Wednesday, April 30, 2014

The Punk Rock Fanzine affect

Zines, the goodwill ambassador of Punk. 

In my opinion, punk fanzines (zines) have always been an essential element of the culture. They are a snapshot of any given scene and can be made by anyone willing to put in the time and effort into creating one. They can be written by hand or by typewriter and, now days, a computer. Generally zines included photographs of bands, friends, record reviews, interviews, gig reviews, opinions, rants, drawings, collaged clippings from other media sources, and most of all, the personality(ies) of the author(s). The trials and tribulations of making a zine is purely a labor of love.  Many hours go into the writing (poor spelling and all).  Then there is the daunting task of arranging the layout. When that’s finished, the next undertaking is scraping whatever funds you have available or saved-up and taking it to the nearest copy shop or printer. You’re lucky if you know someone who can hook you up, like a cool parent with an office job or if you can sneak into the copy room at school. Most of the time it will cost you more to make than you’ll get back trying to sell them. More often than not, your friends won’t have money to support your cause so you end up giving most away. 

Local record shop Wax Trax had their own as well as a label. 
Zines are a valid art form, a means of expression, a ground-zero documentation of a time and place. Zines bring people together, cause fights, provide information, help bands get known, and most importantly give the author(s) a voice. I made several in my time ranging from music-based to more of the artsy variety. There is definite satisfaction in collating the pages and stapling them together to later drop off at local record stores or showing up at a gig with a stack in your hand.     

Denver promoter Headbanger published Rocky Mountain Fuse. 
Another gem from the vaunts: Anarchy Annie, the voice behind Arche-Type Morality would have these inane shouting matches with the Denver Skins outside in the dirt parking lot of the Packing House..."GBH sucks" "No, Crass sucks"...    
One of my favorite memories about going to shows was seeing people walking around selling their zines and passing out fliers. I religiously collected both. Most fliers were taped to my bedroom walls while the zines were passed amongst friends, almost never to get them back. The ones I did manage to keep in my possession were the two major ones, Flipside and Maximumrocknroll (MRR). What I liked about MRR were the record reviews.  It served as a portal to learning about new bands. The ads on almost every page catered to my consumer needs.  Jimmy and I ordered a lot of records that way. The gossip, bitching, and name-calling that went on in the letter section were usually saturated with drama and closely resembled a milder version of a Jerry Springer show. Best of all, MRR consistently came out on a monthly basis so it was documenting a fluid and tangible movement.  The magazine still continues to be relevant and a credible source of information for punks. It’s been a couple of decades since I last bought an issue, but I’m glad it’s still going strong and serves the community. I am still convinced the reason why I wear glasses is because of the original small type MRR used; they had to cram a lot of words into a set number of pages.

The political heavy MRR both unified and polarized the scene. In their defense, I thought they had good intentions.  
In comparison to the heavily politically pages of the bay area’s MRR, Flipside’s attitude and approach was un-mistakenly Southern California. I would jokingly call it the People Magazine of the punk scene because it had a tinge of glamor to it; maybe it was the glossy cover. The interviews were casual and personable and there seemed to be a loose timeline between issues.  Basically it came out when it did. What I especially liked about Flipside was the classified ad section in the back.  It was something MRR lacked in the early days.

Flipside wasn't afraid to explore the sometimes obnoxious and absurd elements of the scene. They were a bit more open and less dogmatic than their counterpart in the bay area.  
I always enjoyed collecting things growing up and I probably picked-up the habit from my dad who was an avid coin collector. My dad got me started with a few of his doubles from his collection, that and football cards became a huge obsession for me in elementary school. A couple of years later that behavior carried over to fliers, zines, and records, most notably anything Sex Pistols related.

I was on a Sex Pistols quest starting back in the summer of ‘82. I had the obligatory Never Mind the Bollocks album, plus the single album version of The Great Rock'N'Roll Swindle (with the cool painting of the band on a sinking ship) and a couple of singles I found at Independent Records near the Aurora Mall. Then it snowballed from there. While I was scanning the classifieds of Flipside in early ‘83, I came across an ad from another obsessive Sex Pistols fan and contacted her. That was the start of a friendship that still continues to this day. Analen was my new pen-pal and since she was from LA, I thought she had better insights into the punk scene, at least better access to more shows, record stores and places to buy cool stuff like Creepers and band shirts. Aside from the Sex Pistols, she was into a lot of other cool bands and turned me on to them by sending me mixed tapes. At the beginning of our friendship we’d get letters from each other about once a week.  It was something I looked forward to coming home to after a long day at school. Through her ad, she amassed a nice collection of live shows, demos, records, and other memorabilia of the Pistols and she was nice enough to copy them for me. I always thought this gesture of sharing is what exemplified the punk ethic.

The Great Rock'N'Roll Swindle single album version cover is still one of my favorites to date. I especially like how tough and bulky the artist made Sue Cat Woman look. 
Around the date of Sid Vicious’ death anniversary I got the idea to make a flier about him. I gathered magazine clippings and band photos I had collected and walked over to the copy shop. I spent an hour in there making a collage to the effect of: “Remember Sid, make his death an international holiday” flier. The following day, I handed them out to friends, posted a couple on the lockers and walls at school and sent one to Analen. In response she made and sent me her own version.  Aesthetically it was much better than the one I created. It was rad to have a friend who was on the same wavelength.  

