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I accepted an internship at Paste Magazine shortly before graduating from Ohio University in 2006 with a Bachelors in Journalism and Certificate in International Marketing Leadership. Following Spin and Rolling Stone, Paste was the third largest rock magazine in an era when magazines were still consumed. The publication was thick and layered, adorned with introspective journalism and a sampler CD (and later, DVD) that became a pop culture compass.

In one form or another, I would contribute to the publication for the following 11 years. I started as a freelance writer and photographer, and then became a local blog editor for their New York City portal, finally taking over the publication’s Live Music, Photography, and Comics sections as an Editor proper. Those years offered an education in writing, editing, and freelancer management, as well as building relationships with publicists, studios, and publishers. I witnessed the era of print ebb into online publishing, accompanied by the new frontiers of SEO and SEM. Underneath those sea changes remained an unshakable passion for good art neglected by bigger magazines and sites. Personal highlights include features on Terry Gilliam, John Linklater, Tim Schafer, Neil Gaiman, Markus Zusak, the remaining members of Jefferson Airplane, and countless others. (You can find most of those pieces here.)

By the end of my stay with Paste Magazine, I’d written and/or photographed over 600 contributions and edited over 1,000 pieces. Here’s a brief sample of the things I worked on.

WRITING

Paste  resurrected their print format briefly in 2017, including an oversized format with a sampler  vinyl . It was lovely. For its debut issue, I wrote about my great grandfather, William Scott, a World War I soldier who drew comics in the trenches of southern France. The piece became a manifesto on the importance and versatility of the comic book medium. ( Read it online here. ) It would eventually land me an exclusive to DC Comics’  Mister Miracle  announcement.

Paste resurrected their print format briefly in 2017, including an oversized format with a sampler vinyl. It was lovely. For its debut issue, I wrote about my great grandfather, William Scott, a World War I soldier who drew comics in the trenches of southern France. The piece became a manifesto on the importance and versatility of the comic book medium. (Read it online here.) It would eventually land me an exclusive to DC Comics’ Mister Miracle announcement.

Years prior to the above feature on my great grandfather, I wrote  Paste’ s  first cover feature on a comic book :  Saga  by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. In my 4,000-word feature, I argued that the series is the most human depiction of love available in mainstream media, despite the fact that it revolves around two aliens fleeing two galactic armies.

Years prior to the above feature on my great grandfather, I wrote Paste’s first cover feature on a comic book: Saga by Brian K. Vaughan and Fiona Staples. In my 4,000-word feature, I argued that the series is the most human depiction of love available in mainstream media, despite the fact that it revolves around two aliens fleeing two galactic armies.

Nobody remembers The Bridges, but I’ll never forget this group of alt-country siblings. They were part of a cover feature heralding the next wave of trailblazing musicians, including Janelle Monáe, Bon Iver, and Jamie Lidell. This interview was my first exposure to the way magazines used to be made: hiring European photographers (in this case,  Pier Nicola D’Amico ) with a small army of assistants at studios in New York City (in this case, Milk Studios). I was on the set interviewing the band alongside Deputy Editor Jason Killingsworth, the man who gave me my first break. D’Amico took turns with each band, eventually capturing a  group shot  of all the musicians. It was the first time I saw the forest from the trees of what a monumental, lavish effort a good magazine required to see print. The internet may be more accessible, but what it offers will rarely be as ornate and labored.

Nobody remembers The Bridges, but I’ll never forget this group of alt-country siblings. They were part of a cover feature heralding the next wave of trailblazing musicians, including Janelle Monáe, Bon Iver, and Jamie Lidell. This interview was my first exposure to the way magazines used to be made: hiring European photographers (in this case, Pier Nicola D’Amico) with a small army of assistants at studios in New York City (in this case, Milk Studios). I was on the set interviewing the band alongside Deputy Editor Jason Killingsworth, the man who gave me my first break. D’Amico took turns with each band, eventually capturing a group shot of all the musicians. It was the first time I saw the forest from the trees of what a monumental, lavish effort a good magazine required to see print. The internet may be more accessible, but what it offers will rarely be as ornate and labored.

I like actress Jane Levy and I like horror movies, so I wrote  a feature on the 2013  Evil Dead  remake  courtesy director Fede Álvarez. Levy was also an immaculately friendly interview. She endured a hellish shoot, mirroring the trials of the actresses in Alfred Hitchcock’s notorious productions. She wasn’t supposed to talk about her various hardships during the shoot —which landed her in a hospital bed—but she did. I spent all of Easter writing about it in a coffee shop in Columbus, Ohio. The piece balanced her enthusiasm with the fact that she had suffered painfully for her art.

I like actress Jane Levy and I like horror movies, so I wrote a feature on the 2013 Evil Dead remake courtesy director Fede Álvarez. Levy was also an immaculately friendly interview. She endured a hellish shoot, mirroring the trials of the actresses in Alfred Hitchcock’s notorious productions. She wasn’t supposed to talk about her various hardships during the shoot —which landed her in a hospital bed—but she did. I spent all of Easter writing about it in a coffee shop in Columbus, Ohio. The piece balanced her enthusiasm with the fact that she had suffered painfully for her art.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Here’s the story of how I became a photographer:

Me: “Hi Austin. I’m going to be at Lollapalooza 20XX. Would you like me to write about it at all?”

