(click on the picture…it’s a link…)
ON DECK: REVIEWS. REVIEWS. MORE REVIEWS.
Happy New Year to all. To ring in 2014 we’ve decided to give you reviews of some archaic formats: books and cassettes! It’s not all MP3s and e-books and blogs just yet. You can jump into to the cassette section after you read the book reviews below. I’d just like to make the additional commentary that I feel that Xerox Ferox should be on every bookshelf and if you didn’t get it for Christmas you should go spend that $20 Aunt Ruth gave you on it now. And I apologize that this tapes/demos section was so long in the making, as I tend to dread tackling the mountain of cassettes that builds up next to the desk after a few months. But I have to admit that there are more than a few quality tape releases out there these days making the format seem more and more viable and the affordability is becoming appealing as record prices continue to rise. Maybe the resurgence of cassettes doesn’t seem so ridiculous anymore…We’ll be back soon with record reviews and Best of 2013 lists.
XEROX FEROX: THE WILD WORLD OF THE HORROR FILM FANZINE (John Szpunar – Headpress)
John Szpunar’s Xerox Ferox was a long-awaited tome here at Termbo HQ. For as much as the world of music fandom (and fanzines) has been a time-consuming obsession of mine since adolescence, the world of horror fandom has been an almost equal passion and might have been my first true love. Subtitled “The Wild World of the Horror Film Fanzine”, Szpunar covers four decade’s worth of ground in a whopping 800 pages, allowing a story to spin itself over the course of forty-plus interviews with the men (and women) who created the self-published fanzines that built the foundation of horror fandom as we know it today. I was fully expecting Xerox Ferox to be a great read, filled with minutiae about magazines I’d never heard of and anecdotes about tracking down and interviewing obscure films and filmmakers, and there’s plenty of that. But as this thing unfolded I realized what Szpunar also created was something far more than just a collection of interviews. There’s a story told within that touches not just on the horror film genre, but talks to the wider subject of fandom in general, and what being a part of that community means to the individual. Every person interviewed in this book, no matter how obscure their zine, aspired to be a part of a larger whole and followed through on such aspirations in whatever way they could. Be that handwriting zines and running them off on the photocopier (or mimeograph in some ancient cases…) at work, contributing to mags that other people published or even writing for nationally distributed magazines with actual budgets and professional printing, these people did it not for money, not for acclaim, they did it to be a part of something they felt passionate about, something that they loved. I think every one of you reading this “review” knows that feeling – be it through releasing records, making music the music on those records, writing your own zine, taking photos, organizing shows, whatever it may be, all of us know this passion and have tried to do our own part to contribute to making our section of fandom prosper. Whatever thing it is that you’ve done, it might not seem like much, but the entire reason we’re all here right now is FANDOM. Reading this book I couldn’t help but think about the bigger picture we’re all a part of.
We need to talk about this book first, before I start going too wildly off topic. So, the premise of Xerox Ferox is that Szpunar tracked down just about everyone who printed or wrote for a horror fanzine that was read by more than 50 people over about the past forty years. The list is immense, packed with names and titles that I’d heard of and just as many that I’ve never even heard mentioned, and I like to think I’m somewhat immersed in this sort of thing. He talks nuts and bolts with all of the editors, which is fascinating in itself – how they laid out their zine, how they got it printed, how it was distributed. As someone who has labored over my own pages, hearing the old school tales of guys typing around images, typesetting by hand and stapling zines together in their bedrooms are always enjoyable. Every interview somehow connects with the next few via various degrees of separation – this guy wrote for that guy who traded with this guy who found about his zine via this other zine. The type of bloodline we’re all familiar with – you put on a show for a band, who give you a demo tape from their friend’s band who is on a label that this other guy runs where you find about another record he put out that this other guy you know did the artwork for, etc…it’s hard to not relate these stories to music fandom. It’s also fascinating to see where the horror crowd overlapped with punk rock. A lot of these zines would cover music as well as films, like Nick Cato’s Hardgore and Stink which covered the NYHC scene and sleaze/horror at the same time. Or guys like Nick Burrell, who started with the legendary punk zine Into the Void before moving on to horror. Or tidbits like the fact that Bill Landis was Patti Pallidin’s cousin. Musicians themselves were in on the act: Cecil Doyle of KBD legends Toxin III also did an amazing photocopied zine called Subhuman which counted none other than Rob Zombie as a subscriber. Stefan Jaworzyn is a name you should recognize from playing in Skullflower and Whitehouse and from starting the Shock Records label, but he was also the editor of one of the best European horror mags in Shock Xpress. And it wouldn’t be a book touching on the NYC underground without a Johan Kugelburg reference – yes, the Kuge himself gets some credit here for getting Mike McPadden distribution for his Happyland zine through Matador back in the Nineties. It all connects, man.
