underground since'89

send vinyl, tapes and zines for review to:

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

email mp3's, links, photos and flyers to:


Wednesday, December 2, 2009

The Frumpies: Frumpie One Piece

The Frumpies singles CD, Frumpie One Piece, is on sale this month from Kill Rock Stars

Here's a web-feature I wrote about recording the Frumpies Forever 7"

Check the KRS Mail Order Freaks Blog for more details

Tuesday, December 1, 2009

Changing the World: Jean Smith on Billy Bragg

Jean Smith from Mecca Normal is one of my favorite writers who utilize the blog format.

Check out her recent review of Billy Bragg. Here's an excerpt:

At the record store, fifty-one year-old Billy looked and sounded great -- he did about a half dozen songs and turned the chorus of his most famous single "A New England" into a sing-along. "I don't want to change the world. I'm not looking for a new England. I'm just looking for another girl." From my vantage point, beyond Bragg, several young women sang with delight, but I wondered if the protagonist's perspective -- the guy in the song -- was perhaps lost on them, when, in this era, the idea of being able to change the world has been relegated to unrealistic, while the concept of participating in a re-structuring of society has been set aside for immediate comforts. "I don't want to change the world. I'm not looking for a new England. I'm living with my folks, looking for a cell phone plan."

If it's possible to detect the difference between lower case and capital letters in aural communication, I got the impression people were singing "I'm not looking for New England" -- the region north of New York state or the white clam chowder as opposed to the Manhattan red. A place on a map and a bowl of soup are easy, tactile associations -- a new England is a more complex prospect to grapple with. Please pass the Rand McNally's and the Tabasco.

Or maybe it's that thing that happens when the sound of a song becomes synonymous with its purpose. Lyrics turn into agreeable noises to be chanted without connecting them to the words -- their actual, undeniable and important meaning. Seems to me that the song's purpose was to foist an average youth, circa 1983, into our awareness, to expose a vignette of apathy within the human condition -- not to celebrate the guy's decision to opt out in favor of finding a new girlfriend.

I like that she thinks about how a song is being received by the audience--how its meaning changes over time--and that she brings her own thinking about politics and art to her discussion of Billy Bragg's music.

In conclusion she writes:

We need new political songs to add to the ones that may become diluted by becoming popular. The friendlification factor has a way of putting intention and meaning on the back burner.

While I get what she means--the more popular a song becomes, the more a status quo interpretation of its meaning takes over to obliterate its intent--I wonder if there is a contradiction at work. If we do want to change the world, don't we want radical ideas to become popular? How should our music, art and cultural work address this complexity?

Monday, November 30, 2009

Porno Grows by Honey Bane

Hone Bane claims to have written the lyrics to Porno Grows when she was 12.

From her blog:

..I have finally managed to come by an MP3 of Porno Grows, which many of you have been requesting I put up here.

I hope you enjoy the nostalgia, also many of my new friends, this may be your first time.This song was from the ep I made on Crass Records when I was 15, however I was 12 when I wrote the lyrics.

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Late Night Listening: The Slits

So I have a dub of a Slits bootleg on VHS and I think it's a bunch of stuff shot by Don Letts. This is on it. Does anyone know what the bootleg is that
i have? I have watched it many times at 3 AM as a perfect end to a late night out...

I recently read Typical Girls: The Story of the Slits and am working on a review for The Bumpidee Reader

check out Viv Albertine's website

more soon!

Friday, November 27, 2009

writer's block: the go team

photo by kathleen hanna (1989)

writer's block was one of the fanzines i read in the 80's.

check out this go team feature written by editor mike applestein from writer's block #6, which came out in 1990:

Let us now observe a moment -- not one of silence, but preferably one of pure crashing joy -- to commemorate the passing of the Go Team. After five years and a bunch of cassette releases, the Olympia, WA threesome broke up this past September, following a cross-country tour. Founding member Calvin Johnson shrugs it off with a simple "Oh well, five years is pretty long for any band." But for me, having the Go Team break up is kind of like meeting this great friend at the beginning of the summer, and then having him or her move away a few months later.

The Go Team got compared to Beat Happening a lot, largely due to the obvious similarities: Calvin plays in both bands, both recorded for the K label, both hailed from Olympia, and they both cranked out their songs with an infectious, hey-kids-let's-play-band enthusiasm. But there the similarity ends, for as good as Beat Happening are (indeed, one of my very favorite bands), they have never come anywhere near the depth and diversity of the Go Team. Part of it might be due to the revolving-door lineup changes, and myriad guest stars, on each release. Each song sounded completely different. One moment they were crashing through three-chord slices of pure pop, the next moment it was several guitars interlocking and creating a quiet tension, followed by crushing, near-industrial textures.

