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Wednesday, December 28

Mike McGonigal, YETI, and the Lord's songs

Aquarium Drunkard talks to YETI publisher Mike McGonigal about his magazine, his work with Mississippi and Tompkins Square records, his love for African-American Gospel, and the future.

"Earlier this month we caught up with YETI publisher Mike McGonigal, the man behind one of our favorite compilations of the year — the Tompkins Square release This May Be My Last Time Singing: Raw African-American Gospel on 45RPM, 1957-1982. A continuation of sorts to McGonigal’s initial collaboration with the label, 2009′s Fire In My Bones, the collection is a three-disc aural journey into the various corners of African-American gospel. Among other things, the below touches on YETI‘s beginnings, record hunting, tracking down source material and future reissue plans.

Aquarium Drunkard: How long have you been doing YETI now?
I started YETI around 2000. Now we do two issues a year plus publishing original books by the likes of Luc Sante and Erik Davis. I’d done a ‘zine called Chemical Imbalance from 1984-1993; I started that when I was sixteen years old with money I made mowing lawns in the neighborhood. Within a few years it was getting an international distribution and each issue had a hard vinyl 7” record with unreleased music from the likes of Sonic Youth, Opal, Faust and the Mekons.

AD: How did the project initially get started.

Mike McGonigal: I started to work on YETI in 1999, a year after moving to Seattle to work as a music editor for Amazon. A co-worker helped fund it initially. I spent much of the 1990s as a low-level hack writer, scribbling wherever I could for ten cents a word and also supporting myself as a bookstore clerk, museum guard, bicycle burrito delivery boy and a grant writer for a non-profit arts organization. When I found myself at a “real” job, even though I was often working ten to eleven hours a day at the job, I found I still wanted to do my own fanzine. I really missed that curatorial thing, the satisfaction I got from putting together an entire issue of a magazine myself—just stuff that my friends and I were interested in, no other considerations aside from that.

YETI hasn’t exactly taken off but there’s steady interest, I guess you could say? Initially there were CDs in each issue. With the new YETI, #12, out next week, actually, we’ve returned to that format – each issue will now bt 8” by 8” and have a 7” single with each one (though I might do a full color issue with a DVD inside it as well). This 7” has the last unreleased Fred McDowell tracks from the initial recording session he had with Alan Lomax, and Grouper covering Dead Moon, and a killer cover of a Duane Eddy song done on a boom box in the early ‘90s by Tiki Men. It’s a perfect little record I feel so honored to be able to release it!" 

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