There are recurring threads/questions that run through the interviews, aside from the standard “How did you get into horror…” track of questioning. Szupnar and his subjects have an appreciation for the history of the horror zine and make sure to acknowledge it. Just about every conversation touches on the influence of the giants of horror zinedom: Forrest Ackerman and Famous Monsters (the godfather of horror fandom, who essentially sets the story of this book in motion), Chas Balun and Deep Red (who changed the game in the Eighties with his personal writing style and attitude), Bill Landis and Sleazoid Express (one of the greatest zines of any genre, a printed documentary of the glory days of Times Square/42nd Street and a zine not just about sleaze films but about sleaze as a lifestyle) and Rick Sullivan’s Gore Gazzette (the “other” NYC grindhouse zine, which seemingly made it a point to talk shit about everything and everyone, other zines/writers included). These four monsters of horror were an immense influence on their peers both as writers and as enablers for others to get printed. Their work was as much about their own voices as it was propagating and growing the zine community and voices of others as well. Sadly, Ackerman, Balun and Landis have all passed on, and Rick Sullivan basically dropped off the face of the earth after ending Gore Gazzette’s run, but their unique visions are what kept the horror fanzine afloat and their impact is still felt today.
With over 40 interviews, you’d think things would get redundant, but these individuals have distinct enough voices to give different spins to the same topics. The concerns of zine writers in the UK during the Video Nasties era were far different than their US compatriots for example. Writers from different eras dealt with available technologies in different ways and the VHS boom of course changed everything. The most impressive segments are an interview with Balun before his untimely death, artist/writer Steve Bissette spilling his guts on his decades of work, getting to hear the story of Tom Skulan of Fantaco, the Albany comic shop that printed and distributed many of these zines and organized one of the first horror conventions (and whose ads in Fangoria allowed me to mailorder hard-to-find stuff like Deep Red, Slimetime and more), talks with Jim Morton who authored the Incredibly Strange Films Re/Search book, Uncle Bob Martin (the man whose efforts made Fangoria’s glory days worth reading), the heavily opinionated Stefan Jaworzyn of the essential Shock Xpress, Jimmy McDonough (author of the Andy Milligan book The Ghastly One which is one of the best bios ever – and he’s also the author of Shakey and the best Russ Meyer bio), and Tim Lucas of Video Watchdog, perhaps the longest running and most academic of all the zines here. Some of the more fascinating segments also come from obscurities like Michael Helms (of Australia’s Fatal Visions) or Tim Mayer’s Fear of Darkness – super small print zines, often done by teenagers or isolated fans in an attempt to connect with the rest of the world.
The only drawbacks: no Rick Sullivan or Michael Weldon (Psychotronic) interviews, which Szpunar admits, as both refused to be interviewed. And the Landis chapter is an interview with that is reprinted from Creeping Flesh (also a Headpress title at least), but still bears inclusion here for anyone who hasn’t read it before. Any shortcomings are quickly forgotten within the massive international scope covered, anecdotes about everyone from Quentin Tarantino to Gene Simmons and a great layout that pays tribute to the photocopied layouts of the zines discussed. There are plenty of great pictures and the reproductions of the amateur zine covers are amazing. There’s also a bonus section that prints lost interviews with three of my favorite underground directors: Jim van Bebber (Deadbeat at Dawn), Roy Frumkes (Street Trash) and Buddy Giovinazzo (Combat Shock), which would be worth the price of admission alone.
