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Dedicated To Print – Headmaster Inspires Creativity & Conceptualism Through Its Visionary Content – The Mr. Magazine™ Interview With Matthew Lawrence & Jason Tranchida, Editors

May 23, 2015

“My background is as a writer and Jason’s is as a graphic designer. And we got to a point where we were both doing a lot of work online and we wanted to make something that we would be able to actually pick up and hand to somebody and say that this is what we’re doing.” Matthew Lawrence

“This is our creative outlet as well as a business, so it’s sort of like: this is our project and we can do whatever we want. (Laughs) I’m excited because there are so many parts of it now that have a structure; we know roughly how many pages there are going to be; we know its distribution and we’ve got the concept down, so now we can really have fun with it.” Jason Tranchida

headmaster2-2 Headmaster is a biannual magazine that is for the man-lover. It’s sophisticated, sexy and extremely thought-provoking. Artists, writers and photographers are given assignments and through their own vision are allowed to create projects that become content for the magazine. It’s an interesting concept with two very savvy and smart captains at its helm: Matthew Lawrence and Jason Tranchida.

I spoke with both gentlemen recently about the magazine’s past, present and future. It was a no holds barred conversation; from the sexual preference of the magazine’s contributors to whether it was easier or harder to produce a gay magazine today than 25 years ago. It was an enlightening discussion that was reminiscent of the magazine itself.

So, I hope you enjoy the Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Matthew and Jason, two men who are definitely ‘Headmasters’ of their creative future.

But first, the sound-bites:


Headmaseter_Press_Photo On the story behind Headmaster magazine:
(Matthew Lawrence) Primarily it’s a magazine with original projects and the concept behind it is that we find artists and writers that we like and we give them assignments to do those original projects for the magazine. So, everything between the pages is made for Headmaster.

On the early days of the magazine:
(Jason Tranchida) Originally, there were four Headmasters, actually, who started it off and conceptualized it. We all came from diverse backgrounds and we were all magazine and book lovers. We really wanted to do some sort of print publication.

On why they chose a print product:
(Matthew Lawrence) My background is as a writer and Jason’s is as a graphic designer. And we got to a point where we were both doing a lot of work online and we wanted to make something that we would be able to actually pick up and hand to somebody and say that this is what we’re doing.

On a major stumbling block they had to face: (Jason Tranchida) I think the stumbling block probably, because it is a physical thing; one of the stumbling blocks was distribution. And obviously, we say that we’re a print magazine, but we couldn’t survive also without digital media, of course, in terms of communication and that type of thing.

On the most pleasant moment: (Matthew Lawrence) The most pleasant moment for me actually is when we get to meet our artists. Each issue has about nine artists and writers in it and we try to maintain that relationship with them by staying up-to-date on their careers and what they’re doing and sort of bring them back into the Headmaster family.

On the description ‘curators’ when it comes to their main role with the magazine:
(Matthew Lawrence) I think you’re right as far as thinking it’s a curatorial process, because we do have generally nine, sometimes ten, artists per issue and we try to strike a balance of photographers and writers.

On whether all the contributors of the magazine are from the LGBT community:
(Jason Tranchida) Mostly, but not all. But it’s not a prerequisite to being a contributor for Headmaster. It’s a balance.

On their main source of revenue:
(Jason Tranchida) It’s selling the magazine, a bit of advertising, and we started something recently, which goes back to what we said about maintaining a relationship with our artists; on our website we have what we call the Alumni Shoppe, and it’s all work done by our contributors that’s done outside of the magazine.

On where they see the magazine a year from now:
(Jason Tranchida) It’s the 8th issue and obviously, we’re very proud of the 7th issue, the current one, but we’re also excited about the next one too. I feel like it’s going to be something very special.

On what keeps them motivated to get out of bed each morning:
(Jason Tranchida) Coffee. (Laughs)

On anything they’d like to add:
(Matthew Lawrence) We live in Providence, Rhode Island, which is where the magazine is based. It’s an extremely creative city, but also small. Which for us is a bit of a plus and a minus, but I think that being able to live in a city where you can do things creatively, projects like Headmaster, and be able to afford the luxury of doing that, is probably what keeps me getting up in the mornings.

On what keeps them up at night:
(Matthew Lawrence) Coffee. (Laughs)

And now the lightly edited Mr. Magazine™ conversation with Matthew Lawrence and Jason Tranchida, Editors, Headmaster.

Samir Husni: Matthew, can you tell me the story behind Headmaster magazine?

Matthew Lawrence: Primarily it’s a magazine with original projects and the concept behind it is that we find artists and writers that we like and we give them assignments to do those original projects for the magazine. So, everything between the pages is made for Headmaster.

Samir Husni: Jason, I see that you’ve been there since the very beginning of the magazine, back in 2010; one of the Headmaster’s.

Jason Tranchida: (Laughs) Yes, Exactly.

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Jason Tranchida: Part of us did stay behind. Originally, there were four Headmasters, actually, who started it off and conceptualized it. We all came from diverse backgrounds and we were all magazine and book lovers. We really wanted to do some sort of print publication.

