Tachyons+ Transmits #5: Lunchmeat VHS Zine

Posted by on December 17, 2015


The past few years and beyond (for all you future dwellers), we’ll all have witnessed the return of VHS to “prominence” via underground, with musicians releasing VHS tapes, labels cropping up, reissues of impossible to find shot-on-tape films, and boiled down right to the point by creative heads (video artists, VJ’s, etc.) using the medium for glitch and capturing their works on fuzzy analog tape. The appeal is easy to understand compared to the sterility of DVD technology. We find a collective of wandering freakazoids in a wasteland of thrift stores and flea markets searching through old tapes on VHS, not at all unlike DJ wizards after vinyl. Avoiding the pitfalls of mold and ruined tape. Somewhere in a basement or attic, they exist, breathing and waiting.

Within this melee of analog warmth and destruction, we find the wise guidance of Josh Schafer, the brains behind the Lunchmeat VHS zine, a  printed mag featuring interviews with super obscure producers, creators from the 80’s, plenty of folks still involved today in horror, sci-fi and the incredibly strange multiverse perpetuated in the realm of VHS. Confused? Well, lets rewind it all with with Josh Lunchmeat and see whats it all about…


Tell us about the Lunchmeat.
Lunchmeat is a print and online publication dedicated to the appreciation, celebration and preservation of the VHS format. We review flicks only available on VHS, interview actors, directors and other cult personalities tied to the video era, and really just explore all of the wonderful, exciting and obscure pieces of video era culture that wouldn’t really get any airtime otherwise. It’s basically a love letter full of video era nostalgia with lots of fun coverage thrown in, too. I started LM with my buddy Ted back in the mid-2000s because we really didn’t see anyone else covering these rad VHS-only flicks in print. We wanted to do something cool, tangible, independent. We had no idea if people would react, etc. We’re stoked people are into it, and that it’s helped VHS culture in some way get some recognition and revival.

I started the online blog a few years ago mainly to keep up with all of the VHS culture that’s happening now. Tons of fresh VHS labels and one-off releases are happening all over, and I use the blog to help keep people up-to-date on that kind of stuff, along with general news on analog-inclined artists, VHS-centric events, cultural interests and excitement, etc. The blog combined with the LM social media (@LunchmeatVHS) really allows me to get the flash / in-depth coverage split that you need nowadays to stay relevant, I think. I just want to keep sharing out as much VHS love as I can; I want to turn people on (or back on) to the format, show them all the groovy stuff happening with the format, and take a look at the culture as it continues to grow, mutate and expand.


Why do you think the current underground of VHS collectors is so healthy?
Healthy? I don’t know about that! Avid? Yes. Elitist? Traces of it for sure. Obsessed? Definitely. I think people are really high on nostalgia right now, especially people of my age range and a little older. The frenetic pace of today’s society is scary, man. I mean, everything is right there, right now, in your face, you can’t stop, now you’re distracted, wait… no… here’s this distraction… what was I doing? Oh, wait… what’s this? 5 seconds… it’s done. Transience. We live in a world of perpetual transience, where nothing really lasts anymore, and it’s all about the next thing. I think VHS collectors are infatuated with that physical, tangible part of media, of a movie experience, this radical hand-held piece of art that you can watch, collect, trade and learn about. I think VHS collecting can really connect you to a different world: the movies, the content, the aesthetics, the culture. It all equates to an outsider kind of world driven by a “dead” format and a ton of entertainment history, and I think there are a lot of people that find pleasure in that. Plus, it’s just a fun format to collect. You never know what you’ll find next, and you never know where that will lead you. VHS collecting is like an adventure that never really ends. Once you start, it’s hard to stop. It’s just fun, and addicting… and you watch some of the craziest entertainment ever made. That’s essential.

