Tuesday, May 11, 2010

RIP

This city, San Francisco is the first time I have lived somewhere within walking distance of the ocean since the ’90s. when I lived in Brighton, England for three years of college. I have now lived here for five years, with two years spent in Oakland before that. Prior to Oakland I lived in London for a year, before which I was in New York City for close to two years, I moved there from Orange County, California where I lived for a little over two years. I moved to the OC to care for my grandmother, just after I graduated from college in England, where I am from. I moved to Brighton as a teenager from London, the city in which I was born and raised. A somewhat incongruous, sloppy and inadequately put together paragraph to indicate that I started volunteering at MRR shortly after moving to the Bay Area, which is the place I have lived the longest since abandoning my home town, London. Every so often people will ask why I don’t move to NYC or LA, or back to London. As if I am here while I figure out what my “real life” is going to entail in a big city… When I lived in all those other places, I used to think, when things got bad—well, you can always leave.
At first MRR was just something I did every so often, hopped on a BART train and did the radio show a couple times a month. Then I got sucked in, through new and different responsibilities, eventually leading me to coordinator-ship. I think the longest anyone has been a coordinator of this magazine, barring Tim, is Arwen’s six year run. Most other coordinators seem to last around three before burn out strikes. I started in ’08, so I guess if I succumb to the same disease that affected all the others, I’ll burn out in 2011. A year before the apparent end of the world. Hopefully by that point I will have achieved my goal of owning the Foams 45, publishing a fanzine that is not MRR, making mix tapes for all those I’ve promised them to, and finding more new bands that affect me as much as Sex Vid did. Dare to dream…
I have been thinking about all of this stuff partially because of training a new coordinator, and partially because of Bruce’s death. Endings and beginnings. Someone said that Lance Hahn, Tim Yo and Bruce were the trinity of Maximum, that it really was the end of a real and specific era. When I first got my column in the magazine a few long time shitworkers wrote me postcards and emails, commenting on things I was obsessing over. Lance wrote me about going to see Unit Three Plus Venus, an early ’80s band featuring a mildly exploitative stage mom’s attempt at finding fame through her twelve year old daughter. Lance saw them play in Hawaii, when he was growing up, and wrote about going to see anything, any show, any punk event, which I totally could relate to. I always felt like punk was happening far from my eyes, in a different town, a different country. Bruce Roehrs always made jokes about how he didn’t read the magazine, and yet if I mentioned that I was looking for a record in my column, it would come up in conversation somehow.
When he finally got his records out of storage, he pulled out a Desperate Bicycles 45 for me, remembering that I had talked about never seeing their records in record stores in London as a kid. He was thoughtful like that. Kind. Open minded. The kind of man who claimed he couldn’t stand bands with female vocalists, yet frequently wore a Red Aunts shirt. Not one of my favorite bands, or even a band I can understand liking, but an all girl band nonetheless. He claimed he hadn’t eaten a vegetable since 1969, yet went out to dinner to Thai and Indian places twice a week with his best friend Dirk, and Dirk’s two year old daughter. It’s strange writing this, knowing that this month is the last month that this magazine will feature his music writing. I will never have to call him, a week past his supposed deadline, waiting expectantly for the reams of yellow lined legal paper that made up his column, his music reviews. He was supposed to review the new Antiseen CD, the THUG 12” and a Thieves 7” this month. Who else can review Antiseen? The idea that anyone else at this magazine is qualified would have made Bruce roll his eyes, and roll up his sleeves and get to work. He loved both the THUG and the Super Yob records, played them constantly the way he did all the records that came in that consumed him. At top volume, always wanting others to share the pleasure he got from punk, from hardcore, from oi! He loved talking to everyone here about music, from Steve Spinali, to Marissa Magic. He was able to find the common ground, the shared love of sound, that particular feeling that you get when something hits you just right. He never stayed still, was never static, stuck in the sounds of his youth. He always wanted to hear the new bands, the local bands, the support bands. I often witnessed him leaving shows early, just watching the support bands, for whom no one else could spare the time.
Interviewing Fred and Toody Cole of Dead Moon with him was one of the coolest and most enriching experiences of my time here, all of us crammed in the MRR courtyard, asking these legends about how they got to where they were, what decisions they made, how they made those sounds. Bruce sitting there, beside himself with happiness to be in the company of others who loved music as much as he did, who had also stayed true to their idea of what rock’n’roll is, and what it could be. It isn’t an oldies station, playing the same five songs on repeat. It’s in the blood of people like Bruce, like Fred and Toody who are always looking for what’s happening now, at the same time as staying true to what they believe. Connecting the past to the present without writing off either, experience and excitement, being a fan. Music is lived experience, and Bruce was the living embodiment of someone who lived for music, who loved music and was able to communicate his enthusiasm and passion to an audience in such a unique way. Who else could review the new Antiseen CD? No one could give it the review Bruce would have, and that makes me sad, makes me realize what we have lost. A brother, a friend, a true rock’n’roller, a man who lived on his own terms until the end. It’s been hard writing this, trying to encapsulate all the complexities that made up the man, what stories to tell, and what are best forgotton. I have a feeling that the stories are going to keep pouring out, from all over the world, from all the people that were affected by Bruce and his pure love of rock’n’roll as well as his kindness and friendship.
layla at maximumrocknroll.com / whatwewantisfree.blogspot.com
Thee olde toppe tenne! Cut in half, bargain bin stylee.


