Sunday, July 30, 2006

Lowlife 13

Glen Thrasher and his roommate Ellen McGrail put out Lowlife from Atlanta during the '80s and also played in an art-noise band called Medicine Suite. Thrasher later became an indie rock footnote - he was in the first band with and accompanied Chan Marshall from Atlanta to New York City where she gained fame and fortune and a degree of madness as Cat Power. Thrasher at last check is back in Atlanta working at a bookstore - here's his blog.

Lowlife was a thick (106 pages!) compendium of often undecipherable mail-art, underground fiction, painful comix from tortured artists, fanzine-type band interviews, reviews and so forth. Lowlife 13 also covered Thrasher and WREK (local college-type radio station) yearly music festival Destroy All Music. Thrasher would publish nearly anything including the controversial Brett Kerby's racism as art and the Psyco boys are the subject of a farcical tour diary written by me which I don't have the balls to reprint since it unblinkingly documented and lived (for the weekend) in the often misunderstood but raw racist parody that was P-drama in those days. I also opened for them, playing two songs on my old beat up guitar and announcing myself as "Billy Carter" (we were in Georgia after all). I had the time of my life down there, though, the festival was awesome - Bruce Hampton, Tinnitus, Kathy Lynch and the artist Huckaby were all there. I don't think Jarboe was there but she had played previous festivals.

I once got Brett to explain the racist stuff to me which he did and I still don't understand it - but he was trying to make a point about the art world which he found as exclusionary or perhaps even more exclusionary than white supremacists... whatever, Brett was a gay man and so I doubt he would ever find anything but an assbeating from the Nazis he liked to write about. I think he just had fun outraging people. Thrasher would simultaneously condemn them and reprint his letters (although I think he drew the line at adverts if I remember).

At any rate, here were some other highlights or lowlights from Lowlife 13.

Cover photo and Baby skull photos by Ivan H. Sladek. I can't find out much more about him but here's a link to some recently published work in Force Mental 16. Here's his Baby Skull photo from Lowlife 13:

There are several interviews here, one with bassist Tim Lane Seaton (who now plays in Milk), one with the absurd (and evasive) Caroliner Rainbow and a rather boring interview with Rowland Howard and Epic Soundtracks (These Immortal Souls reprinted here). But I found the Kathleen Lynch interview the most interesting. She pal'ed around with the Butthole Surfers in the mid-80s and perform topless with them. Ms. Lynch's current band project is Beme Seed. Glen also interviews his roommate Ellen who was a performance artist who took off her clothes twice a day (as art). I just do it once a day to get into bed and it's not art.

Saturday, April 08, 2006

Swellsville, A Critical Guide for Consumer Deviants, Winter 1988

30 pages, xeroxed and binded by stable at spine.

So, there arose among the 'zines, the "think piece" zine. Not so much fanzines, although the writers were certainly fans of music but they were also fans of their own record collections, their incisive thoughts and so forth. Many of them should have been writing for the major rock publications but those guys were covering politics, fashion, trends, AIDS - anything but music and writing about music (outside of lionizing ageing rock stars or rewriting ad copy from major labels).

Jack Thompson was a Seattle-based writer who thought and thought some more and eventually started publishing Swellsville to capture all his thoughts. The think piece writers mostly wrote about their relationship to music, the ever-continuing debate of UK vs. American rock/disco/pop and, of course, their record collections. Fred Mills was perhaps the worst purveyor of that latter trait and he's in here somewhere writing about Sickidz, The Imperial Pompadours, etc.

Some of it is very good and almost all of it is very heartfelt. These weren't guys publishing zines to be the coolest non-conformist on the block. They were writers writing for nothing because they loved to write and see their words on paper.

Some of it was very funny (see Jack Thompson's review of a GG Allin album way below) and some of it was unintentionally funny - one guy tries to "save" Greg Sage and the Wipers from their association with "Pigfuck" music arguing instead that he is the voice of alienation and the "voice of hopelessness" and "if there's no room in the pigfuck inn for this sentimentality there's no room for Greg Sage."

Lots of fawning over long-gone and obscure 60's popsters (Heinz) and folkies (Ian and Sylvia) that I have as much chance of hearing today as I did back then (OK, maybe that's wrong as I'm sure there is some MP3 blog somewhere rehashing this and I could probably find it somewhere on the index or P2P black market). Jack's wife (Alle Thompson) reviews black rap music horribly and Jack's love of Camper Van Beethoveen is still incomprehensible. The round table on Jagger's Primitive Cool album is a waste of space.

Most of the best work is turned in by publisher Jack Thompson and Richie Unterberger.

Yep despite all my bad-mouthin', there's a lot to like about this, even now that most of the bands they write about are long gone. Richie Unterberger's piece on "The Politics of Office Music" is still real in most places (maybe I'll reprint it at a later date?) and Dave Beltane on the best drug-influenced artists is also worth reading and re-reading.

So, as I don't have time to scan everything in, I've reprinted Jack's seminal piece "Fear and Loathing in the 80's" or "The Butthole Surfers vs. The People."

As usual, click on the images and then you may have to click on them again to see it in full resolution or print it out for reading. There's no much visually of interest in Swellsville (besides the cover, I guess) as Thompson squashes as much text into the three columns as possible. A hell of alot of words for only $1.00 (about $1.75 adjusted for inflation).

Jack Thompson masters the joke as a record review here... funniest GG review ever.

Buy it? Well, I don't know what happened to Jack Thompson but Slippytown has back issues of Swellsville for sale.