The backstory of how it all started is we all got together every week and had some beer and wine and enjoyed some of our favorite books and magazines and tried to come up with a concept for a magazine.

We kind of knew what we wanted; a digital arts magazine, but we got to a point where we wondered how we were going to get content for it. So, we started actually giving assignments to each other and doing some work ourselves to get things flowing. But the name hadn’t come along yet. Eventually though it all just started coming together.

I think a lot of artists really like getting assignments and most people that we’ve worked with have been really excited by the challenge and the focus of having to do a project that we conceptualize for them.

Each assignment is actually written specifically with that person in mind, so no two people get the same assignment. Different types of artists shouldn’t have the same assignments as some, so we fit the assignment to the particular artist.

That’s how it all started and then over the years it just became Matthew and I, because the other two have other obligations and realized it was a ridiculous amount of work that you have to put into a magazine like this. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) I hear the phrase ‘we live in a digital age’ from people all of the time and my typical answer is always the same: yes, I know. Why did you decide to create Headmaster in print rather than a digital entity on the many different and personal platforms out there?

Matthew Lawrence: There were a couple of different reasons. My background is as a writer and Jason’s is as a graphic designer. And we got to a point where we were both doing a lot of work online and we wanted to make something that we would be able to actually pick up and hand to somebody and say that this is what we’re doing.

At the same time, we still liked a lot of print magazines and there seemed to be a huge influx of print magazines that we liked right around the time that we started, so we were never really interested at all in having Headmaster be a digital project.

Samir Husni: When the magazine was launched in 2010 and even until today, we are seeing more and more of the upscale, expensive print magazines aimed at specific communities. Over the years what was the major stumbling block that you had to face and overcome, besides losing two of your Headmasters?

Jason Tranchida: Well, we solved some complications and then made some others. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too)

Jason Tranchida: I think the stumbling block probably, because it is a physical thing; one of the stumbling blocks was distribution. And obviously, we say that we’re a print magazine, but we couldn’t survive also without digital media, of course, in terms of communication and that type of thing.

Distribution was something that we both had to learn. Matthew had a little more experience with that because he’d once worked in a bookstore and knew the ins and outs a bit more about distribution than I did. I had designed a lot of books for clients; I never had anything to do with the distribution. So, that was a big stumbling block.

We’ve learned a lot about that though, going to book fairs and things like that. We’ve also learned that there are plenty of people out there who want to hold the magazine in their hand.

Samir Husni: And what has been your most pleasant moment since the first issue came out?

Matthew Lawrence: The most pleasant moment for me actually is when we get to meet our artists. Each issue has about nine artists and writers in it and we try to maintain that relationship with them by staying up-to-date on their careers and what they’re doing and sort of bring them back into the Headmaster family.

Our contributors are from all over the world, so there is a large amount that we never get to meet. But we do have those great moments when we’ll go to a city and run into someone we’ve worked with. For example, we were in Miami last December and the very first person from Seattle that we ever gave an assignment to, who we’d never met, actually showed up there for an event we had. It was really nice that five years later, we finally got to meet in person someone we’ve maintained a relationship with. So, those are some of the most satisfying parts of my job.

Samir Husni: Do you feel like you and Jason are curators? That each issue is like a museum and you’re inviting people in for the tour? I noticed that each issue has a theme; Issue 7 is The Field Trip Issue.

Matthew Lawrence: We did the first three issues without a theme for each one. Issue 4 we had women contributors entirely and Issue 6, rather than give our writers written assignments, we gave them other assignment prompts; we sent somebody a score of music and we sent somebody else a bottle of Vodka. Theming the issues is sort of a way for us to keep it interesting for ourselves.

And I think you’re right as far as thinking it’s a curatorial process, because we do have generally nine, sometimes ten, artists per issue and we try to strike a balance of photographers and writers. More and more we’re working with artists who are into interdisciplinary things, where we might not even know what we’re getting.

Samir Husni: Are all the artists in the magazine that you select; are they all from the LGBT community or do have a diverse group?

Jason Tranchida: Mostly, but not all. But it’s not a prerequisite to being a contributor for Headmaster. It’s a balance. For example, in the second issue the person who did the photo shoot of the Rugby outfit was a wife with two kids. The work just had so much masculinity in it that she just sort of fit into the issue as well. Some might say all the work has to fit into the queer cannon, but that just opens up a huge debate on what is queer, which can mean a million different things, so the artists themselves don’t have to be a member of the LGBT community.

Samir Husni: In reality, the content is what makes a magazine, so as long as the artists have the same vision of what the magazine is all about; it makes no difference whether they’re gay or straight or anything else.

