j i g s a w

underground since'89

send vinyl, tapes and zines for review to:

tobi vail P.O. Box 2572 Olympia, WA 98507 USA

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Saturday, May 18, 2024

DOCUMENT AND EYEWITNESS: THIS IS NOT A FUGAZI INTERVIEW (a conversation with dc punks from 2014)

"Perhaps after the show I should be killed, flash-frozen for maximum freshness and put on display [at the Smithsonian] with all the other relics."

Henry Rollins, LA Weekly

DC punk is being historicized in 2014 to an astonishing degree. Two brand new crowd-funded, feature-length documentaries about the 80’s harDCore scene will be out by the end of the year -- Salad Days and Punk the Capital -- both include new interviews with key participants and rare, raw footage. Sonic Highways - Dave Grohl’s new HBO documentary series - just aired an episode based in DC focused on telling Grohl’s personal story of growing up in suburban Virginia and getting involved in the DC scene as a teenage drummer. Dischord Records http://www.dischord.com/ has been documenting the DC punk scene for three decades but - despite the continued existence of DC punk - recent releases have all been reissues - Fugazi First Demo, Slant 6 Soda Pop Rip Off and Soulside Trigger/ Bass. The Washington DC public library is actively developing a punk archive http://dclibrary.org/punk in coordination with University of Mariland and Georgetown University and - as if that’s not enough - Henry Rollin’s recently talked about the history of the DC punk scene at the Smithsonian National Museum of Natural History.

Those of us who grew up participating in the 80’s hardcore scene might wonder what relevance all this archival work may or may not have for future generations. Does the punk archive encourage the next generation to actively create their own scene or does putting so much emphasis on the past foster passive consumerism in the form of nostalgia? This question resonates with me personally as Bikini Kill Records is currently preparing a reissue of our demo tape. I decided to contact some of my friends in the DC punk scene to check in with them about this stuff.

What does nostalgia mean to you? Is there a good side to it or is it primarily negative?

SHARON CHESLOW: Nostalgia is a beneficial way to learn from the past, through thoughts and feelings - the key is not to get stuck there.

CHRIS BALD: My own nostalgia for my own past is contained in my own memories. When it becomes a studied subject the history is diluted and mutated through the opinions and misunderstandings of outsider observations. It is unfortunate that nostalgia has become a product thereby creating a demand that is too often satisfied by tall tales.

CYNTHIA CONNOLLY: A person is nostalgic when they need to find, retrace or relive something in their life for their own verification of the life they did live. Documentation is purely to mark down with ink that actions had happened that are important to remember not for personal self interest but for the greater good of a community or as a whole people.

IAN SVENONIUS: Nostalgia is like reminiscences for one's youth or dead friends or a place one lived or a lost time. The recent spate of documentaries, beginning with the riot grrl books and films and now the DC things could be seen as not so much nostalgia as a struggle for history, legacy and one’s place in the firmament of events.

ALLISON WOLFE: There can be a danger of pure nostalgia and lack of broader context. Time and resource constraints often help lead to fabricated categorizations and to diverse people, stories, and threads getting left behind. Real experiences get written out of existence while journalistic mistakes become encyclopedic reality.

ERIN SMITH: There's such a ridiculous amount of documentaries, articles, and reissues going on about similar things involving DC at the moment that I'll be really relieved when everyone just goes back to simply making NEW art to keep the scene going NOW.

KATIE ALICE GREER: Nostalgia is false. It usually means looking back fondly on days of yore, perhaps prioritizing a past time's importance or necessity over that of the present. In music world, it is a highly consumable product. Very easy for people to digest a contextualized history with footnotes, photos, and an explanation of Why These Things Matter. I love learning about history and appreciate the past but to romanticize things that have already happened and ignore the present is to miss an opportunity to figure out what is going on right now!

There's a fine line between documentation - reissues, documentaries, scene histories - and a "glory days" type ossification of the moment that happens and I'm always trying to describe and negotiate that space. History, in general, is political. Does viewing oneself as a historical subject encourage participation? Can you speak to this idea with regards to punk/radical youth culture?

SHARON CHESLOW: Instead of glorifying the past, we can use it as a model to create something new in the present, which can impact the future. It's important to question the past, think independently, and participate in creating culture that isn't dictated by others. Documentation can change the dominant historical record. It can be art in and of itself. It can prove what is possible.

CHRIS BALD:People who want to document time periods they were actually involved with still tend to glorify things that were not really such a big deal and delete negative aspects even though they are completely important pieces of the picture. Outsiders are even worse in this respect because they have their own incorrect overviews or agendas sublimating the entire writing or filming process.

