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 

1 comment:

  1. One of the funny things about the band Rigor Mortis was the bassist. He used some sort of aerosol spay for his bass between songs. I asked him why after their set, and he responded with: "it makes me play the songs faster"