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SORT ZINE CULT ISSUE Derek Ridgers Matt King 2
Derek Ridgers, Matt King

Rose McGowan narrates the rise and fall of a dystopian cult

The occult icon lends her voice to the latest issue of SORT zine, with photographs from Derek Ridgers and art by Michael Salerno – preview it here

Imagine a time when Rose McGowan is the high priestess of a cult-like dystopian world. Side eye me now, but who knows. As we spiral deeper into a fuck-knows-where-we’re-going-type existence, anything could happen.

And in SORT zine’s universe, it already has. Introducing issue 3, whose duo behind it, Joseph Delaney and Matt King, has masterminded a narrative that unfolds over three episodes that detail the rise and fall of a fictional cult. A fourth zine, mostly photos of pierced nether-regions and smutty nudes, shot by Amy Gwatkin, alongside postcards and a poster, is also included for good measure. “To be honest we just got a bit carried away,” says Delaney.

While the pair has mostly kept contributions to a closed circle of collaborators – AKA themselves – issue 3 sees them branch out. Not only to McGowan – who herself grew up in a cult – but also to photographer Derek Ridgers, film director Jacqueline Castel (who has found some incredible archive Genesis P-Orridge footage), Michael Salerno (aka Kiddiepunk) and artist/author Slava Mogutin.

Below we tap into the wicked minds of Delaney and King as they prepare to launch the four-part zine at London’s Vogue Fabrics tonight.

“The narrative around the global political situation is reading more and more like the retelling of some cult-like dystopian world, so maybe it's time to hijack that narrative. If SORT was a cult, I guess these would be our high priests” – Joseph Delaney

Tell us about the decision to go from one zine… to four-in-one?

Joseph Delaney: Narratively – as in an actual narrative arc that runs throughout about the rise and fall of a fictional cult – it's split into three parts, with some fun and filthy extras thrown into the package, one of which just happens to be yet another zine. To be honest we just got a bit carried away.

Matt King: We didn't want to be restricted by showing the format in one printed book like before, so this time it's made up of three main chapters of the story. One lead character features throughout as a kind of Cult Leader and the story is narrated by Rose McGowan.

The first part is the Cult Meeting, like an AA meeting in a dystopian world, where like-minded young meet to discuss their stories and embrace each other. Part 2, documented by Derek Ridgers in a special central booklet, shows the debauchery of the now-hedonistic cult, lots of sex, drugs and.... Part 3 the Cult Commune, where our main characters end up, isolated on a remote nudist beach.

The issue also comes packaged in a giant baggy with a tiny, smutty book of nudes and pierced body parts by photographer Amy Gwatkin, a continuation of part of the previous issue, a series of limited edition postcards of artwork by Slava Mogutin and a poster by us! 

What has SORT been up to since issue 2? And how has your thought process changed around each issue?

Joseph Delaney: The zine acts as the centre of a wider creative studio under the same name, so we've been working on a few other projects including styling two new music videos by noise-pop duo NAKED (that premiered on Dazed recently!), and a three-part film that's also scored by NAKED and another noise act, Never Worse, that will be out shortly after the zine – with a glimpse of them at the launch on election day.

Matt King: We shot a lo-fi lookbook of the merch which we have extended this time. (Merch will be available to buy at the launch night!) We've also been in contact with several independent bookstores and can confirm we are now going to be stocked at Claire de Rouen, Printed Matter (NYC), Magma, Machine-A and more TBC very soon!

Tell us about working with Rose McGowan and Derek Ridgers, how did those names come about?

Joseph Delaney: After coming up with a rough approach and bit of a change of direction, we'd been talking about both of them as the ideal collaborators for the issue – Rose because of her personal connection to the theme and her position lately as a voice for change, and Derek because he's been documenting the dark corners of the worlds we shift around in for decades.

