Saturday, July 16, 2011

Here's a pointless story from the past.

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20 years of your life sure can go by fast. Two decades ago, I was a gormless second-year student at university, religiously buying issues of Maximum Rock & Roll, Flipside, Your Flesh, B-Side, Forced Exposure and pretty much any fanzine I could grab my hands on; buying records from money saved via crappy temp jobs on a weekly basis from the likes of Missing Link and Au-go-go (RIP to the latter; to the former, we shall bid farewell in the near future) - and if my memory serves me correctly, at 19 I was obsessively into the Boredoms, Die Kreuzen, Chrome/Helios Creed, various SST cronies, Fugazi and just about anyone who'd recorded for the Shimmy-Disc label. I liked to drink cheap booze to the point of oblivion w/ a crew of similar misfits I'd managed to track down via my studies and gig attendances (and I'm still good buddies w/ all of them), and I saw a whole lot of music at venues such as the Great Britain Hotel, The Tote, Punter's Club, Evelyn, Richmond Club, etc. I was, in essence a walking cliche of the times and likely remain one today. But I was having a blast and was finally finding my own feet after the suffocating years of high school.
Prior to the advent of the internet, I was also quite actively involved in networking w/ people from all around the world w/ similar interests, notably fanzine- and tape-trading. These were the days when you'd put pen to paper, spend hours making compilation tapes for people in far-flung corners of the globe and be thrilled when you'd find a letter on your doorstep (these days they're inevitably bills). You felt like you were part of something secret and special, something the rest of the world would never fully get. Obsessive stamp collectors and Civil War fanatics possibly feel the same way.
In 1991 - and I'm guessing it was around September/October of that year when the weather was getting a little warmer and lighter at night - Fugazi toured Australia for the very first time. It was a big deal for myself and my friends, and I went to both of their Melbourne shows. A friend of mine followed them around the country, attending every show they played. At this stage I was in contact w/ Richard Loveday, who was publishing Marcy fanzine from Perth. A tape-trading pal of mine, Kelvin Craig, had sent me a copy of the first issue and it blew my socks off. Loveday was a completely obnoxious and insufferably opinionated smartarse who not only seemed to review just about every independent record from the previous 12 months - it made me wonder where he got his money from; I found out soon that it was from a cushy public-service job and an insatiable quest to buy just about everything from various indie mailorder outlets from overseas (something I very rarely did until I started using Ajax in late 1992) - but also interviewed bands I dug at the time: Die Kreuzen, Beat Happening, Antiseen, et al.
I wrote to him and said that I would like to contribute to future issues in some manner. He gave me the go-ahead, taped about 10 hours of his favourite music for me on half-a-dozen cassettes, some of which was insanely rare and annotated w/ market-value notes next to the song/album titles ("from Necros' Sex Drive EP, est. price $250"; "Deep Wound EP, paid $50, est. price $150+"), and I decided to write some reviews. Some of those are in the second issue of Marcy, which came out in January 1992. I spent a day lugging those issues around the indie record stores via foot and public transport. My good buddy, Richard Stanley - whom I just paid a visit to an hour ago - also contacted Richard Loveday after having been sent a copy via Kelvin Craig (where is he now?, I wonder), and he soon contacted me: relationships born from these circumstances, in some cases, last a lifetime.
Issue #2 of Marcy had my reviews printed, though I was slightly peeved by Loveday's rewording of some of what I'd written (I recall him thinking I was being too negative at times) and vowed that one day I would do my own fanzine where I could say and print exactly as I pleased. That didn't eventuate until February 1993, when issue #1 of Year Zero hit the shelves.
Going back a little, I promised Richard Loveday that I'd interview Ian MacKaye when Fugazi hit town. He agreed that it was a fine idea and encouraged me to go for it. The week prior to Fugazi playing, I saw Spiderbait play one of their late-afternoon shows at the Zig-Zag club in Carlton. Zig-Zag used to host "Rock Against Work" shows on a Tuesday afternoon, w/ bands usually kicking off at about 4 PM. Entry was either free or minimal, beer was dangerously cheap and pizza could be bought by the slice. The end result would often be pizza-caked vomit piles out the front of the venue by the end of the night's proceedings, though a good time was had by all. Folks would skip university classes or leave work early to make attendance, and you could stagger out of the venue at the reasonable hour of 10:30 w/ a belly full of booze and pizza and a couple of local bands just witnessed. Later on, Spiderbait became famous and sold a lot of records, both here and abroad (I've heard they're big in Canada), but at the time they were just local schleps w/ a 7" out. I liked 'em just fine and saw them plenty of times, as I did The Meanies, Fridge, Bored!, Throwaways and others. At that age, and at that time, they were simply the bands you saw on a regular basis.