The first Go Team project, Recorded Live at the Washington Center for the Performing Arts, was literally a tape of construction sounds as recorded by Calvin, who lived across the street from the theater as it was being built. Your Pretty Guitar, with Calvin and Steve Peters, and Donna Parker Pop, with Calvin and Tobi Vail, were more song-oriented. But it was Archer Come Sparrow, released early in 1989, that really turned my head around toward the Go Team--pure, direct and utterly addictive, all for less than half the price of a CD.

The only time I got to see them live, in September of 1989, was a rock experience like few others. For this tour, the lineup was Calvin, Tobi and Billy Karren, who were already onstage by the time I made it to Maxwell's. Calvin was plucking out a simple, tinny guitar line, staring the crowd down underneath his K baseball cap. Billy was wailing away on rhythm guitar and Tobi was hitting the skins with abandon. Three very distinct personalities at work hare. Tobi and Calvin then switched places, which all three members would continue to do in between nearly every song, and things really kicked into high gear. They seemed to be playing as hard as they could, fueled by adrenaline as much as what could have been sheer nervousness. At other times, they were on the verge of falling apart completely, but amazingly stayed in control. Calvin recited Black Flag lyrics before careening into the final song, which was highlighted by Calvin and Billy throwing down their guitars and dancing wildly. Twice. And finally it was over. It all added up to a performance that not only blew away headliners Yo La Tengo, but every other band I saw in 1989. Absolutely incredible.

to read my writing on the go team, check out my tour diaries from 1987 & 1989 on punk tour blog

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Late Night Listening: Pink Dollaz

Pink Dollaz
are from LA...really cool so far...I have to listen quiet because everyone is asleep...shhh. stay tuned. they are a part of this scene, which you have probably already seen on youtube i just saw that mad decent posted a track a few weeks ago here it looks like possible collaborations with diplo and maybe MIA are in the works.

visit this site for more underground girls of hip hop
here's what they have to say about Pink Dollaz:
Ya girl Shay-Nutt had a chance to catch up with the Inglewood bread group "Pink Dollaz". This group is trully new to the game and when I say new I really mean new. Starting the group less than 6 months ago these ladies have gain major recognition with over 3 millions myspace plays and millions of youtube views the fans want "Pink Dollaz" With hits like "Tastey", "Never Hungry" and my new favorite "Don't Need Know N*gga" these ladies are sure to make an impact on this new movement they call "Jerk Music". They're currently getting ready to shoot their first video to "Never Hungry" under the leadership of LanceAlot Management. The girls are currently seeking "the right deal" and with radio play and the fans demand i'm sure thats not that far away."

Friday, November 20, 2009

Summer Reading Split 7" (Chimney Sweep)

Summer Reading 7"is a split record put out on Chinmney Sweep featuring:

Eternal Summers: Secret Languages/Electric Blue
Reading Rainbow: Be Who I See/My Sunrise

reading rainbow side--echoe-y male/female vocals blend together to sing pretty, washed-out melodies..minimal drums, guitar, keyboards, the vinyl crackles, or is that the recording....the sound of a scratchy needle, a crappy stereo, a tinn-y cassette... willful aesthetic choices...question mark...now that we live in an era when everyone has access to digital technology do these sounds still retain their politicized "we lack access to the means of production" signification? what is it that we are meant to hear by the inclusion of this surface noise? is it nostalgia for 80's lo-fi indie pop or is it more of a nod to that tradition? if you are discovering that music now, as a younger person who did not live through that period, then do you realize that some of us deliberately made music with our fingerprints all over it as a form of class warfare, so as not to invisiblize the PROCESS of the making of the thing, so as not to pretend we were machines or rich, so as to encourage the disenfranchised to make their own music--to say that it can still sound good even if you record it on a crappy cassette 4-track in your bedroom? turn the song down, turn the static up. regardless of the why of it sounding like this, I like how it sounds, probably for the set of reasons I described that are historically associated with the aesthetic choices made here, but I don't know why these groups made them, and it feels a little odd--maybe even disingenuous--to hear records that sound like this that are being made now...there are quite a few as you probably know. There is a nice luminous-sounding quality of the Reading Rainbow recording--each small part played on a few different instruments come together minimally creating an aural landscape or impression. was the room big or small? I really don't know. crappy microphones or expensive? home recording or studio? is the band rich or poor? punk or preppy? college educated or working class? did they record this on a computer and then put it through some kind of effects-box to make it sound this way or did they record it on a hand held tape recorder on a late 70's Tascam they bought on eBay? really, it beats me. I guess what I am missing is the context in which this record was made...the why and the how and the so what. I wouldn't think this would sound good on an iPod and maybe that's part of the point but I'm really not sure. I listened to the Reading Rainbow side about 10 times in a row before I flipped it over. The Eternal Summers side is nice too, but it sounds more like an overcast Northern England town to me than sunshine; it's freezing cold, not warm or bright.
this record sounds like it was painted with water colors, not acrylic or oil or finger paint. it's good to listen to in the dark, in the rain, when you don't want to go outside and get your feet wet or whatever. it is pop music, but not so good for dancing. I don't think it would sound good if someone tried to play it at their DJ night. maybe that's also part of the point? just a guess.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Interview with Marissa Magic