CYNTHIA CONNOLLY: The reason I wanted to put together the Banned in DC was to make sure that the cultural epiphany is not forgotten and that the documentation will remind us that it can happen again. That we have that potential.

MOLLY NEUMAN: I used to look at listings in the weekly paper for shows and bought Banned in D.C. when it came out and felt like there was a world really close I couldn't be a part of. There's something so massive about that book, especially that it was published so close to when the photos were taken. I was lucky enough to finally meet and know the people in the book and ultimately be a part of a new D.C. scene that had a different but connected legacy.

IAN SVENONIUS: Because punk is youth based, and also anti idolatry, there is immediate wariness when one hears about an attempt to historicize it, and yet- because it is also a highly moral movement- there is a desire to do right by the originators and pioneers, who are typically mined for ideas and uncredited by the vultures who exploit their remains. History is fascinating and always interesting -- even if its insulting to the participants who are erased from it -- because its just an interpretation of events which can be challenged at any time. The book Please Kill Me can be seen as a refutation of Jon Savage's England’s Dreaming for example.

ALLISON WOLFE: Who is written into history and who is written out? Whose story gets told? Who has the opportunity, the time, the funding or the platform to tell their story? Who, through privilege or marginalization, even feels or is told that their story is worth telling?

ERIN SMITH: Too much focus on what came before downplays the incredible scene of young bands in DC today- bands like Priests, Dudes, Hemlines, Cigarette, Foul Swoops, Teen Liver, Girl Stabs, Peoples Drug, Flamers...as well as bands with veterans in them like Ex Hex, Coup Sauvage & the Snips, Kid Congo & The Pink Monkeybirds, Deathfix, and Chain & The Gang...the entire great new scene going on at Comet Ping Pong. When we look at the past, we must remind everyone of the great CURRENT scene going on in DC, which is more exciting than it has been in a few years.

KATIE ALICE GREER: History is entirely political. Who tells the story, who is cast in its content, and who gets erased is, as the saying goes, determined by the victors.

How does it feel to see harDCore/punk from your vantage point today? Can you relate to the kids just discovering this scene today? Is there anything you want to say to that kid beyond the records /zines/artifacts themselves?

SHARON CHESLOW: The past can often be a great barometer of the present, which can then help us navigate the future.

CHRIS BALD: Band reunions are a sore point for me in that in no way are you really seeing who or what that band was in its original incarnation. It is a distortion of what was and an admission to what has become of the people involved. Life is too divergent to each of us individually, what and who are these bands and people now? Certainly very different than who they were and in my opinion merely cover bands at this point. There was a band here in Louisville a few years back called 'The New Mexico' they were 15 year olds who played hardcore exactly the way we did 30 years before them, they could have a track on Flex Your Head and no one would know the difference. Certainly they were nostalgia buffs but the intensity and age group they played with/for had a real honesty about it. Where do they fit in historically? Derivative imitations ultimately but in their own scene they equaled any great hardcore band I have ever seen.

IAN SVENONIUS: The histories are all garbage as far as being accurate. They are typically revisionist and serve the actors' own agendas which are typically ego driven but are also a struggle to guide the narrative of history and meaning.

ERIN SMITH: Know your history and use that as inspiration to go out and do your own thing. A scene can't exist entirely on nostalgia alone.

ALLISON WOLFE: I am in many ways interested in seeing punk/D.I.Y. pre-internet music scenes documented. I also love oral history/story-telling and the idea that everyone has their own truths. I prefer to hear it straight from the horses’ mouths, where “objectivity” isn’t claimed and real people exist outside of and in spite of some sterile scholar-defined meaning and timeline.

KATIE ALICE GREER: I love the history of the music community I come from. In studying it, I can both appreciate the sounds and dialogues already created, and see where I can take my art. Like, what is the next part of the conversation?

Tuesday, May 7, 2024

Document and Eyewitness: A conversation with Joey Casio on 5-23-03 in Olympia, WA

My connection with Joey was electric and dynamic from our very first conversation.

In early 2003 I was involved in anti-war organizing and going to a lot of events in support of Rachel Corrie and trying to find a way to connect that with punk in the local music scene. I deliberately sought Joey out because after I saw him at a bunch of political events/protests alone in the rain, I saw him play a show in the basement of the Red House and I was intrigued - like, woah - there's not only a new generation of punk kids doing something completely creative and intense, but they are also maybe radical politically.

I was propelled to get to know him. I tried to "interview" him for a magazine I was writing for in England. That "interview" turned into a conversation that lasted for four or five years, up-all-night style that expanded and enriched both of our lives immensely.

