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THE ALTERNATIVES

There's still a burning itch for Skratch

September 30, 2004|Casey Dolan | Times Staff Writer

Apunk teen stands in front of a blackboard, her brow furrowed as she struggles to answer a math problem. The teacher, a gargoyle fragrant with cigarettes and coffee breath, menaces from behind. The teen grips the chalk, puts it to the blackboard, and it snaps.

Welcome to the cover of the recent Back to School issue of Skratch magazine, a music fanzine with more than 120 pages of informal band reviews, an incalculable number of CD reviews, lifestyle columns and ads, ads, ads. It's succeeding beyond most expectations.

"We don't do typical," editor-publisher Scott Presant says. The Tustin-based magazine recently passed its 100th issue with a circulation of 37,000 and an estimated "pass-along" readership of more than 130,000.

It started in October 1996 as a photocopied sheet in a Placentia garage, but developed into something far more interesting. Bucking the collage and mimeograph tradition, Skratch instead opts for glossy, provocative cover art and is a veritable Baedeker of known and unknown bands.

"Six months after we started, I took notice when the circulation rose. Two years later, I saw the potential. There is a need for what we do -- covering underground and smaller bands. The audience is loyal," says Presant, 33.

The writing is unashamedly biased, passionate, expletive-laden, but crisp. The reviews are outrageous and combative. However, it is the vibrant graphic sensibility that immediately connects.

Presant is selective about the artwork. "We didn't want bands on the cover. We wanted to differentiate from that tradition. One cover even listed all the people who owed us money."

He likes to think of Skratch as an honest publication. One ad for a band was rejected because it included a KROQ-FM logo (the station was considered "too commercial"). Small record label advertisers have departed over bad reviews.

Presant toes the indie ideological line, but he's not averse to Skratch continuing to succeed. He'd also like to expand coverage of political themes in the form of columns "where people can rant," and he wants to "jump up" the skateboarding coverage. But the emphasis will always be independent music -- the itch to Skratch.

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Skratch

Info: Free, monthly. Available at music outlets in L.A., Riverside and Orange counties and by subscription.

Contact: www.skratchmagazine.com

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