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Not Dead – a zine that explores contemporary subculture.

Underground England - Contemporary Subculture


UNDERGROUND chats with Jeanie Jean, the creator behind NOT DEAD zine – a rawly impassioned, documentary style diary capturing the influence and impact of punk and new romantic scenes on contemporary youth subculture.

Jess Ralph sits down with Jeanie for an insight.

Hi Jeanie ! What inspired you to first make the Not Dead zine?

The idea came to me during the pandemic, during the first wave. It starts on quite a sad note – I just lost my mum, and my grandmother soon after. All my work had been cancelled or postponed and I felt as if I was just stuck in a box at home. As the restrictions started lifting, I honestly just wanted something to do, a project to get my teeth into that was my own and was about a subject I was already interested in. And that’s when I had the idea. I wanted to start off in London and then branch out, explore different subcultures and people around the country that were seventies and eighties inspired to see if they were still thriving. Because no one was going out [clubbing] at that time I felt that there was this stillness with culture. Everything just felt so desolate. When I started going out and exploring this, meeting new people, it just went from there.

When did you first get interested in 80s subculture?

I really do have my parents to thank for that!

You know when you were young, there might have been a particular sound or song that you heard at a very young age that has stuck with you until this day? My Dad used to play all his 2 Tone and Ska CDs. I remember as a child I thought the beat sounded like a cho-chooing train ! So, ska was the first genre I was introduced to as a child , and from that psychedelic and garage music from the sixties. And of course, that music went on to inspire the punks.

I also remember in 1998 being with my mum, we were in the car on the way back from the supermarket, and Pretty Vacant by The Sex Pistols started playing on the radio. I remember just witnessing this transformation – she cranked up the volume, screaming, singing along. She just became a teenager again! And she said to me – ‘listen to this, this is history’. It sounds very cheesy but that did stick with me.

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Who are your favourite icons of that era?

One of my main icons is Ari Up , who was the lead singer of The Slits. They were unlike anything anyone had ever seen or heard. Because at the time, it was all very well boys in punk bands, but an all-female punk band? No way, that was unheard of!

Ari up was about 14 or 15 when she was in the band, and she even got stabbed just because of the way she looked. They all went through hell – being girls – and the way their sound was. I just love the fact that Ari’s dress sense was so outrageous ; I suppose we’re less shocked by things now but she used wear her pants outside her jeans. She would screech her lyrics, she even once took a piss on stage ! It wasn’t even for the shock factor, she just really needed a wee! Then she’d just carry on singing! The whole band were trailblazers.

I also look up to Jordan [Rooke] , who was part of the SEX shop and a muse of Vivienne Westwood. Bowie will always be my number one. It is funny how so much relates back to Bowie. Because there were so

many icons at that time. I look up to Marc Bolan and Patti Smith as well. To me it wasn’t just their music but their appearance – the androgyny, mysteriousness, the makeup, the hair, the gender fluidity. They still have a huge impact with young people today.

And of course, there’s Joy Division. Ian Curtis’s darkness – he told his story through his lyrics and dancing. I could really go on forever!

What was your creative process in making the zine?

Social media, as much as it winds me up, did really play a massive role in the project; it’s where I found most of my photography subjects. I started with friends of friends, acquaintances. I started researching clubs, events, talks and underground scenes that were happening in London, and up north.

I’d just go along with my camera and see who I could bump into and who I could find.

My mind works in quite a cinematic way – I’ll have a narrative or short story just pop up in my mind and then just find the right person and it’s like a lightbulb moment.

Some people I just bumped into on the street. If I thought they looked interesting I’d just say “Hey! You look amazing , I’d love to work with you, can I take your picture?”. I do specify that what I do is not a fashion shoot – I want the real deal, as much authenticity as possible with every shoot or bit of film that I do.

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Why did you choose to print as a format?

Particularly with the zine , they were [zines] of course very popular 40 or so years ago in the punk scene but while I was at uni there was something of a zine resurgence. I love the feel of them , I love the fact they almost have this dirtiness about them . Having something physical ,

tangible in your hands. I wanted it to be almost like a diary. When I was making the zine , I wanted it to have a timeless feel – that when looking at it you couldn’t exactly place whether it was contemporary , from 10 or 15, or even 40 years ago.

You mention being inspired by the work of Derek Ridgers and Ken Loach in your zine. What historical or archival material did you look at to inform your creative process?

During lockdown I started looking at archive material again. I’m a bit of a geek with this stuff !