Former Paste Magazine Online Editor Austin L. Ray: “I’m good on writers. Do you take pictures? I need a photog.”

Me: “….yes. Yes I do. I am a photographer.”

[Note: I was not a photographer. So I spent my life savings on an introductory DSLR and photographed the festival. The results weren’t atrocious so I kept photographing concerts and bands.]

Any photography education I’d eventually gain would come from my time at C&G Partners, a design firm led by, among others, Steff Geissbuhler, a patron of minimalist Swiss Design. I worked at the NYC agency for two-plus years in a hybrid operations/marketing position. The firm’s designers taught me that every line, shape, and color should mean something. If it didn’t add toward a given message, dismiss it. The technical knowledge would arrive later after the theory took root. Years later at Paste, I would manage a team of photographers for daily photo diaries and festival coverage.

A typical photo gallery on  Paste Magazine , featuring a picture I took of Chvrches vocalist Lauren Mayberry.

A typical photo gallery on Paste Magazine, featuring a picture I took of Chvrches vocalist Lauren Mayberry.

I was an assistant editor at WebMD when I first moved to New York City in 2007, but I also freelanced for  Paste . Sufjan Stevens was performing his symphony, The  BQE , at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, including an encore performance of his studio music. The publicist didn’t have any more spots available for the show, so she invited me to the dress rehearsal. Two other photographers and I took pictures of the entire performance in a completely empty theater.

I was an assistant editor at WebMD when I first moved to New York City in 2007, but I also freelanced for Paste. Sufjan Stevens was performing his symphony, The BQE, at the Brooklyn Academy of Music, including an encore performance of his studio music. The publicist didn’t have any more spots available for the show, so she invited me to the dress rehearsal. Two other photographers and I took pictures of the entire performance in a completely empty theater.

Paste  is responsible for many  big  things and curatorial victories. Its biggest, though, may be introducing the world to The National. The December 2007 issue featured the band on the cover accompanied by the header,  “These six guys made the best record of 2007. Do you know who they are?”  Nobody did. Their name wasn’t even mentioned on the cover—that was the degree of their obscurity. Within a year, the Brooklyn-via-Cincinnati band was rising to the top of major festivals including Lollapalooza and Coachella. Their fifth LP,  Boxer , cemented the group as the saints of 30-something anxiety—perfect for the millennial malaise and financial ruin of the era. I took this photo of lead singer Matt Berninger at their almost-headlining Lollapalooza gig.

Paste is responsible for many big things and curatorial victories. Its biggest, though, may be introducing the world to The National. The December 2007 issue featured the band on the cover accompanied by the header, “These six guys made the best record of 2007. Do you know who they are?” Nobody did. Their name wasn’t even mentioned on the cover—that was the degree of their obscurity. Within a year, the Brooklyn-via-Cincinnati band was rising to the top of major festivals including Lollapalooza and Coachella. Their fifth LP, Boxer, cemented the group as the saints of 30-something anxiety—perfect for the millennial malaise and financial ruin of the era. I took this photo of lead singer Matt Berninger at their almost-headlining Lollapalooza gig.

It’s not that great of a picture, but it is Radiohead.

It’s not that great of a picture, but it is Radiohead.

Saul Williams had just collaborated with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor on  The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust!  and his live performances were never more angry.

Saul Williams had just collaborated with Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor on The Inevitable Rise and Liberation of Niggy Tardust! and his live performances were never more angry.

Taking portraits of bands you love is stressful. Without a studio, any photographer’s options range from a poorly lit green room to the industrial, urban environs that surround most night clubs. I learned to look for shapes and clarity: converging lines, expanses of wall, repeating textures—any way to flatteringly frame and position people who make beautiful sounds. This is Daughter, a British trio that crafts haunting indie rock.

Taking portraits of bands you love is stressful. Without a studio, any photographer’s options range from a poorly lit green room to the industrial, urban environs that surround most night clubs. I learned to look for shapes and clarity: converging lines, expanses of wall, repeating textures—any way to flatteringly frame and position people who make beautiful sounds. This is Daughter, a British trio that crafts haunting indie rock.

Death Grips’ MC Ride

Death Grips’ MC Ride

SONGS ILLUSTRATED

One night I had a dream that Paste published a book of comics inspired by singer/songwriter Neko Case. I woke up, emailed editor-in-chief Josh Jackson, and fell back asleep. Josh emailed me back in the morning and said he loved the idea and would email Paste’s owner to inquire about funding. The owner didn’t love the idea. But Josh greenlit a more eclectic series based on that idea: unite one band with one cartoonist each month. The cartoonist would interpret a song into a scrolling one-page online comic, with input from the band. As the editor fo the series, I selected the music, comic creator, and provided art direction. Select samples below.