Saturday, March 18, 2006

Colsoy Youth #1, January 1988

Cosloy Youth was a Houston-based zine that rather than run away from their derivativeness from Gerard's Conflict zine, they embraced it, using Mr. Cosloy's putdown of his imitators as their mission statement and proudly displaying it on their masthead (below). This issue has a massive Sonic Youth interview but since it available over at the Sonic Youth website, I'm just going to put up a page or two so you can see what it looked like (see the badly-scanned pictures basically).

Most important from these zines, I think, are the show reports - so, barring any complaint from Ray and Rob, I'm reprinting those three pages which include a Butthole Surfers report, a Sonic Youth review, Lazy Cowgirls and Divine Horsemen, to name a few.

Masthead with quote from Daddy Cosloy

Three pages from the Sonic Youth Interview - read the whole thing here

Live Review

Monday, March 06, 2006

Big Yeah fanzine number 7 (April 1987)

The Big Yeah was published by Mike Greenlees and Michelle Thomas. Mike was the drummer for Tar in the '90s. They had a few records on Touch and Go. He sent me some of their early 7"'s and at the time I thought they were boss - I'll try and dig them up sometime for Vinyl Mine. Michelle was his girlfriend and she wrote way original reviews. My fave is when she said she wished the singer of Rifle Sport was a piece of lint so she could fling it off her clothes and listen to the band for the rest of her life.

As you can see, Big Yeah scored a cover from Dan Clowes - this was before he did Ghost World and got all famous in the cult comics world. BY published in a half-size format and like most zines used very small type, shrunken via the xerox machine and often hard to read. This made what would normally be a 14 page fanzine into a 28 page 'zine. But you needed one of those little jeweler's eyepieces to read it.

This issue had an interview with The Outnumbered (who?), tons of record reviews, fanzine reviews and most importantly a post-European tour interview with Big Black where they talk about the tour, playing with Killing Joke, how Simon Bonney was a sorry excuse for a roadie, the Headache EP and hint that they are breaking up. Oh yeah, the working title for Songs About Fucking was Scooter Trash. Anyway, it was great enuf for me to reprint below. 'joy...

Sunday, February 26, 2006

Disaster #4 (Summer 1987)

A lot of people know that Bill Callahan was a fanzine guy way back but not many people have seen it. Bill and I had a short letter writing relationship back in the '80s and I contributed to this issue although I'm too embarassed to reprint those reviews. I finally met Bill at the Suckdog show. I went home and later wrote a song lyric about him called "Billy Storm" (never put it to music) - the night I met him, he looked like he had a perpetual black cloud above his head that was so heavy it forced his head down and his body into a slouch. I guess he saw that cloud but interpreted it as Smog instead of a black cloud. That night I went home with one of Suckdog's band members and we lay on my bed kissing all night. I promised (in the throes of passion) to drive them to Ohio, a promise I later reneged on when I came to my hungover senses the next day. A few weeks later, I got a letter from Bill informing that he was going on the road with the very same person (Debbey Puff) and starting his career. It was like he had joined the circus. I never heard from him again.

His most recent work (A River Ain't Too Much to Love) is bar-none my favorite record of 2005 - a year that had many noteworthy releases.

Disaster was a superlative fanzine which was anchored by Bill's careful yet often funny writing (he still does that in his lyrics). There's a reprint of his review of a Broken Siren show (a strident feminist Dischord band that got to play a lot of shows in DC in that period) that just "kicks the dust" out of me. He's got the snarky letters, lots of name checking, tons of reviews, interviews with bands that indicate his superlative taste (well, Sex Clark Five and Halo of Flies). Funny piece on what Tom Pig does during a typical day ("6:30PM Pig has an apertif while watching the sun and his neighbor's wife, go down.") and Bill's trademark Desert Island Discs (who knew Tom Hazelmeyer liked the Soft Boys? and Rob Straker listened to Mozart)

Here are a few pages from Issue 4 which I think is the only one I ended up contributing to.

Some observations:

In Bill's review of GG Allin's Hated in the Nation tape, he admires him for "not faking it" and putting his life "however fucked up -- on the stage." Just for comparisons sake, here's a sample lyric from last year's "Running the Loping":
I lay on the bed in the dark
laughing at things I think of
Getting off on the pornography
of my past

One the same page, he also expresses that he is "increasingly puzzled" by Beat Happening because they are "more of an excuse to get together with friends as opposed to some sorta soul-purging act or whatever"... he obviously chose the latter in his work.

The pictures of Alex Chilton offered without comment include one with Alex and Bill's original teen crush, Paul Westerburg who is receding into the background as Chilton moves up front.

the masthead and Bill's misanthropic editorial...

A sample of Bill's show reviews *click to see it larger*

More reviews by Bill and a Calvin drawring...

A splash page for his Halo of Flies interview - whoo hoo...

Halo of Flies interview continued *click to make larger*

Halo of Flies interview continued

Halo of Flies and the uncommented upon Chilton/Westerburg photos...

Bill's back page "Desert Island Discs" - not the contribution of a certain blogger...

Monday, February 20, 2006

Shredded Slime #7

Presented in its entirety, it's full xerox, Mac-art, glue layout, staple on the upper corner glory - From 1987: a massive, tense, awkward and funny NO TREND interview, a Traci Lords review, a page (seven) from Brett of PSYCODRAMA, a BUTTHOLE SURFERS slag, THE SHAKES interview (the one from Illinois) and a psychotic rant I received on Mr. Magoo. Enjoy. Or not.

One observation:
- NO TREND were prescient in their musing that in the future people will make CDs that sound like LPs: "that's going to be the wave of the future, adding noise to CDs to make them sound like LPs" (page 15)

*Click on the images to make them bigger to read - if there's a magnifying glass substituted for your cursor, it means you can click again to get it bigger...