Will Nevins fans out the first four issues of Sofa King. Photo: Swainston
The rat is the first of twelve animals in the Chinese zodiac, possessing qualities of creativity, intelligence, honesty, generosity and ambition. In Indian tradition rats are recognized as the vehicle of Lord Ganesh. Eating food that has been touched by rats is considered a blessing from god. Rats are opportunistic survivors that scurry quietly through the streets, relying on their shyness to keep them undiscovered. When considering these symbolic references of the rat in parallel with Willy Nevins, it becomes obvious why his alias is “Ratchild.” His art, music, skateboarding and writings are the proverbial foods for you to devour. Infected with the disease of creation, he rapidly spreads it through the streets he scurries through. The child inside keeps him youthful, adventurous and curious. “Don’t think just feel … it’s the Wu way,” Nevins says.
At the age of 14, Nevins created his first zine, Id Rather Be Killing The Infidel. It only lasted for one issue before he collaborated with Eric Trauba to create, Id Rather Be Killing The Prairie Dog, a high-school zine project that lasted for five issues. With the exception of a few off shoot publications like Internal Robot, his zine makings fell off slightly until the summer of 2008 when Nevins and his friend Ty Weeks decided to throw together a zine that would showcase the ridiculousness going on between friends. They jokingly tossed around the name Sofa King until it just stuck. Now, four issues later with the fifth issue underway, Nevins says “I’m branded by the Sofa King whether I like it or not.” With close to a decade of experience in making zines and nearly two dozen self publications floating around out there, I asked Nevins where he continually draws his inspiration from. Simply put, Nevins says, “There are just so many talented kids in the community around me that I want to showcase them all under one project.”
Although the initial birth of Sofa King may have been mostly a Weeks and Nevins production, the truth of it is that Sofa King is a community collaboration. With a long list of contributors like brother and sister Riley and Polly Nevins, Eric Balken, Kildem Soto, Brian Butler, Mart Warsos, Katherine Zimmer, Shark Eye, Otion and other opulent individuals, including the Salt Lake Acting Company who has been the xeroxing source that makes it possible for Nevins to give out the zine for free. Nevins says, “I don’t want to sell a zine. I want to leave it on their door step or coffee table on the back of somebody’s toilet, or hand it out to people and leave them at coffee shops. I don’t want to worry about trying to sell them to recoup my costs.”
With the era of digital media vastly overtaking most forms of artistic media, a craft such as zine making is so rudimentarily created by hand, that one could easily accelerate the process with the use of computers and elaborate design programs. So the question arose: Has Nevins stayed true to form with his zine publications? Nevins says, “I don’t use a computer to format or edit it. A lot of people ask me what program I used to make it? Dude, I used tape, scissors and a xerox machine. It’s not scanned in and edited on any program. It’s pretty nitty gritty, nothing’s perfect.
There are fuck ups and scribbled out parts. It’s just really raw looking and that’s what zines are. The hard copies are definitely layered labors of love.”
Last winter, a Sofa King skate video emerged as a sub-project of Sofa King Magazine. “We have a pretty ripping skate team,” says Nevins. “The idea behind the video was to make a video magazine that meshed with skateboarding, video, art, local music and other happenings in the city to capture the original depiction of skateboarding and the culture behind it.”
The project didn’t follow the typical skate video format (with the skater’s name at the beginning of each part and all the slow motion bangers in the end). It meshed all the good times behind skateboarding and the freedoms the skaters experience rather than the frustrations behind working for a part. “Which is why I named it Beginners Mind,” Nevins says. “It was like go out and just be like a kid on your skateboard again.” Fast on track, Nevins and the rest of the Sofa King skate team are well underway in creating the second Sofa King skate video. Breathing in those luxuries of life outside, under blue skies, gallivanting in the streets of freedom. The summer has just begun and it is without a doubt that this year’s video will surpass the joyfulness of last year’s work. There isn’t a projected drop date or title for the video, yet, but keep your eyes peeled for the release party sometime this coming fall/winter.
In closing, Nevins expresses that he thinks zines are cool because you can “write whatever the hell you want in it, whether it be some really crass stuff or something beautiful that people can take from.” If done right you get a little of both, inspiring some while getting others riled up. In the end, who can really take a zine so seriously anyway? “Hopefully some, but hopefully not everyone,” says Nevins. He is grateful that his favorite music is created by local musicians, his favorite skateboarders are people he skates with and favorite artists are kids here in Salt Lake City that he gets to work with. Nevins says, “I’m humbled and inspired by them all and feel really fortunate to have this ongoing project tying it all together. I hope it continues. And dat’s my word!”