Monday, August 07, 2006

You can't say I don't know how to party. For example, there was last Friday night. Pooped from an exhaustive day in the coal mines, I decided to stay home. Plonked myself on the couch, switched the brain off and watched American Pie 3: The Wedding on TV (true story). Got a call from Rich Dropkick, who was finishing work at 9 and wanted to come over and hang out. By all means, I said, but it'll be a quiet one. Suited him fine. So, what did we do? Well, my stupidly fantastic (or fantastically stupid) fanzine collection has been eating away every corner of the spare bedroom the last 5 years, so I've been in the mood of late to box them up and clear a bit of space. I drag 'em out for semi-regular toilet reads, but that's about it. Thing is, unlike my records or CDs, I have never - not once - sold a single music magazine or fanzine I have purchased since I was 14. Every goddamn issue of Maximum Rock 'n' Roll, Flipside, B-Side, Chemical Imbalance, Forced Exposure, The Pope, Your Flesh, Speed Kills, even Black To Comm and all in between (even free ones) I have kept stashed away, for a rainy day.

So anyway, Rich and I were up for a nostalgia trip after I mentioned to him that I'd just finished laying cable to an old issue of Eric Oblivian's uber-fantastic Wipeout! from '93, and he asked me to bring out a pile of zines to peruse. I obliged. You see, Rich and I met through the fanzine-dork grapevine some 15 years back when we were still gormless teenagers living at home w/ our folks. He lived in Brisbane. I resided in Melbourne. We both wrote reviews for Perth's Marcy fanzine, exhanged a letter or two then met up that summer when he headed south for a holiday. People, that's the power of music, bringing people together. Melbourne: Perth: Brisbane. Count 'em: three states. Anyway, sticking to a wad of A5-sized wonders, I laid them out like a poker player and asked him to pick his king. He went straight to the Wipeout! (it was, after all, an issue he didn't own) in question whilst I perused a motley collection of Superdopes, Modern Rock Magazines (even one w/ a letter from me!), Ujakus, Feminist Baseballs and more. I even swelled w/ patriotic pride (or cringed in embarrassment) as I glanced over the odd issue of Woozy, Detox, Ms. 45, Thrash Out, Pagan Grind(!), Stumpy, Kickback (oh, boy... it's too easy), Sure and Circumstantial Evidence. Three things struck me:

1) The early '90s were a Golden Age of Fanzines, perhaps the last great period of the printed word in underground circles

2) Fanzines can be hilarious time capsules into a past world

3) Many of the great fanzine writers, editors and producers of yore are still going strong, in some form or other

For every Modern Rock Magazine, there's a Music Chamber, for every Superdope there's an Agony Shorthand, and then there's Eric Oblivian still allowing jams to be kicked w/ Goner Records, Mark from Ujaku still letting eardrums bleed locally in all manner of outfits, Tom at Siltbreeze now has Siltblog and has restarted the label, Richard Detox has had his name legally changed by deed poll to Richard Dropkick, and more. Some of us have burnt out and faded away, but most fellow fanzine geeks I knew and befriended in the early '90s have refused to bury their heads in the sand.

The time capsule element: drag out any hipster zine from, say, 1990-'94 and you will notice various similarities. You will see ads, interviews and reviews for the following: anything on Majora or Siltbreeze; most things on Shrimper and perhaps a Dennis Callaci cartoon or two; lots of talk on the godlike power of Keiji Haino and PSF Records; mouths a-foaming regarding anyone and everyone who ever picked up an instrument in the nation known as New Zealand, especially if they once bought Bruce Russell a beer; and word upon word upon word on Skullflower, Caroliner, Boredoms, Harry Pussy, Dog Faced Hermans, Finland's Bad Vugum Records, pre-major label Royal Trux, Thinking Fellers Union Local 282, Cheater Slicks and The Mummies, Thomas Jefferson Slave Apartments and mostly anything on Datapanik/Anyway and... well, just check your pile. You will also read breathless rants on the two great pre-punk revivals of the early/mid '90s: Krautrock and '60s free jazz. Oh how excited we all were! Skip to the late '90s and you will see things have changed. How many times can you say "Harry Smith" or "John Fahey"? Pick up an issue of say, Popwatch, from the period and you tell me.

Times have changed. The internet has killed the fanzine star. It's 2006 and no one appears to care for the printed word. I do, but I likely won't be producing them again and nor, judging by the empty fanzine racks I used to find bulging w/ rants 'n' raves in various indie record stores around town, will anyone else. It's a bummer, but an understandable bummer. God knows I do not intend on ever again dragging around boxes of 'zines to snooty record-store clerks, or ringing interstate stores in the vain hope of receiving the $9.65 owed to me for publications sold. But on a positive note, Richard and I had such a blast w/ our cordial-fueled fanzine binge (dude, we stayed up 'til 2 AM!) that we've decided to stage a '90s Revival Night w/our socially challenged music-enthusiast friends. It'll be an evening of Bag Of Hammers and In The Red 7"s! New Zealand lathe-cut 10"s! Ltd.-edition Sun City Girls 78s! Out-of-print Mike Rep and Jandek LPs! Refrigerator and Bugskull cassettes! And we're gonna party like it's 1991-'94!!

2 comments:

Martin said...

Hi Andrew, this is the perfect post to drop you a line to plug my blog, which I've just set up using the name of my old 'zine from the 90's, The Swedish Nurse. Check it out at http://theswedishnurse.blogspot.com. I've added a link to Lexicon Devil as it's a great site, really like your writing and the stuff you cover. Jennifer Gentle are playing here (London) next month so will check 'em out.

Best, Martin

Leslie said...

This made me laugh. As much as I loved zine life, it could be brutal, what with finding a decent place to get it copied and hawking it around and whatnot. I used to actually stand on the STREET and sell issues at one point.