Headmaster1-1 Jason Tranchida: Exactly. And that’s kind of like our magazine’s tagline: the biannual art magazine for man-lovers and the man-lovers reference is just a convenient way to be specific and completely non-specific at the same time. It may seem silly, but I think it gets the point across. Who’s a man-lover? Anyone can be a man-lover. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Laughs too) We’ve come a long way since Out Magazine was first published and before that it was The Advocate, but really I consider Out to be the first mainstream gay magazine that was available everywhere. Do you think it’s easier today to publish a gay/lesbian magazine than in, let’s say, 1990? Is the industry more accepting now or not? I mean, I looked to see how many ad pages you have in the magazine and I didn’t find very many. Although, we know a lot of businesses and companies that are owned by gay people are still advertising only in mainstream magazines. Do you feel there is a conflict of interest here somewhere?

Matthew Lawrence: That’s a complicated question.

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Give me a simple answer.

Matthew Lawrence: (Laughs too) I think that in some ways it’s probably easier now to make a magazine like this, because I can only think of one instance where we picked up a new store and sent them however many copies they ordered and they called us immediately to return them because they weren’t OK with the content, where 20 years ago I don’t know if it would have been just one store that would have reacted that way.

As far as advertising goes, that’s something we’re always trying to figure out. We’re a pretty small publication; we only print 1,000 copies of each issue. A lot of people aren’t interested in advertising with that small of a market to begin with.

Jason Tranchida: I would say that it would be kind of hard to differentiate. I don’t feel like when we approach advertisers, for example, that it’s so much an issue of the content; we try to get the physical magazine into their hands and they realize the quality of the publication itself. I would say our problem in getting advertisers is the fact that it’s a niche market and we’re a pretty low-run, limited edition type item. After five years, it’s still a major piece that we’re trying to figure out.

Samir Husni: So, circulation and selling is your major source of revenue?

Jason Tranchida: Yes, it’s selling the magazine, a bit of advertising, and we started something recently, which goes back to what we said about maintaining a relationship with our artists; on our website we have what we call the Alumni Shoppe, and it’s all work done by our contributors that’s done outside of the magazine. So, that adds content to our website and we sell items that would speak to the Headmaster audience, whether it’s limited edition prints or T-shirts or bathing suits, which our artists have made. And that’s become another source of revenue for us. We launched that about a year ago. We were brainstorming on how we could expand the brand a little bit and increase our sources of revenue and we came up with this idea.

Samir Husni: If I’m speaking with you both a year from now, where would you like Headmaster to be at that time?

Matthew Lawrence: We’ll have our 8th issue out by then, which we’re not really talking about yet, but it’s going to be the most conceptual concept issue that we’ve done yet. That’s funny, I feel like we should have a more definitive answer. (Laughs) Some sort of big plans or something. But I don’t think we actually do. (Laughs again)

Jason Tranchida: It’s the 8th issue and obviously, we’re very proud of the 7th issue, the current one, but we’re also excited about the next one too. I feel like it’s going to be something very special.

Samir Husni: Maybe something like: only in print, a special issue where you can only read that particular issue in print. (Laughs)

Jason Tranchida: (Laughs too) Exactly. As for any long-term future plans, we might just take this to the 10th issue and then do a book-type publication, where we put the artists’ work from the last nine issues together. That’s something I’m really excited about because there are projects in Issue 1 that I want to see next to a project in Issue 6, just because I think that they speak to each other in a special way, content-wise.

And I also think that Issue 10 will be where we evaluate and see where we want to go from there. I think that we’ll always do some sort of project called Headmaster, whether it’s the magazine or that sort of launches into something else. I think that will be a good time to reflect on what we’ve done and see which direction we want to take it.

This is our creative outlet as well as a business, so it’s sort of like: this is our project and we can do whatever we want. (Laughs) I’m excited because there are so many parts of it now that have a structure; we know roughly how many pages there are going to be; we know its distribution and we’ve got the concept down, so now we can really have fun with it.

Samir Husni: I love your quote that this more of a creative outlet, and a business, but it’s a passion. That’s what I tell people about my job; it was my hobby when I was nine-years-old and reading and collecting magazines, now people pay me for it. (Laughs)

Jason Tranchida: (Laughs too)

Samir Husni: What motivates Matthew to get out of bed in the mornings and get excited about his day? And what motivates Jason to do the same?

Jason Tranchida: Coffee. (Laughs)

Matthew Lawrence: I also like coffee quite a bit. (Laughs too)

Samir Husni: (Laughs) Is there anything else either of you would like to add?

Matthew Lawrence: We live in Providence, Rhode Island, which is where the magazine is based. It’s an extremely creative city, but also small. Which for us is a bit of a plus and a minus, but I think that being able to live in a city where you can do things creatively, projects like Headmaster, and be able to afford the luxury of doing that, is probably what keeps me getting up in the mornings.

Samir Husni: My typical last question; what keeps you up at night? Matthew first?

Matthew Lawrence: Coffee. (Laughs)

Samir Husni: (Also Laughs) You both are starting to sound like me. I fall asleep drinking my cup of coffee and if I don’t finish it, I wake up later and finish the rest of the cup. (Laughs)

Jason Tranchida: (Laughs too) Matthew often falls asleep with coffee next to the bed.

Samir Husni: Thank you.

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