The evening Spiderbait played, I was particularly tanked. I'd hit the $1 beers w/ a vengeance and I was in the mood to party. At one point, Kram from Spiderbait asked if anyone wanted to join the band on vocals as they played a punked-up cover of Kim Wilde's "Kids In America". Without hesitation, I stormed the stage, grabbed the mic and decided to bumrush the gig w/ my presence. My friends in attendance proceeded to laugh their collective arse off. The band looked hesitant, but nonetheless ripped into the song. I was so wasted I didn't know what I was doing. When the chorus hit, I started screaming into the microphone, "We're the kids in Australia, wo-o-oah!!" Second time around, I completely lost it. When the chorus hit again, I simply barked out nonsense cookie monster vocals a la the grindcore of the day and then fell over and crawled all over the stage on my back whilst screaming like a drunken idiot possessed (I was). The band stopped playing and Kram said something along the lines of, "Will somebody please get this fucking idiot off the stage". My friends continued to cheer; I don't think anyone else present was thrilled by my performance. I protested and yelled at the band to let me sing one more song. They looked pissed off at my presence but probably didn't feel like getting into a confrontation over it (and from memory, Zig-Zag never had bouncers), so they started on the next song. I didn't recognise it and concluded that my minutes in the limelight were over. The stage was raised about two feet from the floor, so I took a running leap into the crowd as a final moment of glory. The crowd parted like the sea and I landed like a ton of bricks, somehow escaping serious injury. I suspected I had just made a major twit of myself and had a head full of hungover regret the next day, but that's what being a young & stupid asshole is all about.
Spiderbait were supporting Fugazi the next week at one of their Melbourne Uni shows. I brought along my Dad's mini-cassette recorder and told my friends I was going to go for the scoop. Before the show started, I managed to blag my way backstage, telling one of the security guys that I was from a fanzine who'd organised an interview w/ the members of Fugazi. On the way, I passed Kram. He shot me a look as if to say, You're that fucking idiot who wouldn't get his arse off my stage last week, aren't you? I tried to avoid eye contact and shuffled through to see Ian MacKaye relaxing on a couch. I nervously approached him and told him I was from a local fanzine and would like to interview him. You see, regardless of what you think of Fugazi, that was one of the great things about the band: they were selling a lot of records at this stage and everyone wanted a slice of them - Rolling Stone, Spin, you name it. The band refused such interviews, but were only too glad to help a clueless bumpkin such as myself in my budding journalistic efforts. Ian told me I was welcome to see him after the show and indicated as such to the security guy. I was in.
After the show - a rollicking affair loved by all - I made my way backstage. Ian was towelling himself off after an exhaustive performance and indicated for me to sit down on the couch next to him. I pulled out the tape recorder and proceeded to hit him w/ a few braindead questions I'd managed to scrape together (one was "What do you think of GG Allin?"... urgh). He'd answered two or three questions when some drunken dickhead approached him wanting to do high fives and bore him regarding how much he kicked ass. Ian told me to wait a minute whilst he politely brushed him off. I hit "pause" on the tape recorder. A minute later, I could tell it was going to take somewhat longer than a minute to get rid of this guy, so I hit "stop" instead. The backstage area was dark, but I figured that pressing it would take the "pause" button off, too. It didn't. When the interview resumed and I hit the "play/record" buttons, it didn't take it off "pause". I taped nothing. When the interview had finished - and believe me, it wasn't the type to win any kind of Pulitzer, but it was OK for what it was, and Ian was courteous, friendly and informative all the way through - I left and met up w/ my friends outside. They were excited that I'd scored an interview w/ someone who was, at that stage, a larger-than-life gen-u-ine punk rock hero of ours (again, we were young and this was before the internet levelled the playing field of "celebrity" to an almost flat line), and they wanted to hear the tape. I rewound to the start and began to play the recording. The first couple of minutes was just fine, and then it hit a sudden silence, which lasted for what seemed an eternity. I rewound again, fast-forwarded, messed w/ the volume and various other pointless activities. It struck me what had happened. My friend Nick still jokes to me about the experience, saying it's the closest he'd seen me to crying.
I tried to salvage what I'd recorded and told Richard Loveday that the promised Fugazi interview wasn't going to happen. He thought I might be able to make something of what was recorded and write a piece from it, though I informed him that the result would only be the crappest Fugazi article ever put to print.
Twenty fucking years ago. Excuse whilst I get wistful...

3 comments:

Dave said...

Great post, like your blog. Same thing happened recordingwise to some friends who interviewed Charlie Harper of the UK Subs for about an hours. Nothing to show for it. Guess it just happens.

Rich said...

Actually Dave, would you believe I first read about Marcy in an issue of Factsheet Five. Now there's one to get wistful about. I too got a pile of tapes from R. Loveday (sans market values), which put me on to the Pagans, Negative Approach, Flesheaters, etc. Fair compo for his heavy-handed editing.

twiceremoved said...

Ah Marcy, I remember it well. The first photocopied, the rest professionally printed. I gave 95% of my zines about 10 years ago to Kelvin Craig. Yeah, he's still around doing second hand records at markets on weekends and wheeling and dealing during the week. I bump into him every couple of years and may be able to reconnect if interested. Of the 5% of zines I kept where my DNA's, old KBD zines, Year Zero and the Moderate to name a few. Fuck, I even sent you a copy of a shitty band I was in back in the
day!