I also think the underground has grown because of online forums (Horror VHS Collectors Unite! and VHS Misfits), and that connects people instantly with images, information and like-minded individuals. It mixes the modernity of everything with the passion for a nostalgic format, and I think it’s created a lot of expansion. This, mixed with larger mass media coverage (NY Times, etc.) VHS-centric documentaries, and all of the other activity within the culture, it’s made the idea of collecting VHS more accessible, and shown people what it is. It has an allure for a certain kind of person, and I think those people are finding it and diving in.


Whats currently in yr VCR?

Tell us about your collection? What are some of your favorite tapes?
Well, let’s see, I stopped counting a little while ago, but I probably have around 4,000 or so? That’s about 12 years of serious collecting and trading, etc. It’s a lot of horror, sci-fi, comedy, exploitation, classics, cartoons and special interest tapes, but I have an assortment of everything for sure. I also have about 100+ fresh VHS (read: new release stuff). There’s a lot more of them out there, though. There’s a ton of new VHS releases, man. It’s impressive. Favorite tapes? My Midnight Video big box of Microwave Massacre, my Best Film and Video copy of Mother’s Day, The Pit on Jetline, this bootleg copy of Little Giants that I’ve had since I was a kid and the Monster in My Pocket cartoon tape that comes with a glow-in-the-dark MIMP figure. That’s probably one of the coolest VHS tapes ever.


Any modern VHS releases you wanna share with us?
Well, there’s the doc I co-produced with VHShitfest and Horror Boobs called Adjust Your Tracking. If you want a fun, informative look at the VHS collecting culture, that’s a good one to check out. There are labels popping up all over now, but check out Horror Boobs, King of the Witches, Massacre Video, Nemesis Video, The Trash Pile, Trashmonger Video, Vultra Video, SRS Video (Sub Rosa), Bleeding Skull! Video, Secret Lair, Briarwood Entertainment, Nightforce Video, … man, I know I’m forgetting a ton of people and they’re gonna be like, “DUDE!” and I’ll be like, “I’M SORRY!” but seriously, there are new VHS releases happening all the time, and the Lunchmeat Blog / social media features a lot of them. Be sure to tune in and check out all the fresh VHS action, mang.

Next year, I’ll be releasing America’s Deadliest Home Video with Camp Motion Pictures. I did full liner notes for that, and it’s a VHS re-issue (only like 100 original copies exist) and first time digital release. The movie is amazing, rare SOV, and I’m stoked for more people to see it. It stars Danny Bonaduce! Wild, fun, retrospectively influential stuff.


Do you have a VCR that you love the most?
Right now, it’s my Panasonic Omnivision TV/VCR with the deck embedded in the top of the TV. It’s just such a sturdy machine, and you really don’t see them all that often. Just a really cool VCR, IMHO.

If someone wanted to get into VHS collecting, what would you say to them?
I feel like there are two schools (at least) of VHS collecting nowadays: there’s the collector that goes after the super VHSexy tapes, with killer aesthetics, historical merit, tapes that are highly sought after and coveted by other collectors precisely because they are so bodacious, beautiful and damned hard to come by.

And then there are people that are looking for tapes from their childhood, which usually leads to looking for more obscure material, everything from weird SOV obscurities, to public access talk shows, experimental stuff from the 90s, special interest tapes, mind-melting kid vid, and just like the weirdest shit possible. If the bug really gets you, you’re inevitably going to walk deeper down the rewind path. That’s not to say there aren’t people that go for both kinds of stuff, but I do perceive a bit of a dividing line in the culture based on those essential preferences. I’m more of the latter. I still go after stuff like old cartoons that I don’t think are on DVD, ton of weird special interest, and of course, horror, cult and exploitation stuff I’ve never heard of and want to see.

But, overall, just have fun with it, man. Go out in the wild and dig deep. Try stuff out for a quarter. If it sucks, it was a quarter, and I guarantee no matter what it is, if you take it for a spin in your VCR, you’ll gain SOMETHING from it. Even if it’s just a “WTF?” moment. Collecting VHS is all about the experience, and the attainment of mass analog knowledge. And fun. Did I mention fun? Cause that’s really important.


Have you tried cutting up VHS tape and snorting it?
Nah, not my style but you can totally smoke out of one…