M83’s “Go” Excerpt, by James Harvey    This is the most successful piece journalism or media that I published at  Paste . I’d had another comic creator in mind for this collaboration with M83, but the creator’s direction was more spartan and didn’t work for the musician’s neon barrage of synth and style. James Harvey, conversely, created a feverish masterpiece. The work’s success wasn’t due to its page views or social shares; M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez used the art from the comic for the entirety of his merchandise line.  Shirts , tote bags, and mugs all featured Harvey’s fluid, manga-influenced line work.

M83’s “Go” Excerpt, by James Harvey

This is the most successful piece journalism or media that I published at Paste. I’d had another comic creator in mind for this collaboration with M83, but the creator’s direction was more spartan and didn’t work for the musician’s neon barrage of synth and style. James Harvey, conversely, created a feverish masterpiece. The work’s success wasn’t due to its page views or social shares; M83 mastermind Anthony Gonzalez used the art from the comic for the entirety of his merchandise line. Shirts, tote bags, and mugs all featured Harvey’s fluid, manga-influenced line work.

Bear in Heaven’s “Demon” excerpt, by Tula Lotay    Tula Lotay is one of my favorite artists and human beings. She brings a fashion-forward sensuality to every piece of art her brush graces. When she agreed to the project, I let her pick the band, song, and direction. She didn’t disappoint. She calls it some of the best work of her career. It straddles the line between erotic, haunting, and devastating. And I don’t disagree.

Bear in Heaven’s “Demon” excerpt, by Tula Lotay

Tula Lotay is one of my favorite artists and human beings. She brings a fashion-forward sensuality to every piece of art her brush graces. When she agreed to the project, I let her pick the band, song, and direction. She didn’t disappoint. She calls it some of the best work of her career. It straddles the line between erotic, haunting, and devastating. And I don’t disagree.

Neko Case’s “Wild Creatures” excerpt, by Emily Carroll    This was the first entry in the Songs Illustrated series, and it’s no coincidence that it features Neko Case—the seed for the project. Like Tula Lotay, Emily Carroll was a cartoonist I absolutely needed to have participate. A reader can recognize Carroll’s work from a simple glance; ornate, timeless, and often macabre with an underlying playfulness. As with any of these comics, I wanted to pick creators whose work  looked  like the music  sounded . Neko Case sounds like an Emily Carroll comic and an Emily Carroll comic reads like a Neko Case song—especially anything from the album  Fox Confessor Brings the Flood . Given the rustic texture of the inspiring track, I think the two voices dovetailed seamlessly. Bonus: both artists are Canadian.

Neko Case’s “Wild Creatures” excerpt, by Emily Carroll

This was the first entry in the Songs Illustrated series, and it’s no coincidence that it features Neko Case—the seed for the project. Like Tula Lotay, Emily Carroll was a cartoonist I absolutely needed to have participate. A reader can recognize Carroll’s work from a simple glance; ornate, timeless, and often macabre with an underlying playfulness. As with any of these comics, I wanted to pick creators whose work looked like the music sounded. Neko Case sounds like an Emily Carroll comic and an Emily Carroll comic reads like a Neko Case song—especially anything from the album Fox Confessor Brings the Flood. Given the rustic texture of the inspiring track, I think the two voices dovetailed seamlessly. Bonus: both artists are Canadian.

Run the Jewels’ “Don’t Get Captured,” by Jason Latour    Jason Latour receives a lot of attention for creating Spider-Gwen, recently featured in  Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse . He deserves it. I’ll always know him for  Southern Bastards —the grizzled noir he produces with writer Jason Aaron—and this collaboration with electro hip-hop wizards Run the Jewels. Latour distilled the anger, glee, and staccato pace of RTJ into one page of mayhem and political parody.

Run the Jewels’ “Don’t Get Captured,” by Jason Latour

Jason Latour receives a lot of attention for creating Spider-Gwen, recently featured in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse. He deserves it. I’ll always know him for Southern Bastards—the grizzled noir he produces with writer Jason Aaron—and this collaboration with electro hip-hop wizards Run the Jewels. Latour distilled the anger, glee, and staccato pace of RTJ into one page of mayhem and political parody.

PASTE PULL QUOTES

The Paste Comics section, now led by the excellent Steve Foxe, has produced hundreds of thousands of words on sequential art over the course of its existence. Publishers including DC, Dark Horse, and Image put those words on their comics to help sell them. Here’s a sample of some of the coolest quotes on some of the most prominent works. These quotes were all taken from pieces I wrote.

The Sheriff of Babylon  #5, by Tom King and Mitch Gerads

The Sheriff of Babylon #5, by Tom King and Mitch Gerads

Harrow County  #9, by Cullen Bunn and Carla Speed McNeil

Harrow County #9, by Cullen Bunn and Carla Speed McNeil

Trillium  TPB, by Jeff Lemire

Trillium TPB, by Jeff Lemire

The Wake  TPB, by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy

The Wake TPB, by Scott Snyder and Sean Murphy

All-Star Batman  Vol. 1, by Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr.

All-Star Batman Vol. 1, by Scott Snyder and John Romita Jr.