I’ve watched a lot of documentaries about punk and new romantic scenes , particularly the Blitz Club era. I’m transfixed by that era. I think part of it was growing up in Bexley, which is quite a conservative little village, you know it’s not the kind of place you’d see any punks or goths knocking around. I’d often think,

“Why am I so different? why isn’t anyone around like me?!”

So, watching these documentaries became my sanctuary. I felt a kinship with these dazzling outrageous bunch of outsiders. Then I started to buy more books, and look at photography from that era, such as Derek Ridgers’s work. His stuff really is the bollocks! When you look at his photos from the gigs, the bars he went to , you can almost smell the sweat and cigarettes! You can also see from the photos these kids were angry, and that reflected how I felt- I didn’t want to be told what music I should be listening to or the ‘right’ way to look. Fuck that! It was a real encouragement to just be your own person and be who you want to be. If you want to go to a club dressed head to toe in rubber – do it! If you want to go dressed as a sponge – do it.

I’m really inspired by British films from the sixties and seventies , that raw documentary style of filming. There’s this film called Up The Junction, set in Battersea, and tells the story of a wealthy girl who leaves her opulent lifestyle to work in a factory. It just really shows the class war politics in London at that time. I then went and watched Kes straight after by Ken Loach .I was just completely blown away by his work. The documentary style of filming was unlike any kind of filming I’d seen before, so far removed from the usual clean cut, epic Hollywood cinema. It was truthful, tragic yet heartfelt and bittersweet. It really changed my life.

From the nineties ,one of my favourite photography books is the Diary book by Corrine Day. Every single time I look at those pictures, even when I’ve flicked through the book 100 times, I see something different captured ; it’s so beautiful yet so harrowing at the same time.

Why do you think youth culture today is borrowing and embracing the aesthetics of 80’s subculture?

I may get stick for this, but I do feel like the last few years have almost been a mirroring of Thatcher’s Britain – we’re approaching another recession, youth unemployment. You could even make comparisons with the cold war and the current conflict in Ukraine. And I think because of that , there has been this bubbling of angry, artistic energy – rising from the cracks of the concrete – with our generation. This new loud, crazy, scary, brilliant new scene of people who are using creativity to try and thrive through this. It’s hard to shock now , but I think the difference is that we’re not intentionally trying to shock anymore for the sake of it , people dressing “outlandishly” is more from the angle of people just embracing their own creativity, making the statement “ I want to be myself”.

Underground England Contemporary Subculture Punk Rock


What’s your take on when people say, ‘subculture is dead’ ?

Such a boomer thing to say! Sorry to sound harsh!

But you know in one sense I understand it’s because yes not what it used to be, and a lot of that has to do with the media landscape. It’s not as televised, or in the papers – you just need to know where to look! You need to explore the subcultural nooks and crannies.

It’s like when people say there’s no good music anymore. And that perception is because the charts don’t exist anymore. You need to make a bit more of an effort to know what’s going on and what’s well. Deep dive the internet for interesting new music, see what gigs are going in in pubs and smaller venues, look for club nights.

One of my new favourite club nights is Wraith. I remember being there, looking around at everyone and having a chat with Parma [ Ham , founder of Wraith Club] and I said, “ Do you reckon this is our generation’s equivalent of The Blitz Club?”. When we look back at photos from now of this club , will they be part of the archives, history, a future generations nostalgia trip?

Sub-culture is certainly not dead, and conversely to what some people might think, the internet and social media are playing a big role in keeping subculture alive.

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What would say the relationship is between this revival and queer culture?

I feel like punk now has really intertwined with queerness, and the LGBTQ+ community. Again, it’s young creatives saying “Fuck you!” and going out, having fun, in the face of societal oppression or government legislation, which is – let’s face it – punk.

I have queer friends who are young creatives and I think punk and 80’s subculture has helped them embrace their sexuality.

What’s next for you?

I’m planning on doing three volumes of Not Dead. I’ve started work already on Volume Two, which is going to be focused more on dark club nights and gig photography rather than straight portraiture. A Lot more mosh pit photos that’s for sure! A much sweatier version of Volume One.

Volume Three is going to be exploring the contemporary rockabilly scene, teddy boys, maybe even some emo and scene kids – my era!

After that , I’m just going to keep my eyes open and see who and what inspires me and what I want to document next. Maybe I just like people.

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The zine is available from Jeanie

Underground England Contemporary Subculture Punk Rock London Music Scene
Underground England Contemporary Subculture Punk Rock London Music Scene Underground


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