1-The mysterious NZ comp 12” that Graham Booth tantalized my ears and brains with, it came out sometime in 1980/1981, featured mostly girl punk bands, had weird blue, kind of psychedelic cover that sort of resembled a ‘70s curtain more than a black light painting if ya know what I’m saying. At any rate I didn’t bother to write anything down—band names, who needs em. I had an idea of the comp title and record label, and assumed I could use the power of the computer search tools available in modern life to
find out more. How wrong I was! There is nothin’ anywhere about this artifact, the search led me to the absolutely insane and amazingcore Y2K Axemen blog. The maniac New Zealand band have provided a most excellent resource and time suck rabbit hole of doom, theaxemen.wordpress.com, into which I suggest you throw yourself if you are interested in downloading tapes of pre-Shoes This High bands, looking at eye damaging art and finding out which over the counter medicines have psychedelic properties. In short if you need to know about New Zealand punk weirdos and the things they conceived of during the ‘80s through ‘til now, that place is a good starting point. I am being purposely vague here, but if anyone knows what I am talking about in regards to this
record and can tape it for me, we would be friends for life. No lie.
2-”Peer Pressure was a Santa Cruz band (1980-1981) involving Kathy McVey, Rosemary Gilman and Patricia Gleseke. Kathy and Rosemary had sat in on some Waybacks shows and then decided to start their own band. They were “driving along and there was this girl standing there at the stoplight with drumsticks in her pocket, and we go ‘Hey, you wanna be in a band?’“ The girl was Patricia. John Peel played their song “I’m
Adult” so often on his radio show that they received fan mail from England.” It sounds like a less rock Bush Tetras, it’s much more shambolic (and thus punker), but with that similar band idea. At any rate of course I couldn’t find much more info about them, beyond an aging Santa Cruz punk Facebook page. I like the idea of the band forming out of some version of the punk nod, one adapted for punk girls…
3-I was going to go see Chain and the Gang, Ian Svenonius’ new band, which I have yet to hear, but alas the excursion was not possible. I have been listening to a lot of tapes recently, as I have a Walkman rather than an iPod, (due to bank balance deficiencies rather than luddite tendencies) and I’ve been listening to these Nation of
Ulysses tapes I got in the dollar bin at Amoeba. I was obsessed with NOU as a kid, and only didn’t go see them play because I was grounded when they played London. The Cupid Car Club 7” is pretty perfect too, but not so much his later stuff. Walking to work listening to NOU makes me want to form a band, a secret society. I have been attempting to get rid of some of the ephemera I carry around with me, the epic piles of fanzines and fliers and magazines that clutter my room and become the bane of my life when I have to move… The gas station jacket, probably last worn in ’95, complete with mottled Heroin patch? Do I need this artifact? Sassiest Boy in America? Nostalgia will sink us all.
4-The Plugz–“Mindless Contentment.” The punk song that gets stuck in my head the most is GG Allin’s “1980s RocknRoll.” This is not the best thing that has ever happened to me. I also get these classic numbers rattling around my thoughts on a way too frequent basis: “You’re so Stark / Raving normal” and also, “No hope for you / No hope for anyone / No hope for the wretched.” If you don’t know the words to these things and they do not reverberate around your skull like an endless woeful infomercial, consider
yourself blessed. This month however I have had the Plugz in my brains, which is quite pleasant.
Mindless Contentment!
5-Nu Sensae live. Holy shit. People mentioned Godheadsilo, which also happened when XYX
played. Bass and drums? Reasonably heavy? Pigeon holed! The singer/bassist was sort of
reminiscent of Linda Manz in Out of the Blue. The drummer’s style is transformative, and made me think of listening to Is This My World? It’s not sludge, it’s not no wave, it’s not AmRep, nor KRS, but just heavy interesting music played well with an incredible female vocalist.