marissa magic is a writer (deep suburbia, FAB, MRR) and scream-y punk rock girl noise maker (awesomes, the punks, the divine feud) from the bay area. she used to live in olympia and now she lives in san francisco. this interview took place via email. i asked her about her current writing projects, feminism, punk, noise and what bay area bands she is excited about right now...i miss having her in olympia but there's a lot of cool stuff happening where she's at right now. here is what she has to say about it:

What writing projects you are involved in right now?

my most consistent writing thing right now is MRR. I do music and zine reviews, the occasional column and the occasional interview. I'm a writer for the bumpidee reader but haven't posted in a while, I am slowly working on another epic zine that's going to be similar to Deep Suburbia but it's going to be called Endless Bummer. I write for a literary zine called Deep Leap that comes out occasionally. Oh! and I am working on a script for a riot grrl zombie movie with my friend Gentry McShane.

How do you approach writing for MRR?

For the most part I do reviews. Cissie says I always reference the 90's. It's true. I can be kind of harsh and sarcastic but really, they sent their record for review and I review it. For interviews I tend to just try to talk about the things I want to read about. For the most part I don't really care about tour shenanigans and songwriting process, I wanna know if punk and politics work together, I want to know what the DIY community a band is a part of is up to, I wanna know about their thoughts on feminism and queer issues and class issues and race issues. These are the things I find most interesting to read about. When I write columns it tends to come from just talking about punk and feminism with Layla, and I'll make a point or explain one of my theories on something and she'll ask me to make it into a column. In all of this I also try to write like I talk.

What are some of the ideas behind Deep Suburbia?

The core of Deep Suburbia for me was a way to validate my writing for myself. Like most girls I constantly question whether my opinions are valid and that's such bullshit. There's something about having a physical document of your ideas, something you give to your friends and sell at shows and leave at libraries - there's something about that that makes your thoughts feel really real and worthwhile and important. It was also a document of being 25 and not only having grown up in suburbia but a lot of it was written when I was living at my parents house in suburbia for 6 months when I was 25. My long term plan for it is to write one every five years, and at some point after a couple cycles of that compiling them all into one document. A big theme for me when I was writing it was not only trying to prove to myself that my opinions were valid, but also to try to document how my theories and ideas would change and be different as I got older. The essays are basically my ideas about the world, society and my community when I was 25. To come up with the different subjects I mostly just did a lot of jotting down random ideas and then just writing more and more about those ideas everyday.

Can you describe the Awesomes band concept for our readers?

awesomes started out as mainly being about subverting female stereotypes. At this point that explanation seems kind of simple. We have different performances that we do before each set, like we have one where we dress up in work out gear and do aerobics to "let's get physical" by olivia newton john, during it we have mcdonalds burgers that are filled with fake blood that we chew on and spit at each other and rub on ourselves, and then we play, basically being about body image and consumerism, kind of playing with a theme of bulimia and the image of the all american burger and then making it really foul and animalistic. Another thing we do is put black tape over our nipples and then hand out toy squirt guns to the audience filled with fake blood, then they shoot at us, which is just a comment on mainstream medias habit of censoring sex and controlling women's bodies but not really censoring violence. As for the actual set we're usually wearing weird skimpy outfits, and if we're not we usually end up in our underwear, we're covered with something - sometimes blood, sometimes chocolate or whatever and then we're performing. We're making ourselves incredibly vulnerable but the music that we play and our stage presence is extremely aggressive. And then all our set up is is drums and a ton of effects pedals, things that I feel are traditionally kind of male things in music, you know we're not playing keyboards or a tambourine. It's fucking with the idea of what it is to be a woman not only as a performer and as a musician, but just in general what it means to be a woman in american society.

