Of Alchemists Past and Where They Are Now

After three and half years and 184 issues the last copies of The Alchemist hit stands and was then no more, but then that is not exactly the case – a powerful mixture of space, ink and spirit had left pages with words that some of us can still remember, words that still effect us and the choices that we make.

In 2007, Alchemist founder Noah Stroup, then a musician with a degree from Oregon State University in philosophy found himself tired of what he felt was the iron pyrite being passed off as arts and entertainment coverage in the area. So he began to design his own experiment. One July morning, he wrote down his hypothesis on a Sessions beer coaster. “Corvallis Weekly,” it said, “Independent ‘art’ paper.”

Noah, told Cindy Dauer in an interview that the name The Alchemist was inspired by Paulo Coelho’s 1988 novel, The Alchemist. As a child, Noah had been given a copy of the book which tells the story of a young boy trying to fulfill his personal legend. Noah admitted that at eleven years old, he didn’t really understand the message.  Years later, during the winter of 2007, Noah took a cross-country train ride from Corvallis to his home state of North Dakota. He brought the book with him and read it again. This time he was 25, and he recognized the message immediately.

The newsweekly started as a ‘zine and later moved to a tabloid format, but always there was a visceral sense of the cultural composition of Corvallis – musicians, artists, writers, entertainers, students, locals, and business owners were the lifeblood of the Alchemist’s often beautiful and sometimes challenging pages. Cindy Dauer, an ex-staffer at The Alchemist observed that Noah envisioned an independent weekly publication that would provide a soapbox for the voiceless while promoting the community, et al.

Two years in, Noah found himself juggling his involvements with two bands – Pseudoboss and Stairway Denied – and The Alchemist. He then invited Courtney Clenney and Stanley Tollett to join him as part-owners and oversee The Alchemist’s revamp into a full-size newsprint tabloid – both came with journalism backgrounds in design and editing.

In a 2011 interview with Nancy Raskauskas at The Gazette-Times, Noah said, “When we were a zine, I didn’t feel that the ‘zine had any integrity to protect – just that they (the contributors) had the opportunity to express themselves.”

Once The Alchemist became a tabloid it started to delve into news and other coverage while still permitting contributors to run under pseudonyms, it drew fire for some of its editorial decisions such as an unsympathetic column about a 13-year-old rape victim. At the same time; it covered homelessness, the gay community and the underground subterranean vibrancy of Corvallis with thought and heart stoking clarity.

For whatever the failings may have been, The Alchemist achieved artful chops not often seen in a newspaper, even many an alternative weekly and it offered tantalizing glimpses of cultural crannies that would leave one wanting more.

In the end, losing The Alchemist hurt, it charmed itself into our company and became part of who we are as a community – but this seems to be the nature of things, that everything and everyone keeps moving.

Alchemist Players Now and Some Others Too

Noah moved back to Bend, but he still drops by Corvallis frequently. He will be at the Majestic as the lead singer in his Led Zeppelin tribute band, Stairway Denied this upcoming Saturday and he continues to be involved with other music projects as well. One visit back to Corvallis to play a benefit concert proved especially poignant as it also occasioned him proposing marriage from the stage to his longtime girlfriend – she said yes. Noah is pursuing post grad study in counseling.

Courtney Clenney left for the warmer climes of Austin where she is studying to add some design chops to her already considerable writing talents. We believe Stanley Tollett continues to live here in Corvallis.

Some months after The Alchemist shuttered, local musician Roy Crowe and others formed a group to start another weekly ‘zine, The Corvallis Weekly. At about the same time, The Corvallis Advocate started developing plans for what you have in your hands right now — but that is another story, literally.