A more updated version.
As the letter writing between Analen and I continued over the years, I got the opportunity to stay with my cousin Veronica for a couple of weeks in LA during the summer of ‘85. I was stoked that I would get to be in what I thought was the epicenter of punk rock. Veronica was responsible for turning me on to skateboarding back in the summer of ‘77.  We were the same age and it was interesting to see the how different we had become by the time we reached our teenage years. Sadly, Veronica went to summer school until the afternoon so I was left to my own devices at the house alone and had to invent ways to keep myself busy, which included listening to Veronica’s Iron Maiden albums and attempting to mow her parent’s lawn. The lawn-mowing incident didn’t go so well. I discovered the grass in LA suburbs was a different variety than the one back home in Denver. You can say I was eventually forgiven for creating the massive brown spots on Veronica’s father’s prized green lawn. A word to the wise: Don’t mow another Mexican’s lawn.

Damn straight, don't mow another Mexican's lawn. 
Another highlight of that trip was finally getting the opportunity to meet Analen. Up until then the letters were the only way I knew her. One of my cousins drove me to her house in North Hollywood, where I met her family including her cousin Jennifer, who was a real life, straight out of the movies, Valley Girl. Up until that point, I thought Valley Girls was something Hollywood made-up.  Little did I know phrases like “fer sure” and “totally” and “tubular” and adding "like" at the beginning of each sentence was for real. 

Later that afternoon, Analen’s father drove us to the Anti-club for a show. Analen laughed on the way because I was tripping out on her dad’s digital odometer; I had never seen such. Between the car and her cousin, it was a bona fide cultural afternoon for yours truly.

Wasted Youth was suppose to headline but we sat through the opening bands: Rigor Mortis and Partners In Crime. The latter coincidently played Black Leather, an-after-the-fact Sex Pistols song with Steve Jones on vocals released as part of the super rare “Sex Pack” six-single set from The Great Rock and Roll Swindle soundtrack. The band started the song. Analen and I were all over it, and I think we were the only people in the crowd who knew the song. We approached the bassist after their set, talked about the Sex Pistols and I told him about my band Idiots Revenge. We traded addresses and exchanged a couple of letters thereafter. I hadn’t thought about that afternoon until I saw him again in Tijuana, Mexico about 8 years ago. He was chatting with some of my Mexican punk friends and I kept looking over his way and finally got the nerve to go up and ask him if his name was Perry. He said it was and we talked about the show in LA where we met.  He remembered it well. I asked him what he was doing in TJ. He responded, “My band Agent Orange is playing tonight.” Lucky guy.  

The trip to LA was a definite eye opener and confirmed my convictions that punk was indeed a community and how complete strangers can become instant and lifelong friends. Another revelation was that Valley Girls wasn't just a song by Frank Zappa and his daughter Moon Unit; they were real people and I was scared. There was a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment getting on the plane back to Denver with a new stack of punk records, several band t-shirts, and a couple of heavy metal albums from Veronica since she was transitioning out of her hard rock phase.  But the best part was being away from home, getting the opportunity to spend time with my cousins, meeting Analen, and having my eyes opened from new experiences. The trip proved to be a much-needed kick-in-the-butt to break-up the monotony of everyday cowtown living. When I landed it was time to get back to business with Idiots Revenge.  

Enjoy the song!
Special thanks to Ana Medina and Monica Zarazua for editing 

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Punk Rock nicknames and the continuing saga of Idiots Revenge

What was your Punk nickname? Post yours in the comment section below. 

(Special Thanks to Jill Razer for the nickname research) 
I’m not quite sure where the concept came from that punk rockers needed some sort of nickname. Sometimes people choose their own, but more often than not, they were bestowed upon you. There were the obvious ones like “Spike” of Idiots Revenge because of his spiky hair. Denver’s show promoters had them too: “Headbanger” was an alias Tom used for his fanzine Rocky Mountain Fuse and the name just sort of stuck when people found out. Jill “Razer” said she got hers at a Ramones or Pretenders concert at the Rainbow Music Hall “from this dude and his lesbian friend. They gave me two nicknames: ‘Bertha Earth’ because I lived in Berthoud and ‘Razer Face.’ Fuck if I know why. I thought Bertha Earth was too new wave and Razer Face I didn’t care for, but I liked the Razer part so I adopted it.”  Mike “Brew” basically shortened Brewer.
I was eventually given one in ninth grade, Bob Rob. Mine came about as a necessity for differentiation.  Things tended to get confusing between Rob Wallach and myself.  Two Robs at the same school in the same grade playing in the same band simply could not go on any further. In our circle of friends this all came to a point of contention in the school’s library one afternoon. Rob and I were sitting at a table with an older punker, Mike Lee from Uberfall, and he had come up with a couple of names for me to choose from: Rhino Clit or Bob Rob. I opted for the latter even though the first was a bit edgier. Besides, I didn’t think many people were going to call me Rhino Clit. So Bob Rob it was and the rest of Idiots Revenge thought it would be appropriate to have a song immortalizing my new moniker:
Bob Rob (lyrics: Mark Putt and Ken Neubert)
Bob Rob is a real nice guy
He’ll cut your throat but he won’t cry.
He'll beat you until you're black and blue
But those aren't things he'd like to do.

