READS by Dolman

A year or two ago I made a plea in this mag for anyone to send me zines, any zines at all, and nothing happened -- until two or three months ago, when all of a sudden the mailman brought me three zines in one day. A couple days later, I bought a couple more, and I've gotten two more in the mail since then. Maybe it just took a year or two for people to actually read my plea. Either way, thanks, everybody, for one of the greatest weeks of my life, because I'm a reading addict, and as some other reading addicts will know, reading a zine can take you places you won't go with any other form of literature (although there is some overlap with essay/ memoir, comix, stuff like that), a place that offers a devastating twist on the realities created by large-circulation newspapers and magazines. Good zines, bad zines, it doesn't matter, zines are a rare form of high low art. (Increasingly rare on paper, thanks to the internet and crap like Blastitude.) Anyway, here's a little rundown of what I acquired in this most banner of weeks:

On the aforementioned three-zine day, two of them were in the same envelope, and it had a San Francisco, California return address. Pulling the first one out, I came face-to-face with no name, no masthead, and no text, just Johnny, Mr. Carson himself, staring right at me with that smile, in glorious full-color. I was soon to find out that this was the debut issue of something called Night Moves. Printed on crappy newsprint paper, with no paper-stock differentiation from the body to the cover (a great crap style-move which I really dug back on Cimarron Weekend #3 or 4, whichever before they went "glossy" -- see also recent issues of Roctober), this is a slim volume featuring typo-ridden text, intentional stupidity, and retarded humor, and I'll be damned if the little thing hasn't completely revived my faith and motivation in words about music printed on paper. Interviews with Paul Costuros (of Total Shutdown) and Dave Broekema (of Numbers), 7000 Dying Rats, a movie review by CansaFis of No Doctors, "Here Is The Porn: An Odyssey Into Sex" (the obligatory porn piece that not all zines dare to publish), live reviews, a whole bunch of record reviews that make an art out of having no more insight than "From the first track, to the last, this album will have you listening and grooving to the wondrous sounds contained herein on this record," a 25 Suaves tour diary ("practically unreadable -- so we printed it twice!"), "some shit Matt Saint Germaine wrote," articles in praise of the band Monoshock and the subgenre Panic Rock (?!), and a KEY interview with none other than Nandor Nevai. Waitaminnit, this thing must not be that slim! Night Moves is sort of associated with the Bay Area "spockmorgue posse," and I believe the publisher/editor is writer/funnyman Mike McGuirk, whose journalistic endeavors memorably grace the pages of the San Francisco Bay Guardian. He's kind of Meltzer-esque, I guess you could say, and this zine is pretty Meltzer-esque, filled with absurdity and misinformation and non-sequitirs and non-reviews. But the Meltzer way is to use that stuff to AVOID writing about new rock music, because "rock is dead" or something, while Night Moves thinks rock is very much alive, and uses absurdity as a cover, or an icebreaker, so it can walk right up to new rock music and give it a big hug.

