Nothing about Japan Implosion is what it seems.
First of all, Implosion has absolutely nothing to do with Japan: It's the latest magazine dedicated to documenting Denver's formidable music, art and cultural communities. And while you can print a PDF of Implosion -- whose inaugural issue features profiles on the Swayback, Constellations and Jack Jensen -- it's not really a magazine at all, at least not in the traditional sense. Although brothers Stephen and Jonathan Till, Implosion's co-founders, have aspirations of someday producing a print component, right now their publication is only available online, at japanimplosion.com.
E-zines are fairly common these days, so I get that part. But what's with the name?
"My brother and I have always named things that we do," Jonathan explains. "Any kind of project we're working on, we've always had a long list of random things that we like to call things. 'Japan Implosion' was the one that we dubbed for that, because we thought that it didn't make sense, and we thought it was funny. It was one of those things where, I guess, it was just us resisting the urge to have it be some sort of reference to Denver in any sort of normal way -- that it's a Mile High or any of those kinds of things."
Ah, a bit of Dadaism. I get that. But will anybody else?
"In my very unscientific personal responses to me, I've found it's fifty-fifty," Till says with a laugh. "I tell some people, and they're like, 'Oh, that's really cool.' And I tell other people, and they're like, 'Why did you call it that?'"
The Tills came up with the idea for Implosion -- if not its name -- several years ago, when Stephen was still in Black Black Ocean. After that band dried up, they made two ill-fated attempts to get a zine off the ground. Both efforts stalled, primarily because the brothers were busy touring with Roper, Reese Roper's post-Five Iron Frenzy project. Implosion finally started gaining steam when Jonathan, who does design work under the name A Size Too Small, moved to Germany, where he spent the bulk of his free time working on the site's layout.
"There was so much work just getting this solid framework," he remembers. "I was in Germany, and I don't speak German well, and German TV is all dubbed. So after I finished work, I would go back to where I was staying and just turn on the computer and do all of my personal stuff. I was on my computer for fourteen, fifteen, sixteen hours a day. I put in an incredible amount of work to get everything together."
I get the work ethic, too. In another life, long before I got on the payroll at this fishwrap and before blogging was commonplace, I designed, edited and produced an e-zine myself. Like Till, I worked a full-time job and then put in similar hours on my publication, often working to the point of exhaustion. But it was a labor of love, fueled by one thing: a passion for the music. And that's exactly what's driving the Tills.
"I liked the music so much," Jonathan says, "that I wanted people to be able to look at this and be like, 'Wow, this looks awesome.' When I've seen cities that have had really cool music scenes, they usually have five things: good bands, which I really feel Denver has; people who love recording and that's their passion, so the music could be recorded well; people willing to start labels; good venues; and graphic designers who make things look cool. Back when I was doing all of the design for Black Black Ocean, I wanted to make sure that the level of quality was really, really high. I always felt personally that as much as bands would invest in their sound and pay for good recordings, they'd just end up having it look stupid, or there wouldn't be good pictures. Everything just kind of looked local."
His tenacity has paid off. Implosion is one of the best-laid-out, most impressive Denver zines in recent memory, and it gives local music a glossy sheen. In spots, the writing still has a ways to go, but the design work is flawless. And although right now the focus is fairly indie-centric -- with blogs authored by Sara T, Local Shakedown's Jeff Davenport and Morning After Records' Dan Rutherford, as well as by members of the Swayback and the Symptoms -- Jonathan is eager to expand to bands and people outside the indie realm.
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"Right now, it's just a lot of people in my circle," he says. "Because of my background and everyone I know, it started out that way. But one of the things I talk about on the site is how we want to involve a lot more people to write. What I don't want it to become is Denver music according to me or Stephen. So I want it to really open up to people who know about stuff that I don't know about, to just get a feeling that 'I might learn something about that, too.' The one sort of quotient about wanting to cover bands is not so much if they're indie or not, but if they're actually trying to do something. If anybody pitches us an idea on a band that might not be in that scene, I'm all for it."
Spoken like a true diplomat. Here's to fostering foreign relations.
New York state of mind: Looks like Gotham City has claimed two more Denver musicians. A few weeks ago, Czar frontman John Grant picked up stakes and moved to the Big Apple. And following hot on his heels next month will be Gann Matthews, who earned a nod as Best Singer/Songwriter in Westword's Best of Denver 2005. "I'm making a trip out there in March to try to find a sublease," says Matthews, whose farewell show and EP-release party is slated for Friday, March 31, at the hi-dive. "I'm probably going to do a waiting job and play around in the area. I went about a year ago to visit and just really liked it. I don't know if I'll stay forever. I probably won't, you know. My family is all here. I'm looking for an adventure -- that's a big part of it. I want to live in a big city and try it out and have fun. I'm hoping for the best."
Godspeed, Mr. Matthews.