Bob is bad, Bob is good
He’ll be your friend if you want him to
Bob Rob is a real nice guy
He has no friends we can’t say why.
Bob is big and Bob is bad
And Bob is really awfully mean
Bob is always in control but
Touch him off he will blow

Bob Rob-could care less-of who-you are.
Bob Rob-just wants-his bass-guitar.
With Jimmy off to Alabama, Mark, Spike, and I started to wonder if he was going to come back. It felt sort of strange that someone I talked with on a daily basis for nearly three years was suddenly gone though we were officially on restriction from one another after the kitchen spice-smoking incident. His dad did allow him to make an official call or two from the deep South, that and a couple of letters were our few times communicating. I got most of his updates from his girlfriend Nixon (Michelle) who I talked with on occasion.  Because of her fucked-up home situation, she stayed over at my parents house now and then while things cooled down at her house. This naturally made Jimmy feel a little awkward, though nothing ever happened between Nixon and I, other than lending an ear and safe place to stay for a friend in need. Through all of this my parents were very understanding, because they had in the past temporarily adopted family members who needed some extra help getting back on their feet.

One of the lamest fliers ever made, thanks Brew!

Jimmy returned several months later and decided that Idiots Revenge should move on without him. The band turned into a three piece with Mark and I taking over singing duties. We continued writing new material and landed a couple of shows thanks to Brew who was booking shows at the Grove: an over 18 gothic venue that served 3.2 beer. Colorado was one of the only states where eighteen year-olds could legally buy beer with 3.2% alcohol.  Think of it as a transitional period, baby-steps to the future world of full-service bars. Our first show as a threesome was opening for Ante Bellum and Brother Rat. While Mark and Spike were of age, I wasn’t. There was a strict state policy where I had to obtain a work permit to play such a venue through my school. This meant I had to walk into the school office during summer hours to get the sheet of paper, have an official at school sign it, then ask my parents to do the same all in the name of punk rock. It worked. I showed up to the club, handed over the paper, and with a stamp on my hand, I was good to go. One of the conditions of the permit was that once we finished our set I was to load out and couldn’t come back in. The way around such nonsense was to move the equipment offstage and pack out at a snail’s pace. At least I got to catch most of Brother Rat’s set but missed Ante Bellum entirely. Brew liked us enough to put us on another bill, this time with the disco band, Solid Motion! We never quite figured that one out. I remember him being disappointed with the low turnout. Brew occasionally had a strange habit of matching weird bills including gothic with metal bands with punk bands. That was how we rolled in Denver; no one blinked an eye billing an industrial band like Human Head Transplant and a street punk oi band like Uberfall.  
Made with a "borrowed" pen from school.

Mark and I decided that neither of us wanted to sing fulltime and embarked on finding a fourth member. We tried out a couple of vocalists, including a guy named Tom Vanderbeak from way out in Littleton. It took him about two hours to get to practice on public transportation since he didn’t own a car. He had a shaved head with the tiniest spiked patch of hair that closely resembled a golf tee. He stayed for dinner one evening and my dad asked him if he liked to play golf. One of Tom’s hobbies included dropping acid, which was apparent after having a short conversation with him.  
My brother Tom left this illustration at the house when he was on leave. I felt the need to reappropriate it. 

Prior to our Grove shows in the summer of ‘85, Spike joined another band, Basic Black made-up of Big John who had recently left Uberfall, the newly arrived Toledo Pat who had a brother in Denver and wanted to escape the Midwest summer heat of Ohio, and Jet Black (Bart). This meant that we would have to change practice spaces again to Pat’s brother’s house. We basically toured the property, starting in the dining room, then moving to the basement and finally the shed. Spike would usually endure back-to-back band rehearsals. Big John often stuck around and perhaps out of sympathy to our plight as a struggling band, offered to become our new front man on the condition that we adopt a stylistic change in our brand of music. His idea was that we should expand on our tongue-and-cheek approach, something that would be less of an inside joke in exchange for songs that were lyrically more biting and universally offensive to bum out all elements of the scene. We all felt that punk was taking itself too seriously and bands that mocked serious issues were few and far between. He wanted to pick up where his former band, The Strap-On Dicks from California left off, which included rewriting some of their material to make it ours. Thus our brand of Idiot Rock was born.  To be continued.
"ok, we're going to take one of the Uberfall songs I wrote 'oi Uberfall' play it backwards real slow and pretty. We're going to call it 'Little Girls' and people will like it. 

To hear an Idiots Revenge practice from the summer of 1985, click here.
Special thanks to Ana Medina and Monica Zarazua for editing