Also in the San Fran envelope and also inspiring was a zine called A Dangerous Game. Quite a bit more serious than Night Moves, but not without its own dry Dada-whiffs -- the most Dada thing about it being the incredibly crappy layout! The type face is so small, mis-centered, and unassertive that it's almost unreadable, and every article seems to have at least one major layout glitch, usually a mis-collated or backwards page. There's even one page that can only be read by being held up to a mirror, and it's unintentional -- even though it's a metal interview! I should point out that more than once in the mag the publisher himself, Will York, apologizes for the look ("Thank you for not laughing too loudly" he says at one point), but please, whatever Mr. York lacks as a designer, he more than makes up for it as a writer, editor, and interviewer. In fact, A Dangerous Game is made up entirely of interviews (that's right, no reviews, articles, profiles, essays, or thinkpieces, nothing but transcribed Q&A), one half with metal bands and the other half with new noise prog etc. bands. (It's even got a double front cover where you flip it over and turn it upside to read the other half, an ambitious concept that is probably to blame for all the pagination snafus.) York also shows up here and there in Night Moves -- in fact, the Nandor Nevai and 7000 Dying Rats interviews appear in both mags pretty much word for word, and you can buy both mags two-for-the-price-of-one postage-paid-in-the-U.S. from Mr. York for an unbelievably mere $3. (Specific info at the end of this review.) And boy, that Nandor Nevai interview is a beaut that deserves to be printed twice! The guy's got some information to share, as long as you can break through his personal chemically-saturated verbal meaning buffer. Many other highlights as well, such as an interview with San Francisco metal band Impaled, who I have not heard but I have to say give one of the most humorous band interviews I've come across since the Melvins! I also found a chat with Karl Sanders, the leader of the Egyptian-themed metal band Nile, refreshingly straightforward ("A good percentage of my song ideas, I get from watching the Discovery Channel," "I don't think man has changed. I think technology has pushed man's spirituality and real intellectual development into the background. I think we have regressed as a species," "I think people take death metal ideas much too fucking seriously . . . . Hello people! It's all entertainment. It might be an alternative form of entertainment -- fascinating and left-of-center -- but you know, it's still entertainment."). Here's the whole roll call of interview subjects . . . for "the music issue" there's The Locust, Flying Luttenbachers, The Curtains, Savage Republic, Andee of tUMULTt Records, Marco Eneidi, Orthrelm, Touchdown, Wolf Eyes, John French, and Total Shutdown, and for "the metal issue" there's Exhumed, Impaled, Entombed, Nile, Lamb of God, Isis, Godflesh, Sigh, Dan Swano, Solefald, and the aforementioned Nandor Nevai.
(UPDATED 12/21/08: To purchase a 2-pack of Night Moves and A Dangerous Game contact wwyork at gmail dot com!)

As for the third zine on the now-legendary three-zine day, it was a nice little thing called Ghost Press. First off, I'm really sorry to say that the other night, I absent-mindedly left my copy on the office floor and my cat pretended it was a mouse or something and tore up the cover a little bit (pictured). Trust me, your copy will look much nicer and smoother (unless you have a cat like mine). As for the rest of it, it's another strict interview mag, but it adds long introductory profile/essay/impression things by the editor/interviewer that are kinda nice. "This issue presents a web of relationships: friends, bandmates, allies, partners, et cetera... that is one of the many in independent music today. This one is among the closest and most important to me, which is why it is gracing this inaugural volume of ghost press . . ." Starts with a diggable D Yellow Swans interview, which is followed by a chat with Xiu Xiu who I just haven't especially gotten into musically, but it's a nice enough chat, and then the zine finishes with a flourish via excellent pieces on Rob Fisk (ex-Deerhoof, 7 Yr. Rabbit Cycle, Free Porcupine Society label, more) and then Steve Gigante (Dark Inside The Sun, 7 Yr. Rabbit Cycle, more). Written and published by a guy I think named Scott, who I think lives in Seattle -- I don't know, when the cat attacked he took most of the page one credits with him. Which means I can't really tell you how to get in touch with him to order one direct, but Spockmorgue Distro has copies. WAIT, THIS JUST IN: Spockmorgue might be out, and the best way to get a copy is direct from the source: scottg23@u.washington.edu . . . . .

Then, less than a week after the three-zine day, I get another zine in the mail, this time from "merrie olde" England, a nice little sheet called Sniper Glue, just four pieces of paper xeroxed on both sides with rants & reviews typed then cut and pasted over B&W backgrounds, all stapled together once in the upper left corner. I'm loving this 8-pages-and-out neo-mimeograph quick-hitter newsletter style, also seen this season from Tony Rettman's 200LBU #4. (Reviewed just below.) This is issue number 9 of Sniper Glue, and alcoholism seems to be a theme. Right there on the cover page is a short essay on Charles Jackson's The Lost Weekend (the book that became the movie), and pp. 5-7 feature a Naturaliste tour diary penned by Blastitude's own Omaha bro L. Eugene Methe, a pretty grim account of an alcoholic noise band barely holding it together while far from home. It starts ominously enough -- "Christopher Fischer, Charles Lareau, and I flew out to the East Coast, for two weeks of dates. It should be said that both the group -- and friends back home -- were genuinely frightened at the prospect" -- and this tone is maintained and in fact amplified as the tour progresses on its not-so-rosy path. Luckily everyone makes it through alive. The zine also contains some CD reviews and an uneventful live review (Sonic Youth in Glasgow, but he went home before they played) and a couple other mini-essays, one of which begins "Hysterical drunken rants? Is THAT what you're after?" Sure, why not?