The state of modern horror fandom is brought up often, particularly the change from print to online publishing. Many of these authors now have their own blogs, but many simply stopped writing when print ceased to be an option. I can appreciate both perspectives. The online vs. print debate is something I’ve considered quite a bit, and like many, I think there is room for both. The real question becomes the quality of the writing/content and passion of the people behind them. A shit print zine is just as useless as a shit blog and vice versa. The horror magazine itself seems to be in good shape for now, and even if much of it is still crap, you can find a lot out there – Shock Cinema, Screem and Video Watchdog can still be found on the shelves at Barnes & Noble and are all still worthwhile. Fangoria has been garbage for ten years or more now (the Entertainment Weekly of horror), and their attempt to re-launch Gorzeone as subscription-only seems good natured but ill advised – hopefully their constant Chas Balun namedropping will actually make for some writing befitting his legend. Famous Monsters has been re-booted once again, in a slick-as-shit and expensive style regrettably. Rue Morgue seems to be written by the “cool nerd” crowd that thinks post-Danzig Misfits are cool, yet still has some good columns even if you know these guys wear costumes on days that aren’t Halloween. Only Horrorhound offers a mainstream zine you can count on for some actual fanzine-style passion, and although it also suffers from some amateurish pitfalls, it’s that semi-pro attitude that lends it some real charm. There are smaller zines still out there like Lunchmeat and Weng’s Chop that offer up treats for serious fans as well. As always, the deeper you dig, the better your returns will be. It raises the possibility that now, with the over saturation of information on the internet making everything turn to white noise, is getting smaller the way to go again?
Xerox Ferox is obviously essential for the true horror fanatic who probably owns actual copies of some of the zines involved here, but I think even those not that familiar with much of the subject matter will be able to appreciate the story it tells. Those interested in zines and self-publishing in general will enjoy the journey. Even casual horror fans will appreciate the recollections of years spent growing up watching midnight movies, reading old horror comics and renting VHS tapes. Fandom is all around us these days and much like the mainstream has watered down and corrupted much of what the horror community was built upon, we can see parallels in music fandom as well. This story could have easily been told with a collection of music zine writers: Greg Shaw isn’t far off from Uncle Forry, Balun could be a Lester Bangs substitute, with folks like Byron Coley or Gerard Cosloy acting as the Landis & Sullivan. Shit, that would make a pretty good book. But I think the real message of Xerox Ferox, and something that we should all think about, is that fandom is what you choose to make of it. You get as much passion out of it as you put into it. All of the people Szpunar spoke with here made a difference, made fandom a better place or at the very least kept the blood flowing and the community alive for the next generation. It’s something to both admire and aspire to in our own lives.(RK)
(You can order directly from Headpress, who offer both a hardbound special edition and the regular softcover,alongside dozens of other recommended books and journals. You can also follow John Szpunar via the Xerox Ferox page here.)
IF YOU LIKE THE RAMONES…(Peter Aaron – Backbeat Books)
For those unaware, aside from fronting one of the finer of the Nineties NYC outfits in the Chrome Cranks, Peter Aaron is also an award winning journalist, writing for numerous Upstate NY newspapers and magazines alongside work for the Boston Herald, Village Voice, allmusic.com and more. He also did a zine called Suburban Muckraker back in his Ohio days. The guy’s credentials speak for themselves, have no doubt. I was unaware that there is a series under this premise, that “If You Like…” say Metallica, Bob Marley or even The Sopranos(?!), one of these books will show you “over 200 bands, CDs, films and other oddities that you will love” as well. In The Ramones case this will of course guide you to girl groups, bubblegum, garage rock, cartoons, heavy metal, comic books, the rest of the punk rock canon and various B-Movies and TV shows. I respect the work Mr. Aaron has done here, but let’s just admit that this book is of little use to anyone except maybe a eighth grader who just got his first Green Day record. This is introductory level pop culture for anyone with even a fleeting interest in anything remotely “rock’n’roll”. Said eighth grader might need a little help finding out about The Pagans or Death Race 2000 and could use the overview of US and UK punk and hardcore. He should probably already know about South Park and The Beatles, I imagine. Perhaps the listing of Fifities/Sixties television shows and films is something that I grew up with that the kids of today are missing out on. I can understand that inclusion. There is some pretty obscure stuff here for the uninitiated and plenty of obvious entries as well. When I was a kid I remember getting Gene Sculatti’s Catalog of Cool and tracked down stuff like Lord Buckley, Esquerita and Terry Southern after reading it. While If You Like The Ramones is a far more mainstream effort than Sculatti’s somewhat subversive book, I hope it will be of some use to youngsters out there trying to find their way. If you’re reading this website, I can guarantee you already know everything this book has to offer. But, your 12 year old nephew might need some help…
Update = four interviews from four different contributors. Round One: Chuck Barrels vs. Buck Biloxi in a hard-hitting no holds barred slugfest. Round Two: our old pal Dinosaur Mahaffey is outfoxed by the far younger and far better looking Haley Fohr aka Circuit Des Yeux. Round Three: guest contributor Cooper Bowman tangles with Jason “Nerve City” Boyer (and I’d like to add that new LP on Sweet Rot is a keeper.) Round Four: closing out the card, our own Erick Elrick goes Australian Rules against Cuntz. Follow the links above and below or on the pages. We’ll be back soon with reviews. Stay warm.
