In my mind, there is no separating the horror genre and VHS tapes. They were my introduction to the genre and still my preferred method when it comes to watching gruesome flicks. The box art that may or may not be better than the movie contained within, that satisfying *shunk* when you push that tape into the VCR, the warm fuzziness of the image as it comes to life on your screen….I could go on but who has the time to read that?
I recently got down with Josh Schaffer of Lunchmeat, the go to ‘zine and website for videovore (the scientific name for VHS enthusiasts ) news, gear and general good times. Read on as I pick the brain of the man behind the meat.
Scotty Floronic: First off, simple question for the kids not in the know: Who are you and what do you do?
Josh Schafer: Well, hello there, my name’s Josh Schafer and I’m the Publisher and Editor-in-Chief of a print and online publication called Lunchmeat, which was created to celebrate the weird and wonderful world of VHS-only material, VHS collecting and VHS culture.
SF: It’s almost inevitable that when one starts to take a serious interest in VHS these days, they stumble upon Lunchmeat and yourself in some form or another. How did you (and Lunchmeat) become almost synonymous with the VHS love-in we are currently enjoying?
JS: Wow, thank you! I just keep mad busy, man. I work a day job, so in whatever spare time I have, I just steady work on stuff for LM. I’m always looking for stuff to cover for the blog, I’m writing, editing, corresponding, collecting stuff for the next issue, editing, preparing, and publishing, whether it be online or in the various LM print incarnations. I’ve been doing more art now, too. I used to just do mostly the LM stuff, but since I started doing the artwork for the bulk of the LM VHS releases, I’ve done a lot of the art for the collab VHS releases I do with other companies. And I’ve done some other random VHS-oriented posters and I did the cover for Andrew Hawnt’s new book VHS ATE MY BRAIN; so I think my name gets out there more with that work, too. But, really, I think it’s just because I’m always in it, and doing it and having fun with it. Having a groovy time always helps, right?!
SF: In addition to the main Lunchmeat zine, you have also put out some smaller, movie related zines. Do you just have a passion for all physical media and keeping it alive or is there just something about zines that suits your purpose particularly well?
JS: I just like making stuff. I think that’s what it boils down to, really. Like I said, I’m always writing and putting together artwork, and I just want to get it out there in real life. I have the blog, of course, because I can’t count out the power of the internet for the exposure and readership, but the inherent qualities of physical media are a huge part of it all for me. I mean, my love for VHS comes in large part to its innate and idiosyncratic analog qualities; and really, I still think only print is real. It’s tangible, in your hand, right there in your face, and I think that’s something that’s dying out now. I just want to contribute to it in my own way, the notion that print and physical media has its own value and aesthetics that are awesome, and they shouldn’t be phased out. I just love taking ideas, putting them together, and making something happen. And being able to spread the knowledge and love for something I’m passionate about, that makes it a million times more personal and groovy for me, so I do it as much as possible!
SF:Some people decide to start collecting VHS while (myself included) never stopped since they were kids. Which one are you and what drives you to collect and dedicate so much time to (what should be) everyones favorite format?
JS: Oh, I mean, I’ve always picked up VHS. It was the format I grew up watching, and I never stopped. I think I started consciously collecting around 17 or so, so I’ve been at it for a while! I do it because I love movies, and I love watching weird stuff. VHS was always a perpetual vehicle to find amazing, obscure totally insane home entertainment. I guess it’s that insatiable urge to watch cool movies that keeps me grabbing at tapes; and of course, VHS aesthetics are just unparalleled. The chunky kick-assery of a big box, the amazing to insanely shitty artwork, the distinct look of certain stuff on VHS… it’s just nostalgic, and fun , and the way I prefer to watch movies. And VHS really does hold the key to see weirdest stuff out there. It’s like never-ending. I really love that, and I know magnetic magic will never let me down in that regard.
SF: Most collectors that have been at it for any amount of time have some interesting stories to tell about the lengths they’ve gone to add to their collections. How about yourself? Fight off any roving bands of grandmothers for magnetic tape glory?
JS: Nothing as gnarly as that I can tell you, but I have sorted through mountains of porno dust caked tapes, in heated yet somehow focused scrambles for radical chunks of analog all throughout NY with my brother from another Mother Matt D. I’ve spent hours stacking and moving and restacking and grabbing, and dealt with shady places and faces for sure. But, honestly, I think that’s pretty standard! I did go to a local Salvation Army one time and this like funkdafied 50 year old black dude with a bright red fishnet belly shirt had a sealed copy CLASS REUNION MASSACRE Continental Big Box under his arm, and I was blown away. I asked him where he got it and I shot down to the shelf, but there was nothing of that caliber left for taking. I wanted to wrestle him for it, but he looked like he could boogie down, so I let it be. It still amazes me.
SF: As should be obvious by the name of our site, we at DIAG are huge advocates of intoxicated movie enjoyment. What is your favorite intoxicant of choice for inebriated VHS viewing?
JS: This is gonna be on the internet, right?! Let’s just say if I told you, I’d get paranoid about it. (Insert Sweet Leaf riff here.)
SF: Going hand in hand with the last question, everyone out there has favorites and if they don’t they must be lying. What are some of your favorite tapes, either because of fantastic/oddball content, the difficulty you’ve had in tracking them down, or just because it’s a damn fine movie?
JS: Oh, so many! MICROWAVE MASSACRE on Midnight is permanent fave, both because of the awesomeness of its existence, and it was also a really early tape for me, and one of my first big boxes. It really got me into collecting. My OG copy of MOTHER’S DAY because I just love the movie, and I’ve had it since I was 14 or 15. LUNCH MEAT for the same reason. Had that one forever, and it obviously was a huge influence on me and what I’m doing now! My CAMP big box of VIDEO VIOLENCE, because I got it early, and now it’s signed by Gary and Paul. I got to meet them while doing all the stuff for the DIEHARD VIDEOVORE DELUXE EDITION of VIDEO VIOLENCE. Gary wrote the wrong name on it, and had to scratch it out and re-write mine. The whole experience was just amazing altogher. It’s priceless!