I bought my own copy of the debut issue of Smallflowers Press -- it just looked so intensive. Indeed, the entire mag is made up of just three very lengthy interviews with subjects Dredd Foole, Chris Corsano, and Sunburned Hand of the Man, the last taking up over 50 pages! OK, Foole and Corsano rule, both great interviews, and though I still have not lost my mind to a Sunburned record, Rare Wood is good, and their live show in Chicago was damn good, and one thing is for sure: I dig reading all about them in Smallflowers Press. I mean, this is the way you do it. This is THE antidote to music-press PR puffery. Reading everything this mag lays on the table makes one realize just how incomplete the approach of any mag with word-count requirements and advertiser specs is always gonna be. I think it's simply just a natural law that for wider exposure, one must sacrifice true honesty and fully fleshed-out portraiture, and vice versa. I understand wanting to make a financial living for the work you do, but does it really come down to the fact that in order to accomodate the highest-paying advertisers one must limit their coverage to medium-short profiles so that any mogul who pays for publicity can be accomodated on whatever schedule he or she demands? I don't know, but the good news is that all that shit washes away every moment you spend sitting down and reading the "open fire biograph" conversations in Smallflowers Press. And here, after reading the whole thing back to back a couple times, I couldn't even tell you the interviewer/editor/publisher's name -- and that's the kind of selflessness that makes this zine such a beaut. Thanks, dude.

Shuttlecock is a rather formidable yet wacky literature zine that comes at ya spilling out of a flimsy yellow pouch made of parachute material or something, barely held together by orange yarn. Another one-stapler, adding to the looseness of it all. (Not to mention a couple free-floating stand-alone articles, also one-stapled, 2 or 3 pages along -- late additions? -- and other sundry handbills stuffed into the pouch as well.) Casually compiled essays, drawings, poems, jokes, fictions, and, um, 'events', a lot of crazy nowhere/everywhere/non sequitir words and stories and treatises that are ostensibly about sex. "The shuttlecock symbolizes a vagina, a penis, a clitoris, all in one. If you look at it you'll see all parts within. The theme of the first issue is Sex. The second issue is Jesus lives in a taco." Yeah, sure there's some sex in here, but it's really about nothing and everything, and both are heavily filtered through a fairly wild neo-wave West Coast fictional-autobiographical inner-bubble babble zone of rantitude. One piece, if you can find it, is written by Richard Meltzer and it's a great surprisingly straightforward piece on how much he loved The Doors. (Only two pages, but they're full pages, and the print is small.) Another piece is a faux interview with George W. Bush, his 'responses' compiled entirely from indelibly asinine things he has actually said in public. As for the rest, I just keep flipping to various prose poems and getting riveted by the bad-ass obscurity of it all, such as (flip flip) this one, Amy Vecchione bringing her mighty one-pager "What If You Stood Up" to a close: "Confidence is a builder, and I built mine out of milkshakes, cotton candy, roller coasters and knee socks. I like gold eyeshadow and pizza cutters. I'm totally against dried fruits, and I really like organic, free range, hormone free beef dipped in spicy fish and lime sauce. I built mine out of tattoos and railroad stations. Fires and punches in the mouth. I built mine out of late night parties and threesomes with my best friends. I built mine out of stomach to the nose bundled up on the shores of Lake Michigan asleep next to a fire after drinking no water, only wine, for three days until we all thought we were Jesus and were hallucinating. I built mine out of recovering off of 3 days of tripping wildly on a shot glass of lsd. I built mine on the Shulgins, and DMT, and sounds, and air." Alright! Email "theshuttlecock" at "yahoo dot com."