A good chunk of reviews here with more to come soon as we attempt to keep up with the incoming pace. We have a bunch more ready to go soon, but I had to cut the cord on this batch as it was getting late. As usual. More blogging and interviewing soon. Labels and bands, thanks for being patient and drop us a line if you want to chat. More soon.
There’s no question that Dry-Rot were one of the better (if not the best) hardcore bands of the past few years, on both a musical and even a purely aesthetical level. As smart as they were punishing. Bands that good don’t tend to last long but by the end of their tumultuous existence the had at least managed to give us more than a few EPs, a phenomenal LP and a “controversial” MRR interview to remember them by. Post-DR bands started to spring up soon after, still on their own Cold Vomit label, including the excellent Heavy Air flexi (and tape) and some demos by a band called Uranium Orchard. Last year UO released their first LP, which became one of my most listened-to records of the past year. Expanding their hardcore agressiveness to a much wider sonic template made for intriguing listening, but the real hook were the ideas. These were songs that actually had something to say, songs with ideas, songs with intelligence behind them that beckoned you to figure out their intentions or motifs. I suppose this is the point where religion comes into the conversation, but much like Dry-Rot was never a band who preached overtly through their music, the same goes for Uranium Orchard. Talking about religion or God is no different to talking about love, sex, or death in rock’n'roll as far as I’m concerned. I’m much more interested in this band’s reasons and process for creating such incredible music than I am worried about their stance on abortion. But anyway, I’m veering off topic…the LP became an obsession for me and I wanted to try an decipher some of it’s codes so I e-mailed Jordan of the band to ask him a bunch of questions, as I’ve done to him repeatedly since the Dry-Rot days. I figured that since I was asking we might as well turn it into an interview for Termbo, which was something I had been meaning to do with him since Dry-Rot was still functioning anyway. In the meantime, the band had also released the “Unchurched Shithead” EP early this year, songs I had the privelege of hearing in demo form and were thrilled to see on vinyl so quickly. It packed the same wide scope into a smaller frame, six songs of powerful music and engaging themes that is one of my favorite records of 2013. I’ll warn you in advance, if you haven’t given this band a chance you are missing out, and you should probably dip into the waters a bit or at least listen along while you read this interview. There aren’t many bands making music this interesting right now, and I urge you not to miss out. Click below to enter. (Ed: I know we promised some reviews first, but upon editing I realized half of them were bullshit, so we’re still working on it. they’ll be up soon.)
Now that an all-too-brief summer seems to sadly be over, it’s time to get back to business. Months ago I promised an All Australian update, and here it is. I had a few more things planned but time was running out, so I think maybe we’ll do this again in the near future and add some addendums to it sooner than later. What we do have to offer in the now are interviews with Owen from Straight Arrows and Lynton from from Satanic Rockers; a recap of Home Blitz’s Australian tour and some downloadable music from their radio appearance; an All Aussie record review section; and and interview we did with Brendon from NGL a few years ago and some writing from him on RIP Society’s Success Summit from 2010. These two articles were meant for publication in a print zine that never happened and I hated to see them languishing on my desktop. Without Brendon’s help I would never have been able to have such an appreciation of the modern Australian music scene that I love so much. I miss having him telling me which bands suck and which are genius, among many other things. I also need to thank DX for all of his help in keeping me current via Distort and correspondence, as well as Owen from Straight Arrowns and Al from UV Race who answered many questions for me and Rich Dropkick for his assitance and help over the years. And a GIGANTIC thanks to Bruce Saltmarsh. Without Bruce I would never have been able to hear so many great records by so many great bands. I’ve had a lifelong obsession with Aussie music, from spending my allowance on AC/DC cassettes, to hearing my first Saints records, to hearing The Scientists for the first time (both “versions”), a decades long chase/infatuation with the Black Eye Records label/”sound”, still pursuing a Waste Sausage comp to this day, a love affair with Cosmic Psychos, right up to today and driving hundreds of miles to see ECSR and reading issues of Negative Guest List and Distort front-to-back multiple times in order to squeeze every kernel of information out of them. I’m just thrilled to be able to watch the amazing scene over there from afar with the help of some very gracious human beings mentioned above. I was thinking of writing an editorial about what it is that makes Aussie music so great, but after asking a few people questions along those lines it just seemed sort of silly. We all know what the magic is, and any bunch of words I could string together (no bullshit/no frills/grunt/swamp/burl/blahblahblah) will never do it justice. Have at it here. As I said, now that the weather is less favorable for gardening and outdoor beer drinking, expect more from us more regularly: we have a tall stack of reviews just about ready to go, some long-in-the-works interviews finished and even some serious blogging coming up. Thanks as always for everything, all of you, and see you soon.