Do you think there is a feminist noise scene right now?

There are definitely feminists who play noise - I hesitate to call it a scene because that implies community, which I don't feel that feminist noise makers are very united and/or supportive of each other. I know some other feminists who play noise and there are definitely some ladies doing rad things like marlo eggplant doing a three cd ladies in noise comp or anna oxygen doing her performance/noise group or sharon cheslow doing sonic tryptych. I guess in reality is I don't feel like it's cohesive scene. I know people here and there but I don't feel like I'm part of a community which is a bummer. Though the other day awesomes played a show with schwule and american splits - mostly ladies, mostly POC's, mostly queer, mostly feminist bands and I felt like I was part of something really awesome, it was a fundraiser for girls rock camp. That was inspiring. I guess I just wish that would happen more and there would be more idea sharing and collaboration within that.

Who are some of your favorite women in noise?

I kind of feel like a lot of women just have this different way of approaching music and approaching art that comes off as noise but I always just think of it as really weird and noise-y punk, but when I think of noise I usually just think of one dude twiddling nobs. anyways- some noise ladies whose music I like - viki, MOM, stuff that azita is/has been involved in, metalux, inca ore, u.s. girls, magik markers (though I didn't like balf quarry), soft shoulder (I don't think the girl is in it anymore though), Marlo Eggplant, Pauline Oliveros, anything that erika anderson does, Bonnie Mercer...

What bay area bands are you really excited about right now and why?

Schwule are great, they are these three really radical ladies that play this really off-kilter hyper punk with weird instrumentation and lots of effects, they do weird skits too. American splits are really rad, my friend described them as drugs at the disco, basically super minimal disco and my friend meals sings like something between yoko ono and a valley girl and it's amazing.

TITS are really good, it's like five girls that play this super doomy metal drone and they all chant lyrics together. No babies are always exciting, kandis(drummer in my band) just joined them, they got kicked out of a bar show they were supposed to play at the other night so they played in the parking lot with the guitarists playing trumpet and clarinet and the singer running through the crowd and screaming, it was really exhilarating. The dudes from long legged woman started a new band that I'm not sure what its called but it's amazing doomy chaos. I just got dadfags record for review at maximum, realized it was an amazing mix of 90's girl indie rock and no-wave. brotman and short are completely amazing two dude darkwave! The dudes from that are in another band called base of bass thats super heavy and exciting, they run the vocals through this crazy speaker that is the size of a person and the singer wears it on his shoulder. Grass widow is good. Rank/xerox are really good, they have a split tape with grass widow thats super awesome. Shannon and the clams are a good time. and of course I love hunx and his punx and younger lovers!!! Those are the bands I am excited about like right at this moment.

What are some of your favorite things that happened in music in the past 5 years?
the feminist takeover of MRR (still going), the bus that has shows here,
being in all girl bands, teaching myself guitar and drums, watching the gossip get famous, Lady Gaga (I don't really like her music but her presence in mainstream media blows my mind!), everything that veronica ortuno does, the rad almost all-lady punk show in olympia, getting involved in girls rock camp, the solo show I played in portland where colin self unplugged all of his equipment midway through his set and he just spoke to the audience in a normal way and everyone was completely silent and mesmorized, feeling like part of the punk scene here but feeling like I still have my northwest membership.

How do you see the future of women in punk/noise/underground whatever?

I don't know. I have fantasies of all these girls who go to rock camp starting noise punk bands and RAGING. I wanna see more ladies playing music that rages and that has a point and a message. I hope for it. I'm kind of cynical. I want to have some level of feeling safe going to shows.

How do you see the future of punk/noise/underground/independent culture and feminism? More specifically, does punk etc have anything to offer feminism?

