Mass Appeal is a legendary publication among certain pop culture obsessed circles. Born from a humble graffiti fanzine in ‘96 the magazine grew into prominence as a definitive voice documenting New York street culture, evolving and expanding exponentially until the publication folded in 2008. Now the guys are back under the old masthead with writer, DJ, and all round good guy Richard ‘Treats’ Dryden as the newly appointed Editor in Chief. Treats is now steering the direction of a magazine that already has the kind of street cred marketing-types would kill for, despite the fact that they haven’t dropped a new issue yet. We caught a few minutes with him to talk about rebuilding a legacy and the future of the magazine.
Can you introduce yourself for us?
I'm Richard ’Treats’ Dryden of Mass Appeal Magazine. I'm the Editor-in-Chief - I still forget to mention that sometimes. It's so new to me.
How did you get a start in publishing?
I’m going to give you the real story. I was in college in upstate New York, a little small town. I didn't actually study journalism, my major was Mass Communications which covers radio, television, and film. So I figured I'd go really broad and then when I got out of school I’d whittle it down somehow.
Coming out of college I needed an internship. I didn't have any specific companies that I wanted to work for; I could pretty much do anything at that point. I like music and was DJing in college at the time so I figured I could do something in music. I just wanted to apply my knowledge in some form of creative expression. So I applied for an internship at Complex magazine. I was like these guys are cool, they're new, they're hip.
I got the internship and I was there for about six months before I got hired as a staff writer. It was my first job and it was great. It was like I got to do everything I enjoy the most for this magazine. So I was there for about three years and the magazine evolved right in front of my eyes.
Was that under Noah Callahan-Bever (EIC of Complex Magazine)?
This was right before, I was there in 2005 and Noah came in 2007. So for the year that we worked together at Complex it really eclipsed everything in the years before, you know with all due respect to everyone that was there before, but him coming from Mass Appeal really completed the cycle that Complex needed.
For everything that Complex has done over the years to chronicle urban culture in this sense as a guide, to be a consumer-based book, what it needed was Mass Appeal's edge. It happened at the right time. Complex and Mass Appeal where contemporaries at the time so for the two to converge at least staff wise injected this level of a new type of editorial. It was like all right, now we’re gonna do real hardcore graffiti stuff, we're going to be really immersed in these worlds now. We’re not just going to do it from cool trendy standpoint, but because we actually have relationships with graffiti writers and fine artists and rappers that aren't just your flavour of the month. Being at Complex for all those years really did lay the foundation for me.
After that I took a break, I have a steady family that I'm building with my girlfriend so I took some time to do that. When you're in the publishing game it can be a grind, especially if you're working on the internet. I was writing for the Complex site at a very crucial time when we were just getting our voice and things can overwhelm you sometimes, it became my life. And I was DJing at the same time; before my son was born I was DJing around the world for guys like Micky Factz and Theophilus London and a host of other people, doing little guests spots. Building my relationships with people musically that I still was able to carry back into the publishing world. Because your relationships will carry you as a writer, giving you access to places, and people, and things that you wouldn't normally have if you were just a guy writing an article about it. Being at Mass Appeal now has brought me full circle, back to publishing and where I want to be.
So Noah came from Mass Appeal to Complex and like you say he brought a lot of that street edge, what do you think you're bringing over from Complex to the new incarnation of Mass Appeal?
Well our editorial director Sacha Jenkins founded Ego Trip magazine with the founding brain trust of rap journalism, it starts with them. Having that relationship with Sacha and Noah I was able to get to know them, and they got to know me. And seeing what I had done at Complex and what I had done outside of that as a DJ showed how dedicated I was to this art and this industry, it's what I know best and it's all I can really see myself doing.
I've been there at the start for Complex when they were just making that turn, so it made sense to bring me in for Mass Appeal who didn't have a web presence before they folded in 2008. It was like someone who has some understanding of the Internet and is an active blogger and also be a leader. So right now as we're just starting out, we're building a team and it's my role as a leader to build a staff of writers, contributors, photographers, just building our network. That to me is the biggest challenge because now the future of Mass Appeal relies on my ability to be a leader and I tip my hat to those guys all the time, because I've been following them for so many years.
Talking about that online presence, nowadays in publishing it seems like you can't get away with just having a magazine, you've got to have that whole package both online and offline. Do you see that as a challenge for Mass Appeal?
It's definitely a challenge, we now have the web presence and our next goal is the print magazine. It's something we've done before and we know we can do again as a quarterly whereas before it was a bi-monthly magazine.
But it has to be more than that, now you're building a lifestyle. You have to do it through multiple avenues; you have to spread it across different disciplines. You have to create events around your brand now because nothing is consumed in one way anymore, you have to shape it and mold it for the occasion.
As Editor, do you want to set a standard as a global magazine?
Oh definitely, it's going to be a globally minded magazine. In order for it to continue to be what it is and be successful it has to be globally minded. In New York we have a multitude of cultures, it's known as a melting pot, it's a throughway for the rest of the world. There are a lot of immigrants that come to New York to settle down and create a new life, and in the process of that we're so close to them. We're neighbours, we work together, and there's a lot of overlap of our cultures. We're sharing, we're mixing, we're producing new things, and I feel like that is automatically Mass Appeal's entry point to the global sphere.
In the '90's Mass Appeal was really great at showcasing graffiti and rap and street culture at it's climax, what some people would consider it's most nascent period, and now it's just as important, it's a major turning point. We're so excited to be here right now and see where it's going in the next few years. Right now we're just so conscious of every second that goes past, I mean how can you not be?
WORDS: Sean Irving