Lunchmeat ~ Champions of the VHS Format! Rewind or Die!

cats I think it's safe to say most of us spent our childhood cramming VHS tapes into the VCR so we could watch Monster Squad and Teen Witch over and over again...or maybe that was just me. (Rudy, so dreamy, sigh) So in honor of Halloween (the month where movies come alive!) we took some time to interview the ultimate purveyor of plastic rectangular film boxes, Josh Schafer of Lunchmeat Magazine. Haven't heard of Lunchmeat? Well movie mavens, don't miss out! This compilation of VHS awesomeness is the ultimate tome for movie friends and fiends alike. Lunchmeat unearths some old, hard to find classics, not yet digitized, and is sure to turn that tiny adult heart of yours back into the wonder filled one of your misspent youth. Want to know more about experiencing this magical transformation? Read below and let your mind return to the high pitched golden days of that ethereal rewind sound. "Top That!" So tell us about Lunchmeat, what got you started in collecting VHS and what turned that devotion into a written compilation? Hey there! Lunchmeat is a print and online publication that champions the VHS format, focusing on obscure and esoteric entertainment that only exists on VHS. We also cover all kinds of VHS collector culture, offer interviews with exceptional personalities tied to VHS, expose analog-inclined artwork and share basically anything radical that has to do with video era nostalgia! I grew up with VHS and I never stopped watching, so it’s never really left me, but I started consciously collecting around 17 or so. That’s about the time when I really started picking up the more lurid, weird and insane looking tapes, and totally fell in love with it. When I was about 22 or so, I was working for Relapse Records and I met Ted Gilbert. We became fast friends, and took lunch together almost every day where we’d talk about all these weird, cool and obscure movies we had on tape. I was writing / editing for the Relapse Resound catalog at the time as was Ted, and we just wanted to write about something we loved and make something cool, really. We noticed no one was talking about VHS tapes in print anymore (this was around 2006), so we decided to make a print zine about movies you could only experience on VHS. We haven’t stopped since. Since you've been around the ol' VHS block for quite some time now, how is the VHS market emerging compared to the good ol' collector dream days of endless Goodwill and Salvation Army bins filled with unwanted VHS? Oh, man, it’s so different now. I mean, ten years ago, the VHS landscape in the wild was lush and exciting and cheap. I was hitting Salvation Army, Goodwill, flea markets, yard sales: all of the key places you’d think to find VHS, and I was getting amazing, crazy titles for a dollar, two for a dollar, even ten for a dollar. Now, everything is different. LM has of course brought attention to the allure and importance of VHS, but so much has happened otherwise to bring attention to the culture. VHS documentaries (Rewind This!, the LM co-produced Adjust Your Tracking), coverage from the New York Times, and the advent of online VHS-centric forums (Horror VHS Collectors Unite!, VHS Misfits) has completely changed the face of VHS collecting. Prices have gone bonkers. People go out on road trips specifically to hunt down tapes and then sell them online or on the boards. There is a real, fervent and recognized collector culture out there now that is constantly interacting online and in-person at conventions, and that just changes the game completely. Plus, VHS is just not as prevalent as it was ten years ago. VHS was still kind of okay to have on your flea market table 10 years ago. Now, I go up to junk dealers at those markets and ask about VHS, and they look at me like I’m insane…. “VHS tapes? No. Threw those out.” Is a common response. Don’t get me wrong: you can still find rad stuff in the wild, but it’s definitely not like it used to be. I wouldn’t say it’s “dried up” or anything. You just have to dig deeper. Do you think VHS collecting will continue to claw its way out of the past for a massive rebirth like LP's have done? Or do you think it requires a finer temperament, perhaps akin to Venus Flytrap care or bird watching? I think there is definitely a parallel with vinyl in the respect of finding obscurities and lost classics and the experience of that inimitable, real retro feel, but how vinyl is often about a more refined and hi-fi aesthetic, VHS essentially hinges on a more kitschy, endearingly trashy lo-fi aesthetic. I think VHS nostalgia is at an all-time high right now, and it’s really difficult to predict what will happen next. It really just all depends. I don’t think it’ll ever get as “big” as the vinyl resurgence per se. Vinyl re-press and new press is gigantic now. Almost every alternative, rock, underground, and even pop records get a vinyl release with four-figure presses, and are put into major distribution whereas VHS releases are usually in runs of 50 – 500 tops, often done independently. There are a few exceptions that I’ve been involved with that have received major distro, but they’re definitely not the rule. VHS collecting culture is always going to be cult-ish, and I think there will always be a dedicated group of people that champion the format and connect with their fellow Tapeheads. But