Front and Center

By Victoria Austen Moon

Unbeknownst to most of us here in Louisville, one man started a tiny revolution in 1991.

Frustrated both by the celebrity culture we live in and also by the poor content of many independent 'zines, Scott Richter set out in 1991 to create a 'zine that featured interviews with normal, everyday people answering the kind of questions that get to the heart of human personality: how many people have you kissed in your life, and do you wish the number was higher or lower? Do you respect Rodney Dangerfield? Do you have an interest in space travel? Have you ever had a near-death experience?

The answers to these questions led to a quietly successful little 'zine titled K Composite Richter published erratically, fitting it in between his work at Initial Records and his tours with the successful underground band Metroschifter. Quiet, that is, until Sassy picked up an issue of the `zine and hailed it "Zine of the Month". From there, it was read and remarked on by such prestigious publications as Rolling Stone, The Chicago Tribune, Harper's and National Public Radio's show "Talk of the Nation".

Yet even with all this great press, Richter still only had the time to publish occasionally - after all, besides running a successful music label (Slamdek), and touring regularly with Metroschifter, he worked as a graphic designer and publicist with Initial Records and ran on the Reform Party ticket for Louisville's mayor in 1998.

The bottom line is, Scott was just a wee bit busy.

Enter Mark Brickey, front man of the Louisville-based punk band The Enkindels, vegetarian, occasional diplomat and businessman. He and Richter hit it off while both worked at Initial Records and in 1999 took out a business loan, got a downtown office, and got serious about K Composite. Last month, touting themselves as "pro-Coca Cola, pro-Reese Witherspoon, anti-Ryan Phillipe, pro-Gap, pro-Britney Spears, pro-broccoli spears, anti-golf, pro-24 hours, anti-Pepsi, non-carnivorous, pro-movies in Swedish, anti-going the speed limit, pro-Ariel, anti-Ursula, pro-Jesse Ventura, anti-Times (the font), pro-20% tip, pro-Simpsons, pro-Futurama, pro-Regis, anti-Windows, pro-WWF, anti-WCW, pro-Michael Moore, anti-hippies, non-smoking, anti-parking on the dance floor, anti-reduced fat, pro-"handy" as a noun meaning cellular telephone, pro-virtual high-five, anti-New Orleans, anti-Winn Dixie, pro-corn on the cob, anti-KIA Sportage, pro-barbeque sauce, pro-onion salt, and pro-movie theaters with stadium seating,"., they dropped the first bimonthly, slicked-up, 4-color-covered version of K Composite with its complementary website onto the American landscape and based on how the magazines' history has gone so far, things may never be the same.

Before they go off and get too famous, I caught up with the two of them recently at Thatsa Wrap on Bardstown Road and decided to give them a dose of their own medicine.

VM: Why did you decide to take K Composite to the next level?

SR: I've never been able to decide what I wanted to do with my life, and this is one of the things that has always been on my list to do, so I decided to try this for a while and see what happens.

VM: How did you come up with the concept and format of this magazine in the first place?

SR: I'm not sure. I think I was just looking for something different. There are tens of thousands of magazines and they are all pretty much variations on just a few themes: some are fashion, some are music, some are celebrities, some are homes and architecture, whatever. And as far as I know, there's nothing else out there like this. I should say something really deep her e-

MB: Do it, man, do it!

SR: - like how this magazine is showing how special all these people in my life are, because it's basically just interviews with friends and people we know, but it's just something that I find interesting.

MB: The thing about K Composite's format that drew me to the project is the fact that all interviews right now in major magazines - I'd say 95% - are complete bulls*t. They're all advertisements. Publicity people get these gigs for these folks and they go in there and talk about what product they're getting out, and then you go out and buy that record, and you are a part of that interview. So many people that are famous - people the public know about and have started to care about - really the public knows very little about. People who are obsessed with Tom Cruise and his movies have no idea what kind of hot dog he likes to eat, or who his favorite baseball team is. Those are pressing issues to me. I think we're trying to do something different, and I think if Rolling Stone adapted our way of making a magazine, then we might start interviewing people and asking them about their upcoming movies and records.

SR: We would?!

MB: No, I was being sarcastic.

VM: I have to ask - why pro-Britney Spears? Because I have to be honest here, I have an issue with that.

SR: Yeah? Well, more than just a 17-year-old girl from Louisiana, she is a cultural phenomenon. We listen to her record at the office. Now, obviously she didn't write any of those songs, so if the songs are excellent she has a nominal contribution to that, but - I don't know - it's enjoyable. It's funny.

MB: I am pro-Britney Spears because I like the idea that somebody took white trash from Louisiana and made it into a complete icon. To me, that's amazing. So many people work behind a corporation called Britney Spears. It's a lot like simulated wood-grain finish in that it's just plain and it's just there, but if you get a lot of people behind it, all of the sudden - pow! - it's wood. I guess a lot of people don't think she's the best role model for little girls with having breast implants and all that, but on a pop music level, her songs are amazing. I'm a simple man. I like things at face value, and I just like the songs and I think she's a cute girl.

SR: Wow. I think I'll let you take all the questions.

VM: So what are your favorite hot dogs?

SR: I believe we're both vegetarian, so I would have to say Not-Dogs.

MB: I like the chili-dog flavored Not-Dogs.

VM: I'll have to try those. I tried one brand and really didn't like them.

MB: They're really good. You boil them in water, and then put them on a bun and put them in the oven with cheese over it. They're excellent. But I have to say, the one thing I really hate about being a vegetarian is when I was a kid my grandma - struggling lady that she was - would make hot dogs for us and then we would drink the hot dog broth in little cups.

SR: That is disgusting.

VM: [Trying not to form a mental picture of children drinking hot dog broth in her mind] are you balancing your music career with your publishing career?

MB: Everybody has a day job.

SR: I'm going on tour all of November, and our next issue comes out December 10th, so we're trying to finish up the whole issue by the end of October and then the ads and stuff will be plugged in while I'm gone. That's an example of how things might work.

MB: All the other guys in the band might have jobs, like working in a tire store and still are in the band. We just go to work at a magazine instead of a tire store.

SR: I like tires.

VM: So - you're pro-tires!

SR: Yeah, pro-tires.

VM: Everyone in the media right now is involved in making cultural statements to the point that I'm not even sure what a cultural statement is anymore. Do you feel K Composite is turning all that on it's head?

SR: If it is, it's not intentional.

VM: What are you hoping people receive from this magazine?

SR: I hope people will enjoy it enough to want to see the next issue and our website [ ]. To remember it and discuss it with their friends.

Having already achieving cult status (at least, one lady at the St. James Art Fair deemed them a cult and started warning passersby away from Richter and Brickey like an apocalyptic prophet), K Composite is hoping to go glossy by next year, and - like The Brain of "Pinky and The Brain" fame - plan to try and take over the world with even greater national distribution. Meanwhile, their current issue is on newsstands everywhere and their website features completely different interview questions than those in the magazine.