Joey is one of the best friends I have ever had and one of my favorite punk artists of all time. Like many of you, I miss him so fucking much. I hope to give back some of what he gave to me by sharing some of our conversation even if it's only a few sketches here and there and continuing to make and share my own work (something that is hard for me).

Here is how our first conversation started, via email:

TOBI VAIL: Hi. I saw your show at the red house and was intrigued. Do you have any records or tapes out? I would like to review it, maybe.

JOEY CASIO: I’m flattered, really. I don’t have anything out right now.

TV: Ok. You really don’t have anything recorded? I’m writing for this magazine in the U.K. and they probably won’t let me do a feature unless there is a record or something, not sure. I thought it would be cool to write about your group, along with some other ‘bands without acoustic instruments’ in light of electro-clash hype. When I was in D.C. recently, there was a WIT show that cost $17.50. There were DJ’s and some groups that were mostly karaoke or whatever it is (singing along to pre-recorded songs). We couldn’t get in but a friend was on the guest list. There was a VIP area roped off. He was ushered back there and set on a red velvet couch, which was then, itself, roped off as “special red velvet couch in the special VIP area” and given a bottle of very expensive champagne - funny, because he is straight edge! While this was happening, another friend was being thrown out of the backstage area because she didn’t have the proper “credentials”. When I got back from D.C., friends here were talking about your show with Anna Oxygen last weekend. It made me appreciate Olympia even more and think about how things are different here than they are in New York or London, or,whatever. I'm wondering how Joey Casio fits in to this trend? Also, you have a good punk singing style and there are elements of chaos to what you do! What are some of the ideas behind the work? 

JC: hi....

No one ever asks me these kinds of questions. I guess what I do is the intersection of several things.For a long time I had this idea that kept stirring: a guitar-less, drummer-less punk band. I grew up listening to punk but the only “instrument” I played was electronics and a little keyboard. If punk is supposed to be such progressive music, why do bands keep using the same tired old sounds? After a few timid incarnations, I started my dream “band”. I began to, if nothing else, play the exact kind of music I would want to listen to, regardless of whether anybody else liked it. But that’s just aesthetics.

TV: Sorry if that is too much analysis, I want to sort of explain how I'm viewing your work in hope that you'd have a response to some of these ideas. Perhaps you just do your band the way you do it because you enjoy working with synthetic sounds and that's all there is to it.

JC: I’m fascinated by the concept of subversive dance and pop music. In contrast to the singer/songwriter mold, people rarely stop to process the words they are hearing or even singing along to. This puts the person singing in an interesting place. The ideas put forth may (in theory) go directly to the subconscious. or, if the song is more catchy, even become stuck in the listener’s head. Of course, Kathleen Hanna spoke of {this} at length in regards to Julie Ruin/ Le Tigre and it was the impetus for Gang of Four.

TV: I’m interested in solo work made by feminists in the one-'man'-band format that utilizes multi tracking, samples, keyboards/fake drums - such as tracy and the plastics, anna oxygen, nomy lamm, julie ruin, the blow etc. and contrasting this mode of solo work with a male singer/songwriter tradition that equates authenticity with the stripping away of layers to get the 'real self' via confessional autobiography. Right now, in the underground, feminists are rejecting this mode of expression and replacing it with work that focuses on the negotiation of many 'selves' via persona (julie ruin, tracy and the plastics), found objects via samples/appropriation of pop forms and lyrics (nomy lamm, anna oxygen) and that this works to expose and possibly subvert socially constructed narratives of traditional femininity... I’m wondering where this leaves “male” artists. will they explore masculinity as part of their work or will they continue to be drawn to the lone wolf blues man/folk hero myth that bare bones acoustic music seems to represent?

JC: I have a lot of ideas/philosophies I would like to share but the question arises - how? I could write them out, but nobody reads essays and manifestos except people that write essays and manifestos. If the music was simpler and less distracting people would stop listening due to lack of subtlety. Therefore, dance music becomes the perfect medium.

{On} the nature of solo work - one of the things I like most about this newish solo medium is that the individual can occupy the same space as a group. This contrasts both with the old singer/songwriter model, where the performer is seen as somewhat alone and incomplete, as well as the band model where the front person is elevated to a hierarchical leader position. But the “new” solo performer can present a project that has been constructed from beginning to end, that is complete and full, but comes from the mind of one individual. This allows, as you said, the performer to create/present multiple selfs or - multiple sides of one self.

So…does my calculated attempt at juxtaposing a slow, vulnerable sounding song with a cold, analytical noisy song really challenge the culturally construed concepts of masculinity? I can’t really say for sure but it’s worth a try.I think my favorite single lyric out of any song I’ve written is “what you create defines the boundary of your identity”. That pretty much sums it up.