I think feminism has far more to offer punk then punk to feminism. I guess I was involved in feminist stuff for a long time but I didn't fully connect with it until it was in a punk context. But other than that in general I feel like the punk scene (here at least) is kind of highschool-ish. Theres dumb jocks who say dick shit to me, I mainly hang out with the weirdo stoner kids, theres lots of girls who are really concerned about being fat and unattractive and they're not really involved with making music or art, they're just hanging out with their jock boyfriends. My point is is that I feel like feminism is a way of calling that kind of shit out. feminism is a vehicle to say you guys are living your life basically in the same way that those assholes do. why? In some ways I feel like punk without feminism is just dudes drinking mass amounts and singing songs about fucking girls. Feminism forces the question of how are you going to live your life differently? what do you want? how will you get it? how can you help others around you?


the punkssssss - thank you for the alternative rock - 5RC

Punksssss - live cassette - 777 was 666
Marissa Magic - fuck off fer sure like totally - bumpidee
punxxxxxxx - unanimous bangers - 5RC

Marissa Magic - abeyance - self-released

The Divine Feud - drum machine demos - self released
Marissa Magic - vocal fuck place - self released
ladyz in noize - 3 marissa magic tracks - spleen coffin

awesomes - "we don't put out" - self released

marissa and me, back in the day:

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Late Night Listening: The Girls At Dawn

photo borrowed from myspace

tonight's late night listening pick: the girls at dawn...i started out on a quest for the modern day punk rock shangri-la's, inspired by the dum dum girls and listening to 6T's girl groups today... girls at dawn are three girls from brooklyn. here's a recent live video where it sounds a little washed out and feels amateurish in the shagg's sense but you can get an idea of what it would be like to see this group:

here's another cool video:

they appear to have a 7" on hozac and a 12" on captured tracks.
The Girls At Dawn are:
Erin (guitar & vocals), Ana (bass guitar & vocals), Sarah (percussion & vocals), Mysterion (keys)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Remember: Walking (Anarchy) in the (Streets) Sand

Seeing Girl Groups: The Story of a Sound encouraged me to go to Goodwill and Positively 4th Street and hunt for used vinyl as a teenager. I really thought The Shangri-la's were tough, street-wise girls. I thought of them as punk. I was a big Sex Pistols fan at this time as well, but was troubled by their sexism, particularly on this record, Some Product, but I was also pretty obsessed with listening to this record over and over again. It was probably about 5 years before I would hear The Slits, so that gave me a lot of time to imagine what an all-female punk band would actually sound like and how they would present themselves. There really wasn't an example that I knew of. I also didn't hear or even hear of The X-Ray Spex until I was 18 or 19, which seems odd now, given that I was totally music obsessed and immersed in punk. I had heard X, of course, and I was a big Avengers fan, but both of those groups just had female lead-singers and that seemed a little limiting. All the Dangerhouse stuff was out of print, so even if you had heard of The Bags or The Controllers or The Eyes, there was really no way to actually get those records. So this idea of what it would be like if The Shangri-la's were playing their own instruments and writing their own songs really stuck with me.

I remember hearing that The Shangri-la's had played with The Sonics locally and this somehow cemented their reputation in my mind for being really tough chicks. I took this image with me when I would walk around downtown at night. I didn't have go-go boots or long hair and I rarely wore make up, but I tried to imagine what it would feel like to be a punk rock Shangri-la...a girl gang...towns full of girls in gangs...in groups...girl groups...teenage punk rock girl groups...ruling every town. Why hasn't this happened yet?

Blowing Up My Mind: The Exciters

The early 80's documentary Girl Groups: Story of a Sound introduced me to The Exciters and many other 1960's girl groups, producers and songwriters. I had a copy of it on beta and would watch it often as a young teen. In the movie, Ronnie Spector talks about being inspired by Frankie Lymon and the Teenagers Why Do Fools Fall in Love (1956). Written by the young group themselves, this was their biggest hit, possibly because the singer's voice had not changed yet; Frankie Lymon was just 13 when they recorded the song. Sadly, he never managed to surpass it and and was dead by overdose at 25. He had one of the most distinctive sounding voices in the history of pop music:

In my view, it was Brenda Reid from the Exciters, not The Ronettes, who sounded the most like Frankie Lymon. The Exciters Tell Him (1962) is one of the greatest sounding pop songs of the Girl Groups era (1960-4) and owes a huge debt to Frankie Lymon. Singer Brenda Reid has an absolutely outstanding tone to her voice and the melodic phrasing on this Leiber/Stoller produced song is very similar to Why Do Fools Fall in Love:

