you should read rate of decay, the great $2 toronto punk zine

Librarian and zine veteran Chris Landry’s monthly release is a must-cop

you should read rate of decay, the great $2 toronto punk zine
Rate of Decay issues 1-5, photo by Evan Minsker

Chris Landry made it pretty easy to find Rate of Decay; he interviewed Tyvek—the see/saw bat signal. The Toronto punk enthusiast teaches in the library technician program at a polytechnic, but more importantly, he’s been making zines since the ’90s. Each issue is 16 quarter-size pages with conversational reviews and brief artist interviews. It’s a photocopier-via-Google Docs aesthetic, and each issue is a steal at two dollars a pop. 

Chris had been burned out from zine life since his last one quietly folded around 2015. “I didn’t think I’d ever do one again,” he said. Reinvigorated by punk music, he debated whether it was a blog, a newsletter, how to make it cost effective and still look good. Most importantly, it had to be a manageable project. “I didn’t want to get too involved because it’s something I’m doing on the side in my spare time.” 

He decided to do a zine, which required strict parameters to keep it from becoming too ambitious. The rules included the page count, keep the scope “relatively underground,” and a specific vision for the publication’s voice. For reviews, Chris said it had to be “something where in my real life I might bother someone like oh you gotta hear this band.” He doesn’t abuse his school’s photocopier privileges, noting that the good people at Toronto’s Printorium cut his pages down for him. “At work, they have a sense that I'm involved in zines, but I try to be low key about it,” he said. “I like a break between my subculture life and work life.”

The “manageable” nature of the project has started to become more unwieldy. The first issue was 90% designed in Google Docs, but the layouts have steadily become more elaborate. “What's happening is each issue I'm ruining my life more and more, spending more time on the layout and getting more tortured about it,” Chris said. “It used to take me a year to do a zine—it would be 70 pages and really labored over. It'd all be typewritten or handwritten and letterset.”

Rate of Decay arrives after Chris’ band Zero Bars put out a demo in late 2023. “I was just surprised at how few punk zines I could get reviewed in,” he said. “And anything, you know, I was looking for newsletters. I was looking for everything.” After putting out Rate of Decay, Chris has found so much more in the world of punk media. But the act of making a zine, he says, partially relates to his work as a librarian. “I had too many worries about how music writing from the ’00s is not very well archived, like a lot of it might be considered lost,” he said.

During our chat, I asked Chris about the idea of punk rock sister cities in Canada, thinking about how in the U.S. there are cities that seem to bolster each other like Detroit and Cleveland or Memphis and New Orleans. He answered on the phone by saying he maybe wasn’t aware of any such connections. A few days later, I received some additional zines in the mail with a handwritten note offering a longer answer to my question. I’m keeping it out of this piece as correspondence just for me; I mention it to show how thoughtful and cool of a dude this is. 

The future of Rate of Decay has one certainty: he’s doing 12, one a month across the entirety of 2024. After that, who knows. “And then I don't know if I can pawn it off on someone or if I can get a book out of all of them or if I could just pretend it never happened. We'll see.” What’s for sure is that Rate of Decay always makes for a good mail day.