Category_Collecting, Category_Groovy Stuff, Category_Horror, Category_VHS, Category_Weirdness -

Indie UK Writer Andrew Hawnt Prepares to Unleash His Analog Induced Memoir and History Book VHS ATE MY BRAIN!

While he’s probably most recognized for his contributions to the rock n’ roll rag Powerplay Rock and Metal Magazine and his red-handed writings for, UK based indie writer Andrew Hawnt sure has a lot more to offer for fans of the written word. Over the years, his unending fanaticism for fringe escapes has propelled him to establish his own indie publishing outfit, releasing six books (VHSAMB will be his seventh!) ranging from fantastic fiction (Across the Sea of the Mind) to life as a comic book crony (Bagged and Boarded: Life on Planet Geek). But with his latest book, Andrew is ready to launch us into the world of VHS as he sees it, extolling the virtues of the format, and positing the position that VHS isn’t just a slab of plastic containing a motion picture. He’s out to prove that’s it’s something much more personal than that. His new book VHS Ate My Brain is out to show you how VHS helped shape his existence, as well as others like him around the world. Read on, my fellow tapeheads, and slather your brain in BBQ sauce and some of those crispy-crunchy onions...

Andrew next to a stack of analog goodies. Dig the shirt, mang.

LM: Can you give us a little bit of history on your writing career? How'd you start, your previous writing(s), etc? AH: Hi, Tapeheads! I'm known mainly as a rock journalist for the national Powerplay Rock and Metal Magazine here in the UK, but I've had fiction published, too. The most recent piece being in the SF and fantasy anthology Explorers: Beyond the Horizon. I've put out six books under my Dreamrider Media imprint, of which the most recent is the chronicle of the 9 years I spent working in a comic store. That one is called Bagged and Boarded: Life on Planet Geek. People seem to be into that one, which I'm so grateful for.

If you've ever been asked what planet you're from, this book's for you. Oh, and if you like comics, and people, and fringe media.

What was the impetus to write VHS Ate My Brain? Did all the resurgence in VHS love have anything to do with it? Feel like the time was right? I've loved tapes for something like 25 years now, since I was ten years old. The book was basically inspired by the people over at the notorious HORROR VHS COLLECTORS UNITE Facebook page. Finding out I wasn't the only video freak out there was so amazing. I needed another pop culture project as Bagged And Boarded proved to be my most popular book so far, and it made sense to tell the world how awesome VHS still is.

A still from the too groovy promo video circulating for VHS ATE MY BRAIN! Fuzzed out, man. Dig it.

What's inside? What can readers expect to find? VHS Ate My Brain is a mixture of semi-autobiographical nostalgia for the video era as well as a look at the cultural importance of VHS and the rise of the VHS collecting scene in recent years. As I'm in the UK, there's a chunk of material on the Video Nasties controversy from the 1980s and what it's like being a collector on a tiny island like this while you guys over there score major tape hauls. I'm jealous, man! The book is aimed at tape collectors, pop culture enthusiasts and cult film geeks. Y'know, people who understand people like us! Of course, the Bias is towards horror movies, as that's always been my main source of VHS fun.

Another shot from the promo vid! A lot of radical tapes on display in thurrr, man.

Who's putting it in print? Any production specs? Hardcover, softcover, page count, images? I'm finishing the edit as we speak, and the final version book will run to 130 pages or thereabouts, in 6x9 format paperback, illustrated here and there with original black and white photos or stuff people have let me use. The first edition run will be 100 signed and numbered copies, and there'll be a regular paperback run and eBook, too. These initial editions will be out under the Dreamrider Media banner, but I'm currently looking into a wider release for both VHS Ate My Brain and Bagged and Boarded around the world at some point. The signed versions will be available from my site, while the regular ones will show up via Amazon.

Probably my favorite still from the promo vid. The answer to the question "Who remembers VHS?!"

I know this is probably all throughout the book, but tell us why you think VHS is so important? VHS had a gargantuan impact on popular culture and found its way into so many walks of life for so many people that its influence needs to be respected and revered. It was a huge part of my life while growing up, and I wanted to capture that stuff in print. I'm guessing a lot of other people out there had similar experiences. Looking at a VHS collection is like looking at mile markers throughout a collector's life. Seeing certain tales on my shelves brings back memories of what was going on when I first bought them. Not all the memories are happy, but it's important to recognise the things that make us who we are so we can understand what makes us tick a bit better. The book talks about how VHS tapes can basically be time capsules. And looking at other stuff out there, with the awesome zines and sites and forums and now documentaries (man, I loved the ADJUST YOUR TRACKING film), I wanted to be able to contribute something new... and while I did used to work in independent film back in the late 90s, my thing has always been more about writing, so that's what I did.

A look at the test artwork for the upcoming print release. Changes may occur! You'll have to wait and see!

May we please have a little taste of the book to whet the appetites of all the Videovores? PLEEEEAASE?! Sure. Here's part of a section called “The Madness of VHS”... VHS made it possible for us to see some of the weirdest, most obscure stuff ever filmed, and while not everything was an absolute classic, it was awesome to be able to check it out in the first place. Whatever your poison, VHS could get it rammed into your head via your ocular input devices (I mean your eyes. Sorry, there has been caffeine). Be it extreme horror, martial arts movies, screwball comedies, one-handed 'Erotic thrillers', science-fiction B/C/Z-movies, videos of old trains, car crashes, sports events, cartoons or a mixture of everything under the sun, the format was able to bring it into your home. Movies started to be shot on video too if the budget was small enough to make it necessary, and those shot-on-video (SOV to collectors) are often the most insane and entertaining of them all, although not always intentionally. That is both the beauty and the madness of the VHS format. Of course, a lot of this stuff can be found on DVD and occasionally even Blu-Ray, but neither of those formats have all that much heft for the fan of analogue media. Personally speaking, I can't see future generations having the same nostalgic and sentimental connection to those soulless discs. It's a point I make over and over here, but it rings true every time. Digital media will never have the presence or the emotional attachment that analogue media brought to popular culture. It's the same for vinyl. For old video games. For 8-track tapes. Even laserdiscs have a nostalgic value for a lot of collectors, and while they were an early digital media, they still had the giant size and sense of ownership that came with vinyl. VHS was basically a way for the maniacs to be unleashed upon the people who wanted to indulge, and indulge we most certainly did. Of course, that explains why so many of us are a little bit odd. Or to put it another way: Lunatics who foam at the mouth whenever someone says “DVDs and Blu-Rays are so much better than VHS”. Very groovy, man. Anything else you'd like to say to all the Videovores out there? I'm glad you exist! Not just because I need an audience for this book, but because it's an amazing feeling to know there are other people out there who appreciate movies on old plastic boxes full of magnetic tape. Finding out you people were out there was massively inspiring. This book was written for you. I look forward to watching a movie with as many of you as possible someday.

And we’re glad YOU exist, Andrew! Man, what a groovy dude, eh? From what I gather, VHS Ate My Brain is apt to be a slice of excellent entertainment for all fans of magnetic magic, stuffed with a bunch of analog-induced anecdotes from a lifetime of VHS obsession. And though Andrew was inspired by all us Videovores coming together and celebrating our favourite format, it’s only natural that his dedication and passion inspire us all in return and charge us up to spread the word of VHS appreciation, celebration and preservation the world over. Big ups to Andrew for the amazingly amped up analog venture. I know this Videovore right here can’t wait to dig in. Stay tuned for all updates on the release of the book, and how to pick one up! It’s gonna be RAD.

Groove on and Read Cool Stuff.

Josh Schafer

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