Ah, and then there's always The Wire -- as much as I complain about it, I still own well over 10 copies -- maybe even over 15. Sometimes I just have to spend the nine dollars or whatever, for example on this issue, #249, in which a great band is on the cover, from right here in the once sparsely attended Midwestern USA noise scene. Great looking cover, too -- way to go, Wire, way to go, Wolf Guys. I mean, hey, the the Wire staff writes about lots of great music in every single issue, but it's the way they write about it, the actual words on paper and my attempt to read through them, where I have problems. Not problems with whether or not I agree with their assessments -- the world's a very complicated place and I can't care too much about all that shit -- just an overall problem with the way the mag makes me feel, which is kinda bored and lifeless. It rarely gets me more excited about what they're covering -- on the contrary, it often makes me feel less excited, even when it's a band I love. The Wolf Eyes article is good, written by top-notch music writer Alan Licht, and the pictures look great, but I still feel it falls a little short of the mark. For one, it doesn't catch the hilarious repartee these guys can go off on in their transcribed Q&A's, and really, that's my issue, which I tried to expound on a couple reviews back, the inherent difference between zines and magazines . . . that it is precisely the lack of professionalism and the lack of editorial control that makes zines so readable for me, and it is the professionalism and heavy editorial control of magazines like The Wire that makes them ultimately so lifeless and strangely disappointing. When I look at such a professional cleanly-designed advertiser-driven magazine, I have to say, "This is all IMPORTANT. A lot of money has gone into what I'm to be looking at it. If I do not read and learn from it all, then I am wasting someone's money, and not just mine!" (Edwin Pouncey is very solid, and of course I love Byron Coley's column, but after that . . . David Keenan, of course, passionate and great taste in music, and damn have you seen volcanictongue.com, but . . . . I don't know, I like that crazy writer Dave Tompkins who occasionally does the hip-hop page. The rest is just mush.)

And then, like Don Rickles finally getting up three hours into a sloppy friar roast to really schtick it to the comedy aesthetes, thank goodness there's Tony Rettman to set everything straight among this here gutter demimonde of a music scene, by printing up an 8-pager of his own mimeo-style, the long-awaited issue #4 of 200 LB Underground. He's been on the Blastitude masthead for a couple years now, so clearly this is the barest nepotism, but do sincerely check out this mag if you're at all interested in such artists as Formerly Fat Harry, Workbench, Bergen White, Mike Fellows, Terry Reid, Narnia, Kevin Drumm, Vampire Belt, Avarus, the Vitamin B12, and the afore-mentioned Magick Markers. Also most untouchable HC Trivia quiz. No staples, but well-printed and folded on real nice glossy paper, and at only 8 pages it hangs together like a magazine anyway. And it's a color print job too! E-mail: "trettman" at hotmail.

