Samira Ben Laloua
As the founder and editor of the Rotterdam based NSFW art and erotica magazine Extra Extra, Samira Ben Laloua is no stranger to interviews. Founded in 2013 and now in its sixth issue, Extra Extra is a catalogue of intimate, explicit and compelling long-form interviews where filmmakers, artists and choreographers openly discuss sexuality, fantasies and philosophy. Centering on new encounters with eroticism in modern city life, each issue explores and discusses art, film and music on beautifully soft paper. Heading a small but international team of writers and designers, we wanted to know more about the woman behind one of the most exciting things the Netherlands has to offer. In our conversation, we talked about what makes a good interview, the Netherlands ‘hugging moment’ and whether a woman publishing a magazine about sex is an act of radicalness.
Words by Kadish Morris & Photography by Loes van Duijvendijk
What made you want to publish a magazine about erotica?
Erotica can sometimes be a bit of a corny subject that is lost in magazines. There were a lot of new erotic magazines when we started, so I think a lot of people had the same urge to present it in a printed format. I was very much interested in universal subjects. Before Extra Extra, I had another magazine called Club Donny which was framed around nature. What we do with Extra Extra is we connect very much to culture and city life. The erotic aspect of the magazine is about being softer to one another, and all the gestures that come with that. It’s an interesting topic when it’s combined with city life.
And the name…
Well, when I was a student studying in a city not so far from Rotterdam. There were these rumours that there was this club in Rotterdam named Extra Extra. But it was always kind of a mystery because I could never find anyone who could tell me me more about this club. What do you think about the name?
I was thinking earlier about the name and that it could perhaps be a reference to ‘xxx’ as in explicit adult content
Also the doubling of the words Extra Extra is a lot like taxi taxi or etc etc. These common phrases that are known internationally.
Talk me through the design…
We are a small magazine that is portable and a bit tactile and very much inspired by the Whole Earth Catalogue. It’s a seventies utility guide with all kinds of utilities that you can buy. It’s like a copy and paste pre-Macintosh design. This was one of our inspirations. Another one was Interview magazine founded by Andy Warhol. Very much the newspaper aesthetic – the bold typefaces. The paper is a kind of soft warm paper. We really tried to design something that is friendly and open to the reader.
Looking through the past 6 issues, the cover design hasn’t changed
Yeah. I think the vertical logo is really nice because it is really easy to recognise and to explain to others. It’s distinctive to other magazines because it has this long text element and also, I think the black frame really brings it all together.
“What we do with Extra Extra is we connect very much to culture and city life. The erotic aspect of the magazine is about being softer to one another.”
How big is your team?
Everything is very small. But it’s nice because we are very effective. The back office is really small and all of our editors live abroad, so we are not a conventional editorial setting. We never meet in one room and most of the time, we discuss things through Skype. It works. And if you are small, you can be very flexible. Also, if you are in this hectic world of publishing and all in one room together, it can become very competitive. So creating a group where there is a modesty and appreciation of what another writer does is really beneficial for the magazine.
Do you do all of the decision-making by yourself?
In a way. But there’s a lot of discussion with the others. It’s very difficult to do everything on your own. And it’s really nice to see everyone bringing in their own suggestions.
“It’s nice if people are very open and are willing to share a few elements on their personal life and can reflect on their work and their environment.”
How do you find new ways to explore the theme of erotica without repeating yourself?
I personally feel that because the magazine is connected to different cities and different cultures, that this is the formula for not repeating ourselves. If one issue features Mexico, Seoul and New York, it will be different from Tokyo etc. And of course, our attention to writing. With 4000 words – people can really express themselves. There’s room to tell a bit more than in a normal interview.
What do you think makes a good interview?