It wasn't until I went to England in the early 90's and discovered Northern Soul that I got to hear classic Exciters songs such as Blowing Up My Mind (1969-RCA Victor) and He's Got the Power (1962-United) By the late 90's I managed to find The Exciters: Something To Shout About, an essential CD compilation of the tracks they recorded for Roulette, but it was missing the really great early stuff as well as the later foot-stompers--though it did have some of the later'70's psychedelic soul tracks. Luckily most of this is on on youtube for all to hear:

Trivia: The Exciters were formerly called "The Masterettes"

Late Night Listening: Dum Dum Girls

tonight the dum dum girls sound nice...they sound great...i like this music

frankie (crystal stilts, ex vivian girls) plays drums in this version of the group:

dee dee (singer/mastermind) has a great voice and i dig her enid-from-ghostworld crazy bat girl get-up.

here's a sweet tribute to the ronettes:

Thursday, November 12, 2009

The Jigsaw Underground, 2009

Underground refers to music that has a different purpose and orientation than mainstream bands. Keeping underground as an ongoing description illuminates that there is an under to the over -- a distinction that implies motivations other than money and fame. To reduce underground to a description of current trends diminishes its potential power. I guess there are now indie bands on major labels, diluting the reason there were indie bands. Indie is now a genre where previously it was a stance. Maybe we'll have "undie" bands in the mainstream and the history of underground culture will likewise fade.

-Jean Smith, Mecca Normal

I started writing about The Jigsaw Underground as an entity in my fanzine Jigsaw around 1991. I would define it in each issue, but basically I would pick a different selection of bands to write about that existed for reasons other than "to make it big"....bands that I thought were culturally and/or politically significant...bands that symbolized what it meant to be independent or punk at that particular point in time. Looking through the back issues, this is something I was deliberate about from the beginning. Through the creation of my fanzine I hoped to be able to change the direction youth culture and punk was going. In the late 80's/early 90's when I started writing my zine, I felt a lot of people were into blatant marketing and career goals. Sub Pop symbolized this to me with their limited edition 7"s, insult-your-intelligence and tell you what to do ad campaigns and "professional" looking logo/graphics. From today's vantage point, it's a little hard to refer to what I was thinking at the time without writing a whole essay about it, but hopefully you can get the picture.

When I decided to start Jigsaw as a blog version of the fanzine one of the things I wanted to focus on was the "underground" part, particularly because of how the internet has changed things. Like Jean Smith, I don't think the idea of an underground has lost relevancy just because the internet has changed how we access information. I think the concern now, is to get people in bands to stand for something and to stand together against multinational corporations, global capitalism and consumer culture. How can we use independent-punk-underground music culture as a site of resistance? How do we define ourselves in opposition to the mainstream, when the mainstream is everywhere?

One of the challenges that I see in this era, as both a working musician and someone who works at an independent record label, is rooted in economics. On the one hand, I resisted turning punk rock into my job and try not to approach music from a careerist or commercial standpoint. On the other hand, as someone who has toured extensively and is dedicated to distributing independent music world wide, I want working musicians to be able to make a living wage and get health insurance. This is a tricky issue, because it involves capitalism, market forces and art making and so there is going to be some degree of compromise involved. Some would say there are irreconcilable contractions at work. But I don't think that just because bands are forced to navigate economic concerns we should abandon ethics. Part of this is about supporting touring bands when you go see them by buying a T Shirt or a record as an ethos. Why do so many people think it's totally ok to spend $20 going out to dinner and $20 on drinks and then totally freak out when they have to pay more than $10 to go to a show? Make a sandwich! Drink another night--or not at all, how's that for radical! Put your hard earned money back into the community don't fund the consumer bar culture and support the beer and cigarette companies. Let's make economic sustainability a value to work towards, something similar to "buy local", but in this case "buy underground music", "pay generously to see touring bands" "fund independent culture"...you get the drift.

I strongly believe that if there are people who are listening to your music and coming to see your band live that you should be compensated for your work. I also believe that you should not have to sign to a corporately owned major label in order to do so, especially not today, with digital music being a growing percentage of total sales. Of course with free downloads, it is harder for bands live off of royalties. Unfortunately, economic reality has made it difficult to make money on tour as well. This is largely because although the cost of gas, food and lodging has increased exponentially in the past 20 years, punk bands are still expected to charge the same amount at the door--locally, under $10, usually $4-$6. In Olympia it is actually really hard to get people to pay for shows at all because there are so many shows happening all the time and a lot of them are free. While on one level, this is really cool, it has a real, negative economic impact on touring bands. (Incidentally, this is largely the reason most bands that are trying to make a living off their music skip Olympia on tour, no one can get paid enough here to make it worthwhile.)

