Friday, April 3, 2009

You’ll never see your face in a magazine.

“I was involved in the U.S. hardcore scene through writing, rather than touring. Anne and I worked on one of the earliest DC hardcore zines, Now What?, published in 1981 by Sarah Woodell. Then I became pen pals with guys all over the US through Colin Sears’ and my zine If This Goes On. There was this great network of fanzine writers who were also in punk bands, but they were all guys. My whole attitude was that I didn’t want to be a groupie, I wanted to participate as an equal. I communicated with Thurston Moore who had just started Sonic Youth and did Killer, Barry Hennsler of the Necros who did Smegma Journal, Bob Moore who was in Rebel Truth for a bit, did Noise and ran the label Version Sound, and one of the guys from Jody Foster’s Army who did Phenis. We all just found each other by reading each other’s zines.” (Sharon Cheslow, MRR # 298)

The first fanzine I ever got was because I read a blurb about Bikini Kill in Sassy magazine, an alternateen mag from ye olde ‘90s, and sent off for the zine mentioned. Soon after I read about Huggy Bear, based in my hometown London, who it seemed did a zine for every show they played in the early days at least, and thus my introduction to the world of xeroxed missives. Also trading zines with a lot of sXe girl pen pals at various expensive liberal arts schools in small towns of the American mid-west, as I got more into hardcore. I did my first zine when I was 13, called Drop Babies, which shifted into a more skate and hardcore orientated zine called Chimps, which I theoretically still do. There were always way more girls making zines than making bands, and I always think of how lucky I was as an isolated punk teenager in that era, so many fanzines to send off for and kids to write. Anyway, as we were putting this issue together I was reading a bunch of old zines from different eras, old Pettibon zines, Touch and Go, Forced Exposure and Tobi Vail’s Jigsaw, the Huggy Bear made Reggae Chicken and Parlez-Vous Code Fucker, thinking about the shifting meaning of punk and the different ways of representing it in paper form. We wanted this issue to be something you would pick up, and be inspired to make your own zine, but not just any zine. One that represents what punk is and can be—reactionary and transgressive, creepy and hilarious, political and moronic. Or none of those words...
I think Janelle says it best in the interview with her contained within; something along the lines that hopefully blogs have weeded out all the self-important bloated per-zine types. And thus, NOW IS THE TIME FOR YOU TO WRITE YOUR WEIRDO TREASTISE! Ten page article on the Wipers guitar sound? The punk ladies of East LA? Staying up all night at the donut store? Your all-girl skate gang? I think the secret is to cover what you want to happen, your ideas and adventures rather than making a “grrrl zine” or a “coffee and hitchhiking and bad emo zine.” It’s so fucking depressing reading the same dude’s zine over and over—about travelling the west coast whilst reading Cometbus and Kerouac and drinking diner coffee and having many life changing revelations.
I wanted to write a piece about the secret history of girl zines—Sharon’s quote at the start of this made me think about how zines were such important currency in the early hardcore scene, and yet how transient and disposable they are in comparison to records. Since zines are a primary way that women contribute to punk culture, our ideas and contributions disappear as the moms of former punks make them clear out their bedrooms. I like the idea of punk not being set in stone, kept up forever, flowers by the gravestone in memoriam to old ideas and happenings. But it’s also depressing, like unless Sharon and Cynthia had put together the Banned in DC book I would have had no idea that women were so instrumental in the construction of that scene, because there’s no discography of girl written hardcore zines you know? But then I also get bugged out about getting contacted by endless academics looking to write a book about Riot Grrrl, which I would like to be regarded in the same way as punk, where new generations of girls make it their own, form it in their own image if that makes sense. Rather than ossifying it and making it into some weird postcard punk thing that you must adhere to or else you are doing it wrong! It should be a template for girl punk culture maybe, but just as a basis that you can and should do something, not as a rule book or a formal guide line if that makes sense…
I wrote to a friend from from England who put together a super awesome zine called New Britain, in the early ‘90s because I had this vague recollection of him writing about this teenage girl who made her own zine, in the Crass/anarcho era of English punk, which combined bands she liked and weird hair style tips. He had no memory of this article, so maybe I invented it, but I have carried the idea with me that alongside the forever memorialized Sniffin’ Glue there were secret fanzine girls at work. And there were; one of the women that helped set up the Huggy Bear/Bikini Kill tour that changed my 14 year old life did a zine in ‘77 called Jolt focusing on women’s contributions to punk, and sexism in the scene.
“The very fact that rock, the so-called rebel culture, has always been completely male-dominated just goes to show once more that if there’s one person more oppressed than a teenage boy it’s a teenage girl”
(Lucy Toothpaste, Jolt)
Apparently the Slits went round to her house to hang out after reading the zine, which is so fucking cool. The ultimate punk nod of recognition! The insert to the Ultimo Resorte discography that just came out has a picture of a zine called Femzine, which instantly made me freak out. Created by Dena, an American who moved to England, it was an early ‘80s hardcore zine focusing on women’s involvement in the scene. It featured Vulpess, Sadonation, Ultimo Resorte, and the Wrecks amongst others, and I think maybe there are PDFs of it available online somewhere?? Not sure! I know you can download Dena’s contributions to Flipside via that Operation Phoenix records website, and there’s a cool lady punks in Europe guide from the same era.
It’s a paradox, on one hand the endless coffee table books and talking heads reliving their epic hardcore pasts have made me weary, but then I also am totally consumed by the ephemera of old era punk and hardcore and find it frustrating that only Riot Grrrl ever makes it into any of the books. And that just fits the right boxes, the first all girl youth subculture? I’ll write my MA thesis on that fer sure! It makes me think of how people would say that finally punk ‘made it’ when Green Day and Nirvana did, as if those bands signify such a thing, and the day punk ‘makes it’ is the day punk dies. What we do is secret! Anyway, this is as always just a rambling list of things I have been thinking about but what is more important is that you need to do a fanzine! Seriously, secret society of girls, time to represent your up all night skate sessions and bedroom bands…
Whatwewantisfree.blogspot.com

4 comments:

jessalyn said...

Hey Layla, This column is good timing cause I have actually been meaning to call you about a related topic. Would you be interested in coming to talk to a class of 15-16 year old SF high school students about your experience with making zines, MRR, or anything related to zines? They just wrote a bunch of short stories about social issues in their communities and we are compiling them into a zine after spring break. PS, SPRING BREAK!I am so there in 5 minutes from now.

whatwewantisfree said...

oh sure, email me at layla at maximumrocknroll dot com

Andrew Culture said...

Do you remember Bikini Kill and Huggy Bear being on 'The Word'? I was talkign with another zinester in the states about this, and was struggling to explain why it was so bizzare/ fucking cool to see something so punk on a show that seemed to exist to showcase the sort of people I'd do everything in my power to avoid! One minute there would be someone drinking thier own puke in a desperate bid to get on telly, the next minute Huggy Bear were making everyone's ears bleed. It was hillarious seeing the girls ont the podiums trying to dance to it. It was a truely horrid program, but with only four TV channels on offer at the time what else was there to do!


Crappy siggy;

My Zine Distro...

Badges are kinda my thing...

sonicmedusa said...

I had a copy of that issue of Femzine you were talking about. I believe I might have sent it to Pete Don't Care of Nihilism on the Prowl...

Mish Bondage
Sado-Nation
mspace.com/sadonation