"Only in Zurich! It's ironic that here in
Southern California, where everything is supposed to be happening all
the time and anything is said to be possible, nobody would ever have
been able to put together a book like yours. It's the ultimate
statement of spirit and continuity."
(Nigey Lennon, composer and writer, Los Angeles)
In the meantime Urbans book has won the "Most Beautiful Swiss Books"-award...
URBAN GWERDER (1944) is a living legend, keeping the issues alive. At the age of fifteen he already was a published poet, a young beatnik, a discovery. In 1966/67 he toured with his poetry-performance Poetenz, a multi-media show consisting of poetry, live rock-music and a movie - from then on he was definitely counter-culture. He made one of the most influential and playful cultural underground magazines of the sixties, HOTCHA!, and became the founder/coordinator for the eurasian branch of the Underground Press Syndicate. Later he published an outstanding fanzine, Hot Raz Times, that was partly based on Frank Zappas work and 'Pataphysics. He built the Zapparchives, sometimes was invited companion on Zappa tours, and wrote one of the first monographies on Zappa. In the mid-seventies he disappeared with his family in the swiss alps and wilderness, became herdsman, farmer, ethnologist, mountain-nomad. Almost twenty years later, 1993 he returned to dada-city Zurich, where he continues with his highly uncommercial writing, maintaining open house and his inspired worldwide cultural and social/human networking (live, not internet), surviving mainly on casual work and exchange. For the last 18 months he's been working non-stop on
IN THE SIGN OF THE MAGIC MONKEY
a highly unusual book, a sparkling crafty juwel, which cannot be filed. It's something that does not exist yet (as a concept): Urban Gwerders collected works from 1959-98, including bonus tracks and rare documents, all gathered by the author himself by lifetime, accompanied by a personal cultural history of the sixties and extensions/continuity thereof unto here and now. All writing, conception, graphics, layout, typography, everything by Urban Gwerder. Several books as parts of one book. Half of the edition has a different alternate cover... the first 1000 copies contain a limited CD with sound-documents... the entire edition contains a special calendar and a book sign... some copies have an invitation for dinner with the author... and so on. Unbelievable. All done in grand book-loving splendour.
Let's try to give you some insight on how this was possible - a very unique story. Friends! A result of Gwerders consequent lifestyle. Since he's never been part of the «official culture» he didn't want any institutions involved. A former HOTCHA!-streetseller, meanwhile owner of a printing office, offered to invest time, work and tools; about a hundred friends (old and young, rich and poor, out of very different scenes) helped with money (for paper, lithos, bookbinder, CD, evertything we had to pay cash), goods (studio use, food, drinks, dope, stamps etc.) and a lot of work (the whole edition was page for page put together by hand because of the different kinds of paper distributing flyers, packing of the extras, transports, etc.). All did this because they like Urban and his work, because they wanted to help show that something like that was still possible. Normally such a book would cost SFr.160.-. The idea was that everybody should be able to afford it, and the way we proceeded made for SFr. 60.-. A great gift. The real spirit of the sixties is competently alive here. Official media is still reluctant about it, but mouth propaganda made the vernissage/ feast a unique event and the book a seller. Who has seen it, loves it. Still «underground», Gwerder got not invited to represent Switzerland at the recent Frankfurt Book Fair (with Switzerland as guest), but his book was the only one several musicians at the final «Swiss Night» made personal publicity for on stage (censored by the media)! Urban: This book is exacly the example of how I would love to see other artists and people I like to be represented.
In Switzerland and Germany it's the book. In Europe there's nothing like it. Is there overseas?