When asked about the economics of touring as an underground band today, Ian Svenonius (Chain and the Gang, Make Up, Nation of Ulysses) said:

I guess touring is harder now but I also think maybe it was always pretty untenable. Unless you're the hot band of the moment, its pretty ridiculous proposition. Four or five people hauling gear around in a van hundreds and thoudsands of miles to perform something that, by its own design, can be made by anyone (i.e. "punk"). The big diffrence now is that so many bands are touring all the time and that so many have promotin, tour support, and publicity or are internet savvy (i.e. phenomenon bands like "Wavves") in a way that some of us are not. But yes, the punk politics have disappeared but the inherent cheapness of that scene is still with us (i.e. everyone wants everything for free).

This begs the question, how do we change this, how do we bring "the punk politics" back or update it for the present/future? What would that entail exactly? What is our political platform? What needs to happen? What tools do we have available? What do we want to change? How can things be improved?

When I asked Jean to clarify what she meant in her original quote when she said "the history of underground music will continue to fade" if underground becomes another mainstream marketing category, she replied:

The history of the word indie continues to fade. People who hear it, and use it, forget that it meant independent from major labels. Now indie is mostly a description of a sound, like alternative is a description of a sound rather than an alternative to how the music industry operates. Alternative was a description of the way bands operated -- putting on shows, working with a label to get your music out as opposed to being a rock star on a major label with staff to handle such details. Both these terms -- indie and alternative -- have been assigned new meanings that relate to the descriptions of the sounds associated with them. I'm sure if there were "undie" bands it would almost immediately turn into something to do with underwear. Bands would play in their underwear. Calvin Klein would start making music videos in its newly formed record label division. The history and meaning of underground culture would no longer be there when the word "undie" is used. I don't believe people think about independent culture, independent from major labels and corporate concerns, when they hear the word indie. Grunge is a sound and a look -- perhaps a city and a handful of bands. Indie is a political stance whose history is being replaced by a sound, a look and an era.

I am tempted to make a joke about Hawnay Troof, who often do play in their underwear, as a proto-undie band here...I can imagine people writing dissertations on the intersection between "undie" and riot grrl based on outfits alone...but what I'm seriously getting out of this discussion so far, is that "underground" is now, more than ever, a political stance more than a location. If that's the case, let's keep talking about what it means to be "an underground band"... the interactive nature of the blog format makes it possible for us to talk about this here in the fanzine at the moment it is being made. I am happy to provide a forum where we can have this conversation.

I leave you with this encouraging statement from California based punk singer Robin Indar (Black Fork, Severance Package) about how touring in a lot of ways is easier now than ever before. I also asked her what it was like to go on tour as parents:

Well, from what I've seen, there's not too many people out there in our predicament (parents of two/ rock n' rollers) but I know of at least one couple here in town that does, but they're at least ten years younger. Without the added chaos of small children, I would say touring is easier than ever. You can post flyers on the internet instead of mailing them or hoping people will post them in their towns and you can make flyers easier, faster and in color (ooh!) without having to know someone at the local copy shop. Most of the booking can be done online as well so you save on all of those long distance phone calls from hand written wads of paper your friends lent you from their last tour. I'm especially fond of the option of burning a CD demo in 20 seconds versus dumpster diving old cassette tapes, covering the holes up and recording over them so you'll have demo's to sell at the show. We used to get the occasional customer that would return saying "that demo I bought was all psycho Christmas rap songs".
I've been really surprised to see bands on tour with van rentals that have GPS systems. That was completely unheard of ten years ago. Think of all of the combined hours of lost punks driving around on the wrong roads. For those without GPS, there's always google maps which will give you the exact directions, and weather.com to tell you exactly what to expect weather wise and what the road conditions are. Basically, anyone who complains about tour being hard in this new century is either riding a donkey with an amp on their back or they just have no idea how hard touring USED to be.
The only thing different for Josh and I, and any other parents out there rocking together in a band is that you have to have someone to watch your kids while you're away and you have to work with their school schedule too. Even our drummer Steve, has a teenage daughter so we're a pretty unusual band as far as responsibilities go. The van is too small to bring anyone but us at the moment so luckily, my mom has gone beyond her call of duty in taking the boys while we attempt small tours. She can even call us on our cell phones should the need arise, oh what I would have given for one of THOSE 15 years ago when we broke down in the scalding hot Arizona desert!

ok thanks to everyone who participated in this week's discussion about what it means to be underground in the digital era. you can read my earlier post here.

coming soon: interviews with marissa magic & joey casio

Friday, November 6, 2009

Going Underground

The public gets what the public wants, but I want nothing this society's got, I'm going underground...
-Paul Weller, The Jam

The Underground

This week I was asked to write a piece about this Decade in Music. It was a little hard because, for one thing, what is this decade even called? And for another, that kind of framing device is easier to see in retrospect...but it got me thinking about the underground...some people question whether there is an underground in the digital era...so that in and of itself sort of begs the question: is this framework still useful?