And finally, on a sadder note, Bananafish Magazine has announced that its 18th issue, now out with the awesome harsh Don McLean reality cover, will be its last. Understandable, as the publishers have cranked out an incredible run of eighteen book-length issues in seventeen years. I've been reading it since 1992 myself (issue #7). In recent years the magazine has been particularly astounding, getting up to around 200 pages each issue packed with criticism and insight that can be equally rigorous and ridiculous, most often firmly demarcating some rarefied position in between the two poles. And the interview/feature subjects are endlessly interesting . . . . Jason McLean, Hetty Maclise, Robert Dayton, Parmentier (those guys were hilarious!), Paul Winstanley, Volvox, Ana-Marie Avram, Christine Shields, Agog, mad-cow.org, Reynols, Ota Keiti, Panicsville, NT Fan, Vote Robot, "Incredibly Terrible Music" by Tom Smith, Ilhan Mimaroglu, AZ, Universal Indians, Le Dernier Cri, Angst Hase Pfeffer Nase, Witcyst, William Winant, Solid Eye, Nautical Almanac, Lucas Abela, Nihilist Spasm Band, Iancu Dumitrescu, Sufi Mind Game, Crank Sturgeon . . . and that's just going back to #13, completely leaving out their greatest interview of all time: Macronympha! (From issue #10.) This final issue has interviews with Burning Star Core and Monotract, both long-time Blastitude faves, as well as Joe Colley, "surreal, interdisciplinary comics" by David Lester of Mecca Normal, and, of course, more. Every issue of Bananafish features at least one artist profile/interview that is completely like "where the h*** did this come from and do they even really exist?" For this issue, that role is best filled by 1960s Argentinian composer Nelson Gastaldi, interviewed by Reynols. And, of course, there's the usual mind-boggling array of record reviews disguised as incendiary cultural treatises disguised as vintage surrealism, and of course the always top-notch accompanying Various Artists CD. Overall, the issue is smaller than the last few (only 98 pages!), but who can blame 'em? After years of amazing service, Seymour Glass and Co. are taking a very well-deserved retirement. Kudos!

Wait, this just in . . . .I had so much fun reading Roctober #38, I just had to tell you about it. Roctober tends to compile each issue around a theme, and this time it's "TV Rock'n'Roll," in which the staff describes every historical and otherwise memorable rock-and-TV moment they can think of, like "The Legendary Stardust Cowboy on Laugh-In (1968)," or Devo being on Square Pegs, or, one that really brought back some freaky childhood memories for me personally, David Bowie with Klaus Nomi on Saturday Night Live. (I didn't know that was Klaus Nomi! Who is he, anyway?) There's also stuff like "Hanna-Barbera Rocks" by Plastic Crimewave, "Eleven Notable Jerry Lee Lewis TV Appearances" by Ken Burke, and most godlike of all, a VH1 Behind The Music Episode Guide, 22.5 pages of very small print detailing the ups and downs of every single Behind The Music! And all of this comes from just one issue of a magazine that put out another (equally generous) issue just a month or two before and is going to put out another (equally generous) issue just a month or two later. And I'm not even mentioning all the stuff in #38 that isn't related to TV, like Nardwuar the Human Serviette interviewing Snoop Dogg -- hilarious!! -- or the astoundingly voluminous work by Flamin' Waymon Timbsdale, the King of Review Land!

And wait, one more zine just flew in here, issue #22 of Atlanta-based Kiss My Grits. I reviewed an earlier issue or two of this mag a while back in Blastitude, and it's nice to have it back. They always seem to have a theme, and this time it's "DISGUST," with a picture of some sort of fake meatloaf by Hormel Foods on the cover. As usual, there isn't a whole lot of full-on writing, mainly a collagistic assembly of random pictures, drawings, and sketches. There is a great centerpiece that lists things that the writers find disgusting. It's a fine read that goes in part like this: "Vomiting up live things in a dream. Jennifer Lopez & Ben Affleck. What looked like a crumb but was a blob of mashed potato (maybe). Bennifer dead or alive. "Gradual change over time" as opposed to "evolution." When anyone says "smell my finger." Robert Frost. Christina Aguilera. The protestant work ethic. Dan Quayle. Nike. That terror is not reserved for art. Henry Kissinger's Nobel Peace Prize. Competition as unquestioned good. The Me Generation. "Mommy is there monkey in my banana?" HMOs. Ari Fleischer. Unending use of the words "bitch" and "ho." Liza Minelli." There's four great pages of this, plus recipes for Coconut Beer Batter Spam with Raspberry Horse, and Spam Meat Spread, a blank page with actual dirt on it (at least I hope it's dirt), and even a couple notebook pages inserted, with actual hand drawings of disgusting kitty litter and the like, for that personal touch.

"READS: PART 2 . . . . . . BOOKS!!!