The first official release from the Gary Wrong Group, following up the ill-fated “Pollen Christ” 7” on Total Punk and the “Mayhem Troopers” 7” on Bat Shit (and its many wonderful cover variations) credited as simply Gary Wrong. Those singles were mainly one-man recording efforts (with help from Wizzard Sleeve accomplice Benny Devine), but the Group expands things to a quartet including Quintron on drums/organ and a fella named Weird Steve on synths along with Devine and Wrong. Six songs at 45 rpm, with things sounding far more deep via extensive synth squiggling from Steve, acting in a capacity much like LZR does in Human Eye, not laying down rhythms as much as adding sound effects and background noise – and this is in addition to Quintron’s more direct organ lines and Devine doubling on Casio. The dual percussive efforts produce results as well – avoiding the two-drummers-playing-the-same-thing pitfall much of the time, but alternating fills and differing their patterns enough to keep you guessing. “Post Natal Pre Death” is a lockstep march that could easily be the intro to the giant monster attack depicted in the album art, a heavy stomp with extra-dimensional synth. The parenthetical addendum to the title “Reasons To Shive (Ode to Ubu)” rears its head as an effectively repetitive downer-trip into darkness and “Heroin Beach Serpents Attack” repurposes the original for more B-movie scifi-esque mayhem. “St. Theo” is very Quintron-esque, with upbeat organ breaks cutting up the doomy repetition and sorta rapped lyrics. The tail end of this repeats “Pollen Christ” and their “Streets of Iron” cover from the 7”, which I have no beef with since barely anyone got a copy of that 7” anyway, and they seem to have tinkered with them a bit. An impressive concoction from some true Southern-fried weirdos – a bit raunchier and rockier than Wizzard Sleeve, with a Roger Corman budget and aesthetic. Scum stats: 500 copies (all gone!), with insert and fantastic silkscreened cover art that is just begging you to grab some markers and color it in. Intrepid readers should carry on with the Life and Times of Gary Wrong here…(RK)
(Total Punk // wwww.floridasdying.com)
(Jeth-Row // jethrowrecords.blogspot.com)
(Ed: For those not that internet savvy, here is a link to a Gary Wrong interview. This should tide you over for a week until we finish the Aussie issue…)
Hey now. Just a really quick post to drop this latest batch of reviews off - the Reviewables desk at HQ is getting pretty close to clean, or at least as clean as it’s been in years. The summer has been productive thus far. You’ll notice an odd lack of Aussie material in this update – that’s because we have an all-Australian special issue on deck and just about ready to go. Satanic Rockers, Straight Arrows, Homeblitz, UV Race and more will make appearance as well as a whole mess of reviews. After that we have an all hardcore section, more interviews, more blogging and other surprises. We’ll talk again soon. Thanks all for participating.
Horriblefest is upon us once again, and as I pack the company car, empty the Termbo petty cash box and put the “Gone Fishin’” sign up in the office for the rest of the week, I’m reminded of all the past fun I’ve had down there in good ol’ Clev-O. Paul, Russ and the rest of the staff/help run as tight a ship as possible during a weekend-long bender and I’ve never been less than entertained by the entertainment, musical and otherwise. Eels, clowns, cars being dismantled by barbarians, nudity of all sorts, hot tubbin’, you name it. Yet every year my favorite part of the fest is having one more chance to see America’s Greatest Rock’n’Roll Band, HOMOSTUPIDS, play one of their always inspired sets. I originally wrote this up for inclusion in an issue on Negative Guest List and I’ll especially miss Brendon this weekend.