It depends very much on the person who is being interviewed. In the last issue, we did an interview with a choreographer who speaks very technically whereas in one if our earlier issues, we did an interview with a Belgium actress whose son had just passed away and so the conversation was very much from a personal perspective and about both mourning and sexuality. It’s very different from person to person. The only thing that we have noticed is that when we try to interview someone who is in the field of pop music, they are very conditioned in the interview and the answers they produce are OK but not really what we are looking for. So it’s nice if people are very open and are willing to share a few elements on their personal life and can reflect on their work and their environment. Artists and filmmakers are easy to interview.
What’s been your favourite interview so far?
I can’t say!
What is the Netherlands attitudes towards sexuality?
Well, the sex work industry in The Netherlands is a tourist thing. I think if you compare the Netherlands to southern countries, people here are much more expressive with their bodies and with their clothing. But we are much more conservative in terms of sexuality. It is progressive and conservative in the same moment. There is this strong sense of morality too. I think being touchy is very uncommon in the Netherlands. Well, we are having this hugging moment now. Everybody is hugging. But it feels a bit forced and unnatural.
Talk me through your week
It’s like every other occupation. Lots of appointment, lots of reading and writing and lots of emails. There’s no real thrills or excitement, but what I enjoy the most is talking to the editors and seeing all the new ideas they have. This is a really naïve answer, but I enjoy seeing all the beauty that is presented. It’s nice that one day, people will connect to what we present. In the first two issues, there was certain distrust to work with us. Now – we can present all of the interviews we have done or show what work an artist has created for us or the photographs someone has sent to us. People are really connecting to it now. I think it’s nice that there is someone that has a certain work, and there is a reader who has a certain idea of life, and the two are able to connect. It’s more than just sending and receiving, but like meeting each other. Even if you physically don’t meet, you recognise his/her way of life and it’s perhaps comparable to your own way of life or your own experiences. So besides the emailing, this is the real interesting part.
Is it satisfying when everything comes together?
Yes it is. But because we are such a small team, we have to immediately see if everything has gone smoothly with the distributor and we have to immediately start working on the following issue.
“I think if you compare the Netherlands to southern countries, people here are much more expressive with their bodies and with their clothing.”
How do you balance work with leisure time?
By meeting lots of friends and family. I’m also one of the very few people who doesn’t have the internet at home. I recommend it to everyone! The internet is wonderful, but it’s also very demanding. I prefer phone calls. What about you?
I don’t call my friends as often as I should because I feel like I may be interrupting them. It feels safer to send a message. But I do like phone calls. You get much more said and it’s much more enjoyable than a text message
Yes. And what’s nicer than being interrupted?
What is the art scene like in Rotterdam?
Compared to other cites – it is really small. But I really enjoy it. I really like living in Rotterdam. You do bump into each other easily, but I guess that can happen in London. There are few institutions here. Unfortunately, Rotterdam has no centre for pop music. It’s much easier to go to Amsterdam for pop music. There used to be one of the largest newspapers here but they moved to Amsterdam. There’s not much going on in the field of publishing, but the city is really transforming at the moment. The profile is changing and for us, it is really nice.
Do you think there is something radical about a woman publishing a magazine about sex?
I honestly don’t know! But it is of course true – that publishing is male dominated. But you could say, what is not male dominated? Figure ice-skating maybe?
“There’s not much going on in the field of publishing, but the city is really transforming at the moment. The profile is changing and for us, it is really nice.”
I think Extra Extra is exciting because it’s subtle but at the same time, doesn’t shy away from the fact that it’s essentially about sex. You see images of nakedness and bodies throughout the issue, but it’s not for the male gaze, it’s about sensuality and creativity and philosophy
We are working on an online version. Erotic but not pornographic. What I like about the magazine is that it can be a present to someone you love or someone you find very sexy!
What are you most proud of and what do you find challenging?
It’s been an adventure that is still continuing. I don’t feel proud of one particular thing, but I really enjoy it. The biggest challenge is to connect more people to the magazine. Perhaps that there are more people working here and everyone has their own personalities is its own challenge too.