as far as it growing and becoming a huge retro-revival like vinyl, I don’t know if it’ll ever be that commercial. I do think that the appreciation for the format will continue to be rekindled through the many people advocating for it through independent art. That’s what I hope will continue. How do you think that Lunchmeat honors it's niche market of collectors? You've become an ambassador of sorts for the genre, do you feel like there's any area you want to explore more but haven't quite gotten there yet? It really comes down to three key concepts: Appreciation, Celebration and Preservation. Those are the three things that I try to employ when creating content for Lunchmeat. I try not to shy away from taboo stuff like adult fare and bootlegs because it’s all relevant to the movement and culture; it’s all an integral part of the VHS world, so it needs to be covered. With the expansion of the culture, there’s so much more to consider, so many nuances and views and attitudes. The inevitable by-product of cultural expansion is the introduction of disparate opinions, and I try to address the hot cultural topics with an even, objective journalistic approach. I’d like to continue to do that as the culture grows, and of course, keep digging out the weirdest, most obscure and insane VHS stuff possible. Most importantly, I want to show people how much fun collecting VHS can be, especially if you’re into strange, obscure and nostalgic entertainment. I’d really like to do more coverage on Adult stuff, honestly. It was such a huge part of the video era, and I want to communicate the importance of it and show how totally insane it was. Foreign tapes is another aspect I’d like to explore more. I mainly cover US stuff, but there is a huge collector market for Japanese tapes because they are in the NTSC format. There’s also a great love for PAL tapes, and a lot of collectors buy those just for art, or because they love the film and want every release. I just want to keep expanding with the culture, and keep the coverage as diverse as it can be. The apparel and accessory market for horror is expanding to include some pretty radical interpretations of old horror favorites. Do you see this as something that will re-emerge among the VHS market as well and if so, in what ways? I think in many ways, it’s already happening. I’ve been a part of dozens and dozens of Limited Edition VHS re-issues, those of which often come with tchotchkes, or some sort of limited edition premium. There have been hundreds of fresh VHS releases over the years. It’s pretty impressive, really. More to your point, there’s stuff like the VHS pillow (that is available with a VHS is Happiness face label!), retro releasing label shirts, VHS stash boxes, tons of stuff. I was recently contacted about some VHS eyewear that will coming out soon, too! I really feel like if something gains popularity, people are going to want to do something with it, try to make money with it or innocently just make some cool stuff. I’m not saying everyone who makes something VHS is “cashing in”, but that aspect is there. I think as long as the retro wave is riding high, and VHS is hanging out in the top floor penthouse, people will try to work VHS appreciation into their wares, and there can be as many interpretations as there are artists. Maybe Vans will come out with some VHS-centric shoes soon. Who knows? That would rule, though. I’d buy them. What's in store over the next year for Lunchmeat and how can folks get their hands on an issue of their very own?! Oh, man, so much! I’m currently working on issuing a never-before-released, barely seen shot-on-video release made by Gary Cohen (Video Violence, Captives) and crew, and that’s really exciting since it came before Video Violence, and no one has ever really seen it. It aired once on cable in the early 80s, then disappeared. It totally rules. That’ll come out as a limited edition VHS release hopefully in the next month or so, ready for Halloween. I have a VHS re-issue and first ever digital incarnation of a shot-on-video rarity called America’s Deadliest Home Video coming out next year with Camp Motion Pictures. I did full liner notes for that one and produced the limited edition VHS. That movie rules so much, and I’m really glad it’s finally going to get in front of more people. A French film called House of VHS will be hitting NTSC home video through Vultra Video and LM, so stay tuned for that. It’s a really cool new age haunted house flick about a possessed VCR with interdimensional abilities. I’m excited to bring that to US audiences through a limited edition VHS release. Lots of events, VHS screenings, cool stuff like shirts and stickers and patches, and of course, a new full issue should all be here in the next year. I’m always keeping busy, so I’m sure there’s something I’m forgetting, but the best thing to do is just stay tuned to the site, and all the Lunchmeat social media to stay updated on everything and get your fix of absolute VHS obsession! You can grab issues and all the LM goodies at! You can visit the site at, and it’s Lunchmeat VHS Fanzine on Facebook, and @lunchmeatvhs on Instagram and Twitter. Lastly, thanks so much for the opportunity to talk about my passion and what I do. It’s always an extreme pleasure. Keep Cult Flicks Alive. REWIND OR DIE!
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