I called some self-serving attention to this over the holiday – but why not do it again? “ICYMI”, right? I was interviewed by Tim Scott at Noisey Australia about the magazine; they published an edited version of our talk here.
Here’s the full transcript of our electronic chat:
You are a fanzine writer but have also done time as a radio dj, podcaster and blogger. You are a bit of a musical curator. What do you think of the term in 2014/2015?
Hey, I’ll take it. Self-styled curators are at the front-end of every great band, record or song that I’ve discovered over the years, from 80s fanzines like Forced Exposure, Conflict and Matter, to US college radio, to people wasting time on the internet posting stream-of-consciousness record reviews & digitizing their 45s. In a time of nearly limitless music to absorb online & elsewhere, that quote-unquote gatekeeper still has a pretty crucial role to play in cutting through the morass, and in helping push us toward whatever corners of the musical underground we need help locating. I’d be lying if I said that wasn’t at least 90% of the reason I do any of this stuff – the hope of positioning myself as someone worth trusting, just as I’ve trusted many others – with the remaining 10% of my motivation being pure, selfish, unbridled ego.
You can get a good idea of where DH is coming from by the two covers- Bill Direen and the Flesheaters! Has your interest always laid with the more obscure punk, garage and pop bands?
Other than a stint as a teenage new waver in the early 80s, yeah. From a pretty early age it became clear that the stuff worth paying attention to was located at the margins, and it’s always been so much more rewarding to go out and find it myself than to let it come find me. I think the definitive template for what I enjoy was stamped on me late in high school and early in college, when I ingested a whiplash combination of hardcore punk; the SST sound of The Minutemen, Meat Puppets and Black Flag; disjointed female-helmed post-punk like the Au Pairs and Delta 5, and classic American underground rock like Mission of Burma, the Flesh Eaters and the Gun Club. Then as I started getting clued in about what was going on in other countries and micro-genres (fidelity-challenged New Zealand pop; ballistic garage punk; any and all Velvet Underground impersonators; C86 feedback crush etc.), I added those to my personal holy musical canon as well.
You mix up the new (Nots/King Tears Mortuary) with a piece on 70s Jamaican dub and a chat with Back to the Grave’s Tim Warren. How do you decide on content/what to cover? Gut instinct/interests?
Top consideration is given to how much I personally enjoy whatever it is we’re covering, of course, with the goal being to get others just as rabid, frothing and fanatical about it as Erika and I am. Secondary consideration is how under-covered the topic is; for instance, I’d never read what I thought were definitive interviews with Tim Warren nor Bill Direen; nor had I ever really seen anything where Chris D. of the Flesh Eaters covered his earliest years in punk rock and writing for Slash Magazine. Chris D. happens to be an all-time hero of mine, so once he agreed to stoop to talk intelligently to the likes of me, I knew we were in business and that this magazine thing was going to happen.
Dynamite Hemorrhage, if I’m doing it the way I want to, will always champion sub-underground rocknroll music from the last five decades, and that includes lots of music from the most recent year as well. The new issue has interviews, as you mention, with King Tears Mortuary, Nots and Honey Radar, because those are fantastic bands that the children of the world need to hear.
How much help/contributors do you have? I know Erika Elizabeth is involved?
Just Erika. She helped rejuvenate my interest in a great many neglected nooks of weirdo, underground rocknroll history by virtue of a phenomenal radio show she did on WMUA in Massachusetts called “Expressway To Yr Skull”, now a monthly podcast by the same name. She knows more about lost indie pop records of the 90s than anyone I’ve ever met, and she’s a relentless scourer and champion of the offbeat & melodious. Then I figured out that she could actually write really well, and it was clear that her tastes and ability to convey them intelligently would be a complement to whatever it is that I’m running off at the mouth about. It’s certainly not to say we’ll never have other contributors, but I think it’s working about as well as it could now.
Superdope was great in championing neglected or overlooked punk and garage. I have a friend who is still trying to collect all 45 ‘45’s that Moved Heaven and Earth –ha! Are you still going to try and put together the anthology?
I wrote Superdope, my first fanzine, from 1991 until 1998. It certainly reflected my tastes well at the time – very garage and punk-heavy, as that was a terrific era for classic global lo-fi garage punk (Supercharger, Gories, Night Kings, Dirty Lovers, Cheater Slicks etc.). The issue you reference, Superdope #8, was the last one I did in 1998, and unless I’m forgetting something (likely), it’s the first truly archival piece I ever wrote, one where I slapped down a couple of paragraphs each on what I then considered my favorite forty-five 45rpm singles of all time: Pere Ubu, the Dangerhouse singles, Electric Eels, The Cramps and so on.
Naturally, having written that stuff 17 years ago (before music was really even available online in any form), there’s a lot I’d change today. It’s nice to know that someone’s still chasing the records down – I’m sure many of them cost a bit of coin to change hands in this day and age – but no, I don’t think I’ll be involved in anthologizing any of it, even if I could actually gain clearance to 90+ songs.
You also have an interest in books and The Hedonist Jive was a platform that you tried to push more art and books. What are you reading at the moment? Do you read much fiction?
The Hedonist Jive’s another blog I’ve been maintaining on life support for a while at www.hedonist-jive.com. I’ll pound out book reviews and sometime film reviews over there sometimes, and I like to put these reviews into the Dynamite Hemorrhage print fanzine as well, just to expand our “remit” a little bit beyond rocknroll. As immersed as I am in music much of the time, I’m a hobbyist more than anything else, and I have a lot of hobbies: reading, film, distance running, current events, professional baseball and so on – to add to my professional, parental and spousal responsibilities. Much of the totally frivolous stuff, like writing pithy, unnecessary record reviews of Neanderthal punk bands, takes place when the more important stuff’s finally been attended to.
So pleasure reading’s something I’m trying to make much more time for, and so far so good the past several years. I was an English literature major in college, but got away from fiction in my 20s and 30s and read an inordinate amount of memoirs, histories, books about war and other non-fiction – including loads on music. I’m honing in on fiction again, somewhat, and am working on reading much more of it and catching up on many classics I never got to.
As of right now I’ve got two new 2014 books going – one’s non-fiction, Rick Perlstein’s history of America’s darkest years in the 1970s, during Nixon’s resignation, called “The Invisible Bridge”; the other is an achingly heartbreaking collection of novellas from a modern Russian writer named Ludmilla Petrushevskaya called “There Once Lived A Mother Who Loved Her Children, Until They Moved Back In”.
What music trends would you like to see disappear in 2015?
I wouldn’t know a real trend if it slapped me across the cheek. I only catch on to what others are complaining about years later: bearded hipsters, cutey-pie female singers and so on. We’re in a golden age of selective curation, in which you can customize your RSS feed, your Tumblr/Twitter/Facebook, your newsletters etc. to only spoon-feed you what you’re interested in. Obviously there’s some danger in narrowing one’s perspective that way, and I try with some success to keep my ears open for things outside of my comfort zone.
Yet as for trends, I am nearly bereft of answers. I’d maybe like to see “icy goth keyboards” vanish once and for all, and for all-male bands who fashion themselves as “aggro” and “brutal” to mellow the fuck out.