I think it is...but what do YOU all think?

more soon

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Ambition by Subway Sect

He said "You can take it or leave it
As far as we're concerned
Because we're not concerned with you
What you want is buried
In the present tense
Blind alleyways allay the jewels"

I am a dried up seed can't be restored
I hope no-one notices the sleep on me
I've been walking along
Down this shallow slope
Looking for nothing particularly

Am I guided or is life for free
Because nothing ever
Seems to happen to me
And I won't be tempted by vile evils
Because vile evils are vile evils

Nobody's Scared By Subway Sect

Everyone is a prostitute
Singing the song in prison
Moral standards, the wallpaper
The wall is a bad religion
Need a TV, tell me what to speak
Take my decisions
It's how to find your inner-self time
On the television
No-one knows what they're for
No-one even cares
We shout publicity hand-outs
Nobody's scared
The language we use
Is it what we want?
Does it not project the false
The subject to object journies mean
That a word loses course
We're talking in clichés
Betray yourself for money
Having is more than being now
Nobody is sorry
No-one knows what they're for
No-one even cares
We shout publicity hand-outs
Nobody's scared

Friday, September 4, 2009

Why I Liked Bikini Kill by J Church (Lance Hahn)

You think you've got a lot to say and I've got a lot to hear,
You don't hear a thing,
Your defenses are acting up,
It's some surprise to me,
You don't hear a thing

You don't care about what they're doing,
You just want to have an opinion,
Look at yourself,
You don't do nothing

Drunk on wine,
Saving time,
I remember the first time...

You're so scared of alienation,
You're so scared of segregation,
You don't hear a thing,
You write your words with a poison pen,
It's some surprise to me,
You don't hear a thing

You don't care about what they're doing,
You just want to have an opinion,
Look at yourself,
You don't do nothing

Drunk on wine,
Saving time,
I remember the first time...

a personal take on health care reform: in remembrance of lance hahn

photo by cathy bauer

Discussion about the health care debate today got me thinking about people I know who were sick and could not get the medical care they deserved.

My own memories of being sick without health insurance are with me to this day--repeated doctors bills with no savings --test after test, not knowing what was wrong. $50 visits turning to $100 visits adding up to $300, then $500, then quickly $1000+ worth of bills had accumulated. I had no credit card, no savings, no steady job other than 'touring punk rock band' and kept getting sent to internal medicine specialists who advised me to go to University of Washington for tests because they couldn't diagnose my blood condition. At that point I couldn't afford anymore treatments and my symptoms eventually went away. I paid off the debt little by little and applied for Basic Health, which is available to low income people in Washington State.

After this I promised myself that I would not put myself in this position again--where my health would be jeopardized by not having insurance. I also felt that, as a responsible adult--I was 25--I was not willing to put my parents in the position where they felt they had to worry and care for me if I got sick. As a working musician I did not have many options. I was afraid I was going to get sick again. If Basic Health had not been available, I would probably have seriously considering quitting my band at that time and going back to work at the library, which is what I was doing before the band started. This was 1994 and my band, Bikini Kill, was at the height of our touring and recording life--one of the reasons we were able to keep doing that was because our state offered a public health care option for low income people.

I had Basic Health until Bikini Kill broke up and I started working at Kill Rock Stars regularly. Now I get coverage through my work. My schedule is flexible and I am able to take time off but I have to work a certain number of hours per week in order to qualify for the insurance and in order to keep my job I have responsibilities I have to cover. This is fair, but it does mean that it's difficult for me to prioritize a full time band, which would require me to be on tour for 4-8 months out of the year. So, while I appreciate the situation I am in and feel very lucky to work somewhere that provides benefits and values worker autonomy, I still feel that this system is somewhat inadequate for me and does put limitations on what I can do music-wise. I would like to be able to enjoy the freedom of starting another full time band, but as I am not willing to go without health insurance at