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An Interview with

Billy McCall

Published 2024

Billy McCall

If you took a deep dive into the zine scene at any point over the past few decades, you probably know Billy McCall. If you've even dipped a toe into the DIY publishing world, you probably know Billy McCall aka Billy da Bunny. Billy has a long list of published titles, such as Last Night at the Casino, Behind the Zines, and his long-running title Proof I Exist, for which he won Broken Pencil’s "Zine of the Year" award in 2019.

Not only does Billy publish solo titles and collabs, but he also runs Behind the Zines distro and records music from his home base in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

While thinking of questions for this interview, I was trying to remember how I know Billy. We have crossed paths many times in the physical and digital worlds going back to the early aughts. So, last month, I sent Billy a few questions asking about all of these things and here is the result for your reading enjoyment. —Chris Auman

REGLAR WIGLAR: I know you, Billy, from Chicago, but you’re not from there. You’re from Baltimore originally, right?

BILLY MCCALL: No, no, not from Baltimore. I've lived all over. Many places. Grew up mostly in Iowa, Then Chicago, then New Mexico, THEN Baltimore. I was in Chicago for 10 years, New Mexico for a few, then Baltimore for 2 years. After Baltimore my partner and I moved back to New Mexico, where we live now. I've moved around a lot, but New Mexico was the only place I ever moved BACK TO.

RW: What brought you to Chicago?

BM: I came to Chicago in the year 2000, at the age of 20, to go to film school. Big dreams and Columbia College. I lived there for 10 years, from 2000-2010, the entirety of my 20s, and it was amazing.

RW: I remember when you worked at Uncle Fun in Lakeview. I didn’t know it was you, but I later learned that you worked there and realized, oh yeah, I remember that dude because you seemed to genuinely enjoy being there. I mean, it had fun right in the store name. Was it really as fun as it looked?

BM: It was even better than you may have thought. That place was a vortex of magic, a crossroads of fantasy. A portal where hilarity, absurdity, and imagination came together to create a one-of-a-kind experience. I met my first wife there, I met my second wife there, I met famous people, I met friends who I am still friends with 20 years later. All the most creative people in the world shopped there and I miss it every day.

RW: When would that have been and how long did you work there?

BM: I was hired in 2003, became the manager around 2005, and left when I moved to New Mexico in 2009.

RW: In 2003, my band at the time (RNCD) played at a house show at your apartment which was called The Command Center. I’m not sure how that happened, maybe we met you at a show before that. I don’t remember, but anyway, you invited us to play and it was a great show for us. We have a video of it that someone shot of us using Carol’s (bass player Carol Bales) handheld camera. You have a brief cameo in it btw and someday I hope to post the show on YouTube. At any rate, how many shows did you put on at The Command Center, and what did the neighbors think?

LM: We put on an average of about two shows a month from... Shoot, maybe from 2003 until 2006? It was a hell of a time, and for the most part the neighbors tolerated it, but didn't like it. The cops were called on us pretty regularly, enough to where they knew us by name when they'd knock on the door. I didn't drink back then, so I was always the one to deal with the cops, and one way or another we always worked it out.

I got into the habit of buying a dozen donuts the morning after a show to take to various neighbors, and did all I could to keep things smooth. I have a million stories about that place, and want to write a zine about it some time. Tusk played there once, the biggest show we ever put on, the only time we had to turn people away. About 100 people inside, and another 100 outside, lining the sidewalks. I remember the RNCD show, it was great. I have photos of it. I think I probably met you through one of my other bands, as I was playing in a few different ones at the time.

RW: Fast forward 10 years to when I randomly selected some zines at Chicago Comics, (surprisingly, not Quimby’s) and one of them was Proof I Exist. I read it on the train home and realized, wait, Billy Da Bunny? I know Billy, but by that time you had moved to Albuquerque. I didn’t know that you did zines before that. What prompted the move to Albuquerque and do you still like living there and if so, why?

BM: Yes, lol, the classic "i know billy." (which is my email and my website, and yes, I'm an ego-maniac. But I love it when cool people know me, because I love connecting cool people together. So if you are a cool and fun person, get to know me and I'll introduce you to other cool people!) It's a complicated and personal story about why I moved to Albuquerque the first time, but I was chasing after love, I suppose. Didn't work out, but it took all my money to get there, so I just stayed.