Matt King: Derek has been a favourite photographer of mine for a long time and I've always been inspired by his photographs of the London Punk and New Romantic scenes, a lot of my references come from him! We had this idea to change direction slightly but also keep in mind that each element would somehow be a continuation of what came before. Who better to shoot the underground youth of London in a club?! Rose came in because of the “Cult Issue” theme. As some people may know she grew up in a sect called the Children of God. We've never printed text in this way before and felt that with the changes going on in the world at the moment we wanted a voice in the issue and the idea of starting out own cult or movement. (very much like the backlash of the punk scene in the late 1970's) Rose has also become very politically active and so we felt she was the perfect voice for this issue.

You’ve also got Genesis P-Orridge, Slava Mogutin and, Michael Salerno from Kiddiepunk involved. What are you looking for when curating each issue and how did you come to decide on these names?

Joseph Delaney: This is the first time we've properly involved external contributors, and the approach was actually really simple: is this person someone making work or engaging in a conversation aimed at social and political progression? The narrative around the global political situation is reading more and more like the retelling of some cult-like dystopian world, so maybe it's time to hijack that narrative. If SORT was a cult, I guess these would be our high priests. 

Matt King: Like Joe said, this is the first time we have approached a large number of collaborators to help put this issue together, we're such control freaks and usually create the majority of work ourselves, but this time with a theme and message we wanted to send out it felt like the right thing to do by involving these people. We couldn't ask for better High Priests and Priestesses, Ha!

“If the last issue was our attempt at presenting a view of a world built in true free expression, one that has to hide in the shadows for safety, this is us holding a mirror up to what continually drives us into that space” – Joseph Delaney

This issue sees you refocus on “what is truly severe in 2017 – that which hides in plain sight”. Can you expand your thoughts on that?

Joseph Delaney: What we'd been about before was presenting a view of the world we live in, one of total free expression, and the somewhat mystery-shrouded corner of that world we inhabit is one of relative severity – all noise music, sex clubs and leather. To us, it's something so positive and empowering, but it's historically framed as something frightening. The real evil lies in being forced to grow up inside a system priding itself on freedom, where the reality of normality – really heteronormativity, cisnormativity, monoganormativity, etc. – is at odds with your very identity. If the last issue was our attempt at presenting a view of a world built in true free expression, one that has to hide in the shadows for safety, this is us holding a mirror up to what continually drives us into that space.

You discussed with Hero magazine how much the world has changed since your last issue. Do you see yourselves, as SORT, as political?

Joseph Delaney: This is an interesting one, as everything we do comes as the result of very particular considerations about diversity and representation. However, it's something we do quietly, since the need to explain or justify your position with a brash headline always seemed, to me anyway, kind of contrary to fighting to exist in a place of real equality. However, we understood maybe that meant the message was getting lost along the way, so I guess theming this issue the way we did was our way of engaging with that political conversation and encouraging people to think about it in a different way.

Matt King: It's not so much political but wary of the changes and situations this country (and others) are seeing. 

Lastly, where do you see us (as a world) by the time issue 4 comes around? Or perhaps to be a bit more positive, where do you hope to see us?

Joseph Delaney: We talk a lot about how moments of progression, and specifically moments when art becomes so closely tied with social and political action, come in dark times – and we're definitely in dark times now. I guess we see now as a fertile ground to embrace the anger we're feeling at the fucked up situation we're in and channel it into something positive, whatever that may be. As for the future, a realistic hope is that people be more ready to ask questions: educate yourselves about everything you possibly can, and don't take anything at face value, whether that's a headline on a website or newspaper or the very structure of the system you find yourself in. Also, we hope people vote out the lizard queen today!

SORT launches tonight at Vogue Fabrics. A preview of the three-part narrative noise-scored opera which runs alongside this issue will be premiered at the launch night with the zine and SORT merch available to buy! Line-up includes industrial pop duo NAKED, Young Fathers drummer Steven Morrison's new solo project SOONBE, solo noise artist NEVER WORSE and Antonio Mingot of Club Milagro. Follow SORT and SORT Studio for updates