whatwewantisfree.blogspot.com
layla at maximumrocknroll.com

another column! #322 was the issue that contained this~

We put this magazine together as the MRR house was being worked on—the mortar between the bricks is slowly seeping out, then the water heater broke. Cissie packed up her
things to move to Portland whilst training Mariam who just got here from Chicago. Diane’s band, Opt Out, with shitworkers Robert Collins, Dan Goetz and Trash recorded a demo. People leaving, things falling apart, bands recording, epic changes and endless disasters. We have been listening to Lullabies Make the Brain Grow, Feel the Darkness, Killed by Death #3 and Electrify Me on repeat, caffeinating our brains to full capacity and attempting to get shit done without letting the chaos that currently surrounds us overtake us…
It’s hard to understand or explain the amount of work that this job entails until you actually have to do it. I have been working on the magazine since ’03, but I had no idea how much work my friends who were coordinators did until suddenly I sat surrounded by green taped records, at 3am realizing our sales taxes were due tomorrow,
the layout I was working on just crashed, the roof above the coordinator desk is leaking and no one’s picked up mail for a week… Sometimes we sit from morning coffee until long after the rest of the world has gone to sleep, forgetting to eat, working on this thing. The stress of not knowing if we are going to make rent, all adding to the dreamy and endless interpersonal conflicts that arise in an all volunteer punk
live/work environment… Making this thing you hold in your hands is one of the most satisfying yet also the most difficult and most frustrating things I have ever
done. Getting to interview people that I respect, from Raymond Pettibon to Sharon Cheslow, figuring out who we should interview when we did the Film Issue, working with punks all over the world to make our culture what it is. All of this shit is transformative, but as insinuated above, it’s also absolutely exhausting. Cissie is
leaving San Francisco, and Maximum for Portland, and I will miss her tireless work ethic, her insanely extensive musical knowledge, her sense of humor and the hours of working together to put out the magazine every month. Her band, Vaccuum, with three shitworkers (yep you guessed it—Robert Collins plays in this one too, along with Vinnie Larussa and Daiki) played their last show, and made a demo last week. (It’s
reviewed in the demo section—send off for it punx!) The show was nearly all shitworker
bands, and watching Tim Brooks yell at little Phil from the audience, while his band Airfix Kits killed it on stage, while Bruce Roehrs actually stayed for all the bands that played, reminded me why I love doing this shit. A random collection of people who have incredibly different political views, musical tastes, ways of operating that can somehow work together for no reward other than making punk happen and, you know,
this magazine happen.
Tuberculosis / Rayos X / Poliskitzo / Des Madres El Crisis at Balazo. Tuberculosis’ first song, which I think you can watch on the LA Raw Ponx MySpace—the whole show is up
there—was one of the most incrdible inspiring things I have seen so far this year. As was Opt Out / Jump Off a Building / Duck and Cover at Thrillhouse. The punk community here can feel super alienating and disparate, but at these two shows I felt like something was happening, something worth participating in... Sort of a random column this month, written in chaos, panic and disorder.

