Interviews with Great Folks #4: Q From Mr. Roboto Project

August 3, 2012 § Leave a comment

Hi! Tell us who you are! What’s Roboto?

I am Mike Q Roth.  I am a founding member of and a longtime Board of Directors member at the Mr. Roboto Project.  Roboto is an all-ages, cooperatively-run, DIY show space and community space started in 1999.  From November 1999 until February 2010, Roboto operated out of storefront in Wilkinsburg, a neighborhood just outside the Pittsburgh city limits on the east end of the city.  We took about a year and a half off and opened a new space within the Bloomfield-Garfield section of the city in the fall of 2011. When Roboto first opened we decided to have a zine library.  We had some great donations from personal collections to get our library started.  Ryan Hughes (CLP librarian) used to do zine reviews for Slug and Lettuce, so he literally had boxes of zines to donate.  After a few years, the area where we had the zine library began to suffer from some water damage from leaks in the apartments above us.  Due to this, the collection was moved to a space next door and eventually ended up getting boxed up into storage in my attic.  With the opening of our new space, we decided to dedicate a section in the front room to a smaller curated selection of zines from the greater collection.  We rotate these out every couple months.

Why did you start the project?

Roboto started out of a need for a space where we could consistently do punk/hardcore/indie rock shows.  We wanted to create a space that was not under the control of only one person or a small group of people.  We wanted a space that would outlive the interests or profit motives of any individual.  Hence the cooperative model. The zine library was something we wanted to do because at that time, zine culture was still a very important part of punk culture.  These days there still is interest in zines within punk circles, but I feel like overall like zine culture and punk culture have shifted in their own directions; yet at the same time they definitely share values such as DIY.  Our zine collection is important if only that it shows the history of punk rock that Roboto evolved out of.

How has the project been for you to do? What have you learned/enjoyed/experienced??

The zine library has almost always been a back-burner project at Roboto.  We had an initial push to really organize the collection and create a database of all the zines we had in the collection and to create a way for people to check out zines, etc.  Ultimately a lot of that fell by the wayside because people either lost interest, or we just didn’t have the time or we ran into issues like the ongoing water leak issues that forced us to consolidate and box things up. We also found that the collection just seemed a bit daunting.  There were so many zines and people might pick through them occasionally but there wasn’t a good way for someone to decide what’s good or worth reading. For these reasons this why with our new space, we decided to only put out a small portion of the zines and have them be curated.  That way we have maybe a dozen zines on top of the bookshelf that are easily accessible and maybe another 40-50 zines down below that someone can pick through easily.  Pittsburgh has never had a really active zine culture like Portland, so we’ve learned that this approach means more people might take the time to sit down and really interact with a specific zine. One of the really interesting things for me is going back through the collection here so many years after most of this stuff has been collected (we probably haven’t had any significant additions to the collections since 2005 or so).  It’s obviously fun to stumble upon the zines that I personally donated to the collection and other zines I’ve read, but its fun to recognize some zines now from their creator’s current projects.  We have a copy of Boingboing from when it was a zine and not a website.  We have a copy of Pucker Up, Tristan Taormino’s sex zine.  It’s interesting to see how these folks used zines as part of their evolution into something more.

Why are zines important to you?

Zines are important because they are our history, especially of our indepedent/underground cultures.  As great as new media such as blogs, messageboards, websites etc. can be for sharing ideas, expressing emotion, capturing moments; they are fleeting in many ways.  Every once and awhile I’ll either be digging through the collection or going through some drawers at home and i’ll stumble upon a zine and it’ll bring back memories of a specific time.  Five, ten twenty years down the road you could stumble upon that zine again and be reminded of “oh, this is the zine that made me re-think my stance on…” or “that girl that i dated gave me this zine the first time we hung out.”  The chances of stumbling upon a blog post from 5-10 years ago is less likely.  Zines are tangible history.

Tell us anything you feel moved to!

If you are interested in helping organize/curate the Roboto zine collection, please get in touch.  As of this time, those of us involved with Roboto don’t necessarily have the additional time and energy to make the best of our collection.  However, Roboto does have other resources — space, money, and yeh, a big pile of zines — that would allow a motivated individual to really make an impact.  You could be that person.  Contact us at or stop by the space during any event at 5106 Penn Ave, Pittsburgh, PA 15224.  We also have lots of great bands playing and other great events:  check out our calendar at


– Jude

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