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"Re-Entry" celebrates Detroit's alternative publishing history

The Orbit logo
Rob St. Mary

Last December, journalist and Macomb County native Rob St. Mary had just gotten enough funding to publish an anthology saluting the work of three independent music arts magazines from the last days of a pre-Internet Michigan.

Re-Entry: The Orbit Magazine Anthology has arrived, packing in two decades’ worth of Detroit’s alternative publishing history.

St. Mary tells us he was a fan of Orbit Magazine in high school, and four years ago he approached the magazine’s creator and original publisher, Jerry Vile, to propose the anthology.

“I had the idea of doing a book that would sort of look at that history and why it came to be and why it had such an impact on me in high school,” St. Mary says. “And Jerry was kind enough to hand over all of that to me, his archive, and put me in touch with a bunch of folks.”

Vile tells us that back in 1978 when punk rock started coming on to the scene, he knew he had to cash in on the fad. And in the spirit of punk rock, he didn’t ask for help to do it.

“Punk rock is super do-it-yourself, there was no instructions,” he says. “It was like, we're going to do whatever the hell we want to do, and we don't care if you like it.”

"Re-Entry: The Orbit Magazine Anthology" cover
Credit Ryan Grimes
"Re-Entry: The Orbit Magazine Anthology" cover

Vile says he was drawn to punk rock because so many people hated it. “This is for me, you know? This would drive your roommates crazy if you played this.”

St. Mary says that Orbit taught him it was all right to have an attitude as a journalist, “that it came from a point of view, and that it was OK to have that in arts and culture.”

On writing and publishing in those days, Vile sums his experience up simply: “We had no business plan and we probably had no business publishing, which is why it was good.”

Rob St. Mary and Jerry Vile tell us more about the book and how Orbit and Vile’s other magazines changed the way they looked at the world in our conversation above.

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