Anyway as always I am here:layla at maximumrocknroll.com

Another one! WORDS

Usually it’s George Tabb who goes over the word count and squeezes the coordinator columns to their most minimal, this month it was Roehrs who unleashed an epic. What with Cock Sparrer live in SF, and the Agnostic Front reissues, the Roehrs universe was at its peak. I have been not been existing in a universe at its peak, just walking round town listening to tapes I made last time I had a walkman, in the early ’00s. King Crimson and PP Arnold, Quix*o*tic and Circus Lupus, Unwound and Jerry’s Kids. Wanna make me a tape? Brace claims he is going to. I am making one for Osa because she asked me about Wilma, San Francisco’s own lesbian separatist post-punk force who were on Subterranean. One of the women from Wilma gave a talk at the library here, for the queer part of the Penelope Houston curated punk series they’ve been having at libraries in town. Penelope is a librarian at the main branch here, and there was a rad exhibition of her Avengers ephemera, fliers and original record art, alongside an incredible photo exhibition by this woman Ruby Ray. The picture of the Zeros lying on the chalk body outline of a fresh murder scene in North Beach was my favorite. There’s going to be a Ruby Ray book, with contributions from Annex of Search and Destroy, who was involved with the early years of Maximum Rocknroll radio too. Annex’s daughter Zoe is a punk as well, continuing the family tradition, she says she is gonna interview Ruby for the mag, so that’s something to look forward to. I wanted to have it in the photo issue, but we thought it would be cooler to focus on more recent punk photographers. There are gonna be some other classic punk photographers interviewed in these pages in the upcoming months, including Edward Colver…
I like making tapes again, especially with the MRR library at my fingertips… Someone told me about this band Dress Up Like Natives, an all girl early ’80s Pittsburgh punk band that kind of remind me of a poppier Ama-Dots. (Another rad post-punk band from the same era from Milwaukee—a friend found their 7” about ten years ago in the 99c bin at Amoeba, I got one on Ebay as soon as I heard his copy). I dug out the MRR copy of the Dress Like Natives 7”, and started obsessing as to if there were other Pittsburgh girl bands at the same time. I wrote a few months back about a movie, Debt Begins at Twenty about the PGH art punk scene of this era, and guess what, you can watch it online now! www.lux.org.uk/collection/works/debt-begins-20. It’s a black and white movie, with sort of a boy meets girl plot, but basically it’s just about punks hanging out and putting on a house show in early ’80s Pittsburgh. My favorite band in it was Hans Brinker and the Dykes, who sound like Noh Mercy, and thusly are incredible. I have detectives at work trying to figure out if they recorded anything beyond this movie. Someone told me that despite the fact that the Cardboards had a great name, their record was super dull (but worth a lot of money!). They’re sort of like an uncool Contortions with the touch of a more awkward Devo, if you can picture that collision of dorkiness. I guess the drummer, who is the star of the movie kept the band going after the rest of the original members quit and put out that record. Anyway, if you don’t like art punk you will not be enthralled, but I do and I was. More girl bands that sound like Noh Mercy!
layla at maximumrocknroll.com whatwewantisfree.blogspot.com

A column from MRR 320 that is very random!

Alot of times when you have to make a difficult decision regarding the magazine, there’s an unmistakable voice in the back of your mind intoning, “Tim wouldn’t have done it that way,” or something to that effect. Certain things about the way that the magazine is run are set in stone, most of them for good reason. This isn’t Punk Rock Confidential, so even though we could use the revenue, you aren’t gonna see advertisements for Ramones baby-wear or Social D sneakers anytime soon... We always get into long conversations about whether or not something is punk—or, if it is punk, is it Maximum? Are the Young Marble Giants punk in a way that means they can exist in the same review section as Terveet K├Ądet? Really? There are reviews of SPK and Diamanda Galas records in early issues of MRR...
One thing that always struck me as a little strange was the fact that there was only one Fugazi record in the record collection. That band shaped how I view punk and DIY culture, and I see them as very much a part of the same idea of punk that MRR represents. It’s well known that a lot of the records missing from MRR’s record library were either rejected or purged because of Tim’s own preferences and prejudices—it was his own personal collection, after all... In recent years, in order to fill these holes, we have in one way or another replaced a lot of classic punk
records that he deemed unsuitable—in this issue we have a review of the Raincoats’
debut LP, just reissued on KRS, which was not kept in the collection (though their first 7” was). And Dischord kindly send copies of all the Fugazi records we are missing earlier this month. If you are interested in seeing a list of some of the records we are missing and want to acquire, you can email mrr at maximumrocknroll.
com. At some point we hope to have a database of the entire collection online,
when our computer wizards are finished with this mammoth task. If you are interested in
doing shitwork relating to that, feel free to email our web coordinator Paul here:
paul at maximumrocknroll.com.

Whatwewantisfree.blogspot.com is where
my old columns go to die on the internet.
Write me: layla at maximumrocknroll dot com