Wednesday, October 18, 2023

As an intersectional feminist, I support the struggle for Palestinian liberation.


As an intersectional feminist, I support the struggle for Palestinian liberation.  As backed by the United Nations, Amnesty International, and numerous Jewish organizations, we need to demand a cease-fire immediately and allow the borders to open so that medical supplies, aid, food and water can reach civilians caught in a war zone. Please contact your representatives and government today asking them to back this.


As a non-Jewish American citizen, I want to be mindful of the rising tide of anti-semitism around the world and neo-nazi right wing anti-Jewish hate crimes.  It is important to recognize that many of these same neo-nazi movements and organizations also target Arabs and Muslims. I feel like this shouldn’t need to be said but apparently it does: supporting Palestine does not equal hating Jews. If you would like more information on this please follow Jewish Voices for Peace. For a very strong personal essay published this week please check out Sarah Schulman’s piece in NY Mag


This is to say, not all Jews are Zionist. Not all criticism of Zionism is anti-semitic. Even within Israel (and even within the IDF) there is dissent against the occupation, against Netanyahu (who is very right wing) and not a monolithic opinion on Palestine or even Hamas.  Likewise, not all Palestinians have the same politics or religion. There are Christians, Druze and even Jews who are Palestinian. Many people in Israel and Palestine are not religious at all and there is definitely not “one opinion” on how to achieve peace in the region or resist occupation.


I am saying these things because I am appalled that Americans publicly speaking out against empire and war crimes are being bullied and accused of being “sympathetic to the terrorists”. I don’t have the space here to even begin to unpack this. It feels like 9/11 and the Iraq War all over again, with the western media manufacturing consent for war and any questioning or criticism of the government making you an enemy of the state.  In my own view, the only way to achieve peace in the region is to end the occupation.


Yesterday a hospital was bombed in Gaza and at least 500 people were killed. We don’t know who is responsible for this atrocity. But we do know that the IDF is known to lie. In fact, as the well known journalist I.F. Stone famously said, “all governments lie”. This is especially true during war time. We must question the official narrative.  50,000 women in Gaza are currently pregnant. 5000 are about to give birth in the immediate future. We must demand a cease fire, open the borders for supplies, and oppose the targeting of civilians, many of whom are women and children.

To get involved locally check out: The Rachel Corrie Foundation Economics for Everyone

Monday, November 22, 2021


Things people have said to me as a person that has written about and participated in punk/independent/underground music since the early 80s: YOU can’t speak about that topic in public because

you are a role model, your band sucks, your band is too popular, no one cares about your band so shut the fuck up, you are too young, you are too old, you are too dumb, you are too smart, you are not cool, you think you are too cool, you are too ugly, you are a whore you are a slut you are a cunt you are a bitch ie you are a girl/woman and therefore you can only speak with authority about your own life and any experiential, lived knowledge you have gained thus far will be viewed as personal and subjective therefore not worthy.

In other words, women can’t be serious, funny, nuanced, multifaceted, intellectual, flippant, base, complicated, contradictory, abstract, specific, objective, opinionated, political, sexy, repulsive, tricksters, apolitical, transgressive, free, argumentative, antagonistic, querulous, pensive, or loudmouthed.

I am used to having my opinions misunderstood, scrutinized and dismissed but as a woman in public I actually risk my own personal safety using my voice. Not only are we punished for stepping out, we are also stalked and harassed on the internet/ social media and that impacts our bodily autonomy in a violent, unsafe world full of trauma and very real threats to our personal safety. I don’t talk about it publicly because talking about it can feed it and it is fucking scary and because talking about it makes it more real and because talking about it makes it suck even more than it already does but trust me this is real and this is extremely common. I’m speaking with first hand knowledge and experience here and I don’t need to qualify it with examples so I won’t.

Women often choose to stop sharing our work/ thoughts/ opinions/ stories publicly for these reasons. I think it’s important to acknowledge that this experience is shared and to see it is a result of patriarchy. I choose to participate because fuck society’s bullshit rules. I hate this place but I’m not gonna shut the fuck up, EVER

Xo Tobi Vail Feminist punk rocker

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

Document & Eyewitness: We Go with the Kids, Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah

why this tape sounds the way it does.

although it could be argued that the tape sounds this way because I'm dumb,

I would prefer you think it's because rooms,

recording tape and tape machines are not invisible.

-- Al Larsen, From Playground Til Now - Some Velvet Sidewalk

Read my spiel on Bikini Kill Yeah Yeah Yeah Yeah here