get here, I’m not kissing anybodies ass, I’m not going and pushing bands that I don’t necessarily care for or bands that are my friends, I do what I do, and people just look at me and say, ‘I see that fucker everywhere and he’s on TV, he’s on the radio, he’s hanging with this band, he thinks he’s so cool,’ well I don’t man, I was a bookworm geek like everybody else was out there, and that’s why I got to where I’m at. I worked very hard for it, and that’s the hardest part that sticks out in my mind is when they say, ‘asshole’, and then I become an asshole. If hard works makes you an asshole, then I guess I’m guilty.”

Do you have any advice for others interested in pursuing a like career?

AZ “Plan to have a very hard time maintaining a relationship, plan on late nights and early mornings and lots of work and bad coffee and fast food, because when you do what I do with a skeleton crew, you don’t have time to make a nice dinner. And write about everything and anything that comes your way, if you want to publish them, then beware, it’s a lot of work and you make a lot of decisions, and the worst part about the business, I’ve always said, is that it’s a business because if it was just art, it would be a lot more fun.”

Why did you change your name from MK ULTRA to MK MAGAZINE?

AZ “I was forced to change the name after 8 years of publishing MK ULTRA. A person I was working with, involved with, thought it would be a good idea to form a Limited Liability Company for whatever reasons because we existed as an underground entity for so long. I didn't actually take the magazine in this direction. In the beginning when I realized that we were breaking out and there was a potential to go somewhere else, I started doing things a different way, and that way is more professional. And then you’ve got to start thinking about money. Well somebody that I don’t care to mention formed a LLC, what I thought was for us, and didn’t make me a partner, and LLC is a partnership, and this person made themselves the sole proprietor, and the next thing I know, this person said, if you want your company, give me this amount of money, and I was fucked out of my life’s work. I couldn’t raise that amount of money because this person used that dollar amount for a tax write-off for something that wasn’t necessarily related directly to the publication, so there was a lot of fun in there that had nothing to do with MK ULTRA. So I hired a couple of attorney’s and saw what my choices were and took on a couple of investors. I formed a corporation called Alex Zander Enterprises Inc. and just decided to keep the MK, change the website and name it Music Kulture, and it still rhymes with MK ULTRA, and the MK sticks out and for years people asked us what does MK mean, is it Mortal Kombat, which was hilarious and I heard that for years after the movie came out. This is music and culture, and we like to write about the lifestyles of the people who make the music, the things involved with music, which is also books, books on music, movies, and movies you don’t read about everywhere else. We want to write about films that are harder to find, and you can buy those on