Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Suburban Voice blog #136



CHANGES AT MAXIMUM ROCKNROLL... PLUS A COLUMN YOU MIGHT HAVE MISSED

I'd imagine many of you have heard the news that MRR will be ceasing the print version of the zine with the May issue, after nearly 37 years of publishing. It's a tough time for print zines. I haven't done a print issue since 2003. A lot of it has to do with procrastination or, as somewhat less benevolent might say, pure laziness. I know a blog isn't the same as a print zine and I DO want to return to print for at least one more issue and some kind of book that people has asked me about for years. I just don't know if I have the dedication, ambition or perseverance to do that again. Cost is another consideration, with printing and shipping rates having increased astronomically since I last published. I'd have to sell some advertising, like in the past, but might find that a bit more challenging. That's one of MRR's problems--a large decline in print sales. There are other problems, as well, but that's one of the biggest. 


I'm sorry to say that there will never be a 100+ page issue of the zine again. It's not all that necessary since this (sporadically published) blog features record reviews. I know it lacks the interviews and live reviews that the print issue featured. I haven't done a band interview in several years at this point and the last few I did weren't really up to snuff and I never even bothered transcribing them. Maybe someday I'll see what I can salvage. 

Getting back to MRR, I've been reading it since almost day one. My collection starts with the second issue and I have every single one of them up to the present, except for issue #1, which I have a copy of. Those of you who have spent your entire lives gleaning musical knowledge strictly from the internet might not understand the importance MRR and other print zines. I touched on that in my tribute to Tim Yohannan that ran in SV blog #129 from last year. I'd scour the interviews, record reviews and ads looking for new records to order or try to trade my zine for. I connected with penpals all over the country and around the world from the classifieds in MRR and Flipside. I even found romance (briefly) through one of those ads. I still have the tapes, records and flyers I received in trade--many of my classic Finnish and Swedish hardcore records come from those penpals. 

EIGHT BOXES OF MRR 

I sound like a fossil but there wasn't the instant access to information that you have now. I love that too... best of both worlds. I'll read a review about a band in MRR and if it piques my interest, I'll hop on-line and try to find their music. Within a few minutes, I'll be putting the good ones on my iPhone, plugging it into my home or car stereo and playing it nice and loud. If I like it, I'll try to track down a physical copy. The process is definitely streamlined. I fully support instant gratification but I also love perusing the stack of various books and magazines next to my recliner, although I do have a tablet and now read digital books in addition to printed ones. 

Anyway, as of now, MRR will be increasing its online content, including the records review. I'm not sure what other content will be moving there--I'd like to continue my monthly column but that's up in the air. They'll also eventually be launching an on-line digital archive that will include "the complete print run of the magazine, dating back to 1982. Each issue is meticulously catalogued to the article level and presented as a high-quality searchable PDF, completely free of charge."

So, yeah, it's the end of an era but, whether people like it or not, MRR isn't going away. I just hope I'm part of their future.


In the meantime, here's a column you might have missed... let's just say...


YOU CAN’T PLEASE EVERYONE


Putting one’s opinions in print—or online, for that matter—occasionally leads to criticism or objections. It goes with the territory, of course. It’s been intensified in this era of social media. Such things moved a bit more slowly back then. Instead of jumping on-line, you had to write letters to the editor. This publication used to have a very lively letters section, with people going back and forth over several issues.

The thing is, some people hang onto their resentments. I know a few people who have carried grudges for that long over perceived slights I gave them in the 80s. One of them admits he’s still a dick to me because I didn’t give his band enough respect back then. In fact, he crossed the line once, meddling in my personal life but I’d rather not go into it. And all over a fucking review. Sheesh, get a life, will ‘ya?

I’ve been pretty fortunate over my writing “career” to have not received all that much in the way of harsh criticism, abuse or threats. Maybe I’m doing something right or maybe people just don’t care all that much or have the fortitude to call me out. Anyway, it’s happened from time to time, starting with one of my early issues. One of my writers at the time, Kathi Whalen, did a review of a show where she said the Boston band Stranglehold “tore through a typical hardcore set that actually wasn’t too bad at all, just a little on the predictable side.” This apparently inspired the members of the band to call me—collect—to take issue with what she’d written, even though the criticism was mild. Of course, being an idiot, I accepted the charges. It sounded like they were a bit more than inebriated while giving me grief and asserting that Kathi’s assessment of them being a typical hardcore band was far off the mark. They did have a point. After hearing their music later on, which came from more of a hard-driving melodic punk impulse, it’s obvious that Kathi’s review wasn’t entirely accuarate. She was a good writer, though, and eventually parlayed her talents into a “legit” writing career with the Washington Post and City Paper.


I got a call another time—not collect, thankfully—from a woman who objected to a review I gave of SSD’s third 12”, How We Rock. You know, the one where they “went metal.” She didn’t identify herself but we went back and forth for a good 20 minutes, debating the accuracy of my assessment that the album was basically second-rate AC/DC. In retrospect, that’s not completely accurate but it’s still mediocre rock with incessant guitar wanking and really awful vocals. Anyway, neither of us convinced each other to change our opinions and, while the conversation was spirited, it never devolved into nastiness. I eventually realized who it probably was some time later—someone close to the band—although she claims she doesn’t recall it and/or flat-out denies it. I’m not buying it but I won’t name names.

Annoying phone calls aren’t as bad as physical threats, of course. I was only threatened physically one time. There was a small group of Nazi-wannabes who came to shows in the mid-80s and would engage in sieg-heiling. I called them out in the ‘zine. The main instigator, a guy named Flea (not to be confused with the bass player from the west coast), confronted me in the parking lot of the Channel club in Boston. He basically said bad things would happen to me if kept saying bad things about them. I told him I wasn’t going to stop and, wouldn’t you know it, nothing ever came of it. I’ll admit it made me nervous.

Speaking of skinheads and Nazis, one of the biggest incidents involved a skinhead zine in the early 90s called Under Siege. The issues the publisher sent me featured interviews with racist bands like Stormwatch and Straw Dogs (the UK one) and other bands who flirted with sketchiness. There was also a pathological hatred of gay people. In fact, there was a pathological hatred of anyone who didn’t embrace their nationalist right-wing ideology. Their slogan was “Burn Fags, Not Flags.” One columnist who said he was a kindergarten teacher suggested that his readers “Bash fags. Bash satanists (sic). Bash homeless winos. Bash feminists. Bash drug dealers but most of all, bash liberals! Let them know that we will not give into their pseudo-hippie ways.” I could go on but you get the idea.

Unfortunately, I published an ad for this zine in issue #32 of Suburban Voice, before I’d seen it. I’d been assured by an acquaintance whose band was also interviewed (a non-racist band, I might add) that there wasn’t anything objectionable in it. Oh boy was I embarrassed. More than that—it made me sick. I actually sent a letter to MRR that was published in issue #113 (October 1992) where I offered a mea culpa, stating that I’d been taken and felt like a sap. I followed that up in my column in the next issue of SV. Well, needless to say, the individual behind Under Siege didn’t take it too well. I made their “no thanks” list, where I was listed as “Al Queer” and the review of SV said it was a “fag rag.” (I think I detect a trend here).

Not only that, but I got a letter from one of the ‘zine’s fans, a gentleman named Joe whose nickname, if I remember correctly, was “Animal.” He was writing from a prison in New York state where he was apparently doing 6 to 12 years for what he said was a “bullshit” charge, namely that he “stabbed a cop like 30 times, and then his friend 20 times at a biker bar.” Now I’m not saying the Animal is guilty—I wasn’t there after all—but he did send me a rather nasty missive. Yes, I keep all of my fan mail, good and bad. It was addressed to “Dickie Do aka The Traitor, Commie” and the salutation was, “Hey Al, you mother fucking commie, cock sucking…” um, I think I’ll leave out the rest except to say it was two pages of every gay slur you could possibly think of. Once again, I think I detect a trend. Animal definitely had some anger-management issues. I hope he was able to eventually overcome them and once again become a productive member of society.  

There were two songs that had my name attached to them. One was “Al Quint Is An Emo Pussy” by Tiltwheel and the other was “Mr. Quint” by the Connecticut thrash band Atrocity. The former, on TILTWHEEL’s Hair Brained Scheme Addicts, wasn’t meant to be anything malicious, it was just their guitarist/vocalist Davey poking fun at me for thinking that Uriah Heep was better than Thin Lizzy. Davey’s a real diehard fan of Thin Lizzy—he has a tattoo of their logo. In recent years, I might come down on the Lizzy side of things. Maybe not—depends on the day. In any case, the lyrics don’t even mention me. The entirety of them are “Wonder why I’m so depressed? Fuck the world and then I’ll take you with me.” People have sent me messages over the years asking for an explanation and why Davey would write a song with such a nasty title.

 
On the other hand, the Atrocity song wasn’t any sort of love bouquet. Nope, it was pure malevolence and a response to a negative review I gave the band when they played their first area show, at TT the Bear’s in Cambridge. This was confirmed by their bass player Rich, when I contacted him on Facebook. I wrote that they had the stage presence of a “sack of potatoes.”       

I didn’t even know about this song until the early 2010s, when Brian from Dropdead told me about it. It appeared on their 1988 demo Mangled. I tracked it down on YouTube. 40 seconds of grind/thrash bile that breaks down into a riff on the “Mr. Grinch” song from Dr. Seuss’ How The Grinch Stole Christmas. Here are the lyrics: “Quint, Quint can't you see?/Your opinion means shit to me/We don't play to please you/Take your fucking rag and screw/He's a dickhead—Mr. Quint/He's an asshole—Mr. Quint/You talk shit—Mr. Quint/You maggot Mr. Quint…”


Anyway, Rich and I had a good laugh about it. He also said I was probably right and that they always found the review to be “funny as shit.” The demo even came out on vinyl in 2016. Rich was nice enough to send me a copy and it’s still available. Let’s just say it falls into the unnecessary reissue category but if you can’t get enough of late 80s thrash/death/grind mayhem, go to www.foadrecords.it. In all honesty, it’s fairly entertaining.

I’m always open to constructive criticism, though. And I’ve set up a special email address for it. Share your thoughts with me at HeresADimeCallSomeoneWhoCares@gmail.com.