Refreshingly, in the wake of the tiresome “Print is dead! No it isn’t” chatter that’s been waffling on for a while now, the notion of what a “magazine” is, and could be, has been broadened into wild, exciting new possibilities. Content is expanding beyond the tried-and-tested art/lifestyle/fashion worlds—as in this magazine celebrating work by immigrant artists, and highlighting the complexities of the O-1 Visa application. The idea of ink on paper has long been challenged with the proliferation of online publications, and with the likes of Pop Up Magazine, a publication that exists only as a live iteration, for just one day.
Now, we’re welcoming a new boundary-prodder to the ring: a magazine that takes the form of a vinyl record, presenting an 11-hour recording from an all-night house party in London, edited down to 20 minutes. A first edition of 100 copies launched last week, available for £35.
Titled Party Next Door, the limited-edition magazine is the brainchild of east London-based Foxall Studio, a design and art direction agency more used to working with fashion clients, often in “traditional” print magazine formats, for the likes of Vogue Turkey, GQ Brasil, Pony Step, and Near East. Now, though, it’s turned its hand to the overheard “music, whistles, muffled conversations” of an all night disco party, slyly recorded for posterity, and in the name of none other than magazine-making.
“I find most existing formats of magazines pretty limiting,” says studio cofounder Andrew Foxall. “Things haven’t moved far beyond the traditional bound set of printed pages, and more recently a website or social media feed. Somewhere in the middle of all that is a chance to explore new mediums.”
The magazine launched as a 12-inch vinyl record, housed in a screenprinted inner sleeve. A gatefold sleeve features a specially commissioned photoshoot from fashion photographer Robi Rodriguez, which he created in response to the audio.
But what makes this a magazine, as opposed to, say, a record, or a field recording project, or a piece of art?
According to Andrew, it’s linked to the studio’s history of print, and his own family background (the studio was set up by him, with his brother Iain). Generations ago, their mother’s grandfather had taken a printing press to India, and went on to print works by the likes of The Jungle Book author Rudyard Kipling. Foxall Studio has long worked in publishing (“we got into it sort of by accident”), thanks to Andrew’s background in fashion and Iain’s in graphics.
But it was a show they worked on in Nottingham, UK, called Publishing Rooms that got them thinking about the meaning of magazine-making and publishing more widely. “We were always doing magazines for other people, and it got us thinking about how we can change that format,” says Andrew.
“For us, the idea of a magazine is wrapping something around something that’s happening in the world, and gets you excited about it and augments a certain feeling,” he says. “It sort of creates a world and extends from that, so that you want to inhabit it—the sort of feeling I had when I first read iD magazine back in 1996. A record makes you spend time with it: you might look at the sleeve as you listen to it, or you might look at it later, but it forces you to give it your attention.”
The first issue plays out snippets of an overheard party in Hackney Wick, east London, which was incidentally held by the studio’s intern. Recording an 11-hour party—one going on until the wee hours, and likely fueled by something stronger than just techno and beer—is potentially problematic. When the studio started editing the material, it occasionally felt like strange and thoroughly voyeuristic territory. Other than taking out any potentially incriminating snippets, the edit divides the night into six “phases,” says Andrew. “It’s nice, as it tells the story of the night: At around 10 p.m. there’s some nice dub reggae, then house at around 1 a.m. Then at the end, you hear some people going off to a room to try and sleep while some dickhead is still trying to play on the decks.”
The idea for the project came about when Andrew was visiting his mother, who lives in a remote house in Scotland. He heard music playing from his younger brother’s laptop in another room, and found the muffled sounds had a sort of transformative power that cut through the physical isolation, creating a sense of half-heard, accidental familiarity. “It was nice to connect back to some sort of metropolis, or just people doing something next door,” he says.
The design and art direction for Party Next Door beautifully reflects this sense of scrappy, unpredictable, happy accidents. Though no firm decisions on design and commissioning have been made for future editions, one thing that will remain constant is the PND typographic mark used across the inner sleeve. The studio created the type through relentless layering and tinkering in Photoshop and Illustrator. “The way we use Photoshop and Illustrator is very manual, almost like printing with layers,” says Andrew. “We just sort of hack into it.”
Rodriguez, the photographer, is a longtime friend of Foxhall Studio, and shot the images for the the magazine using both disposable cameras and an iPhone. The idea for the images themselves was that they had a certain quality of that woozy, weird, galvanizing feeling you can only really get when you emerge from a party around 10 a.m., squinting in the sunshine and reeling from a mixture of strangeness, joy, and occasional vivid bursts of WTF.
While it’s uncertain at the moment what the publishing schedule will be like for Party Next Door, or who will be working on the photography for future issues, Foxall Studio has already made three party recordings, one from a recent party “overheard” when visiting Kiev, in Ukraine.
The criteria for what to record is as simple as the idea that it could be happening next door, to you, in the sort of flat or apartment blocks most of us live in. No official club nights or clubs, just the happy (or enervating) accidents of overhearing someone else’s music, nonsense, and revelry. “The soundtrack is instantly familiar as I guess a lot of people have listened to music through a wall from the next door bedroom or house,” says Iain, “but the format encourages you to listen to it in a different, more focused way and build your own picture.
“I like that the music takes on a different feeling from which the person playing it intended. Like when a bed-ridden [Brian] Eno supposedly invented ambient music when his friend left a record playing on an out-of-reach turntable but at a very low volume. The experience of the sounds started to mean something new to him.”