But after moving away, I came back the second time because I really love it here. Chicago is the greatest city in the world, let me state that for the record. But I get more done in Albuquerque, it vibes with my creative process a lot better.

RW: By the way, how did you become Billy da Bunny and are you still Da Bunny?

BM: I've always liked dressing up in animal costumes, especially bunny outfits. I wore one to a zinefest one time, and got so many hugs! Everyone wanted to hug me and take my picture and it was really great. At the next zine fest I wore normal clothes and everyone was like, "Hey, where's the bunny costume?" So I started wearing it for more and more zine events, and then more and more in everyday life.

At one point I had four or five different ones. One was my "nice" outfit that was sort of expensive, one was a shitty thrift-store find that I'd play football in and get all dirty. The rest were somewhere in the middle. These days I only have one bunny outfit, but also have a few other animal costumes as well.

Billy da Bunny

RW: You stopped Loop Distro in 2009, which may have been shortly before you moved. Ten years later you started Behind the Zines Distro (which came after the zine of the same name), how/why did you decide to enter into the distro fray again and how’s it going?

BM: Loop Distro was 100 percent about trying to promote Chicago zines, so when I left Chicago I dropped the distro. But yes, I now run a different distro called Behind the Zines Distro. It was a really terrible idea to start it, I just don't have any free time, lol. But I couldn't help it. I have all these great friends who do great zines, and then never sell them. They make 10 copies, give away five, and do nothing with the rest. This is in part because they are lazy, but in part because they just DON'T KNOW what to do with their zines. So finally I was like, "Okay, okay, I'll start a distro and sell your zines!!" How's it going? It's great! I just added six new things today!

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RW: As for the present, how many zine titles are you currently doing?

BM: As for me, personally, my main zine is still Proof I Exist. I put out #44 in December and #45 and #46 in January. So, still very active. Personal zine, just whatever interests me that month. Then I also do Behind the Zines, which is a zine ABOUT zines. I mostly edit that, don't really write much for it. People like YOU give me awesome contributions and I churn out a new issue every six months. And then lots of one-off zines, new ideas all the time, but those are the two main recurring series.

RW: Any other projects you’re currently involved in or about to begin?

BM: I've been in a ton of bands and put out a solo album of acoustic music, but my latest musical project is solo-electronic music. It's all very experimental for me, I've never made electronic music before. It's basically video game music, made on a device similar to a GameBoy. I'm uploading one song a week for the year of 2024 to the website, under the name Cow Tools.

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RW: Are you able to devote as much time as you’d like to writing and making stuff?

BM: No, not even. I devote a lot. But there is just never enough time. I hardly ever "relax," it's actually really difficult for me. But making things, doing things, that's what I find relaxing.

RW: What would you do if you had 40 hours per week to focus on nothing but creative projects?

BM: Oh, everything. If I ever FOCUSED on one thing, I could probably make a name for myself, maybe make a living. But if I had an extra 40 hours a week, I'd use 10 of it for zines, 10 of it for music, 10 of it for street art, and 10 of it for other miscellaneous art projects. And I sort of did that during the pandemic lock-down. I put out my solo album, for example.

But honestly, it's kind of good to have a job. It pays for all my art projects, but also it really makes me use my free time to the fullest extent. Too much free time actually makes me lazier. When I have a job, I wake up early and do some sort of art for an hour before work, then I go to work, then I try to accomplish just one thing when I get home. But on my days off, holy shit I go non-stop for two days straight.

RW: How do you stay motivated and inspired?

BM: A friend recently asked if I thought that maybe I subconsciously overwhelm myself on purpose, as a way of avoiding a deeper look at my true life and true feelings. It seems very possible, as I deal with a deep-seated depression all the time. Staying busy helps prevent me from crashing or spiraling down into the darkness of apathy. But mostly, when I get an idea, I have to do the idea. And I get so many ideas that they stack up and I'll never actually do them all. But some day I'll die, and I want to get as many done as I can.

So that's the core source of inspiration, just my desire to create. But when I NEED motivation, I just look to the things I love. I listen to DIY punk rock, I read good zines, and I walk around taking pictures of graffiti. I love all forms of art, but those three are what inspire me, so I seek them out all the time. Their art inspires me, so I make art to inspire others, and hopefully we all get stuck in a feedback loop of unending creativity.

RW: Thanks, Billy!

I Know Billy Links:

I Know Billy

Behind the Zines Distro

On Patreon

On Etsy



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