(RK)’s TOP HOMOSTUPIDS HORRIBLEFEST PERFORMANCES
#7) Horriblefest 2 – this one gets ranked last because I missed their set. I’m told they played up in the front corner of the bar where the video game console is now. One of my biggest regrets…
#6) Horriblefest 7 – this one ranks low on the list, but it’s my own fault. I was not on top of my game and forgot to get posted up in the basement early to get a good spot. I ended up heading downstairs right when they started and got stuck in the back of the room and couldn’t see shit. I suck.
#5)Horriblefest 6 – now this was a great Club Atlantis set, I got down there early and got a cozy spot right next to the band. They played the songs great and I think the lights were turned off part of the time. The crowd was really fun and no one was injured. Well done.
#4) Horriblefest 5 – this year they played the actual bar stage (which wasn’t a real stage yet), which is a setting that has produced some of the most visceral sets I’ve had the pleasure of seeing at Now That’s Class. It’s a real intimate setting, but also a real problem space-wise. Somehow I was fortunate and ended up getting pushed into sitting on the bar with a row of barstools protecting me, allowing me to watch kids destroy themselves in the “pit” without actually getting any drool on me. The fellas really hit a home run this year and the crowd was an entertaining mess.
#3) Horriblefest 4 – I think that the guys in Homostupids are truly humble fellows who are probably uncomfortable with some of the accolades people (like myself) lump on them. They usually try and play the tiniest spaces of the bar, but at HF4 they played the big stage (or at least the floor in front of it) and they were fucking spectacular. The crowd was totally into it and very responsive and I think the boys in the band seemed every bit as capable of filling that large room with their beautiful music as they are cramming it into the dampest corner of the bar. They owned it this year, perhaps the most triumphant Homostupids set I have ever seen.
#2) Horriblefest 1 – I will always remember this one fondly, as it was my first Homostupids experience. They played at the Blacklist Gallery (which was a great venue) and I knew nothing about them except that someone from 9 Shocks Terror was in the band. They played early if I remember right and they completely killed me. I thought they sounded like some kind of AmRep band at the time, but it might just have been the magic in the air that night. I think the power trio set up, Steven’s confident bass lines and Josh’s aggressive guitar assault had me thinking that. After the set I approached one of them and asked if they had any music available and was told to maybe check their Myspace page, they weren’t really sure about it though. A few weeks later ‘The Glow’ demo showed up in my mailbox.
#1) Horriblefest 3 – Living through this set was like coming back from WWII with all your limbs still intact. They played the bar area, but sort of where that big table is now, basically blocking the front door. I think this might be the angriest set I’ve ever seen the band play, and the crowd responded to it. Total brutality, people were getting destroyed left and right, it was like participating in a Battle Royal while trying to watch your favorite band play. The boys seemed pissed about something, they abused the crowd as much as I’ve ever seen them, and we were probably asking for it. I think Steven launched his bass into the audience at one point. It was total fucking destruction, but also immensely fun as I thankfully lived through it. I can’t say I wasn’t concerned for my well being at points, but sometimes that’s part of the thrill, right?
So that’s my rundown. Thanks to the ‘stupids for such great songs and sets and I look forward to seeing where they play this year. Outside? In the upstairs apartment? On the bar? In the ladies room? Wherever they decide, I’ll be there, and I’m positive it will be great.
Horriblefest starts this Thursday, if there’s any event in the world I could endorse, this would be it. Check out the full line-up here, buy advance tickets here , and check out Now That’s Class here . And be sure to visit My Mind’s Eye and Hausfrau Records while you have some downtime. I’ll see you guys there.
With the help of Mr. Fuji we finally waded through a half ton of tapes and even reviewed a bunch of them. Thanks to all who submitted, drop us a line if we forgot anything – there are few we kept aside for an upcoming blog update – and we’ll get it sorted out. Upcoming: long-promised interviews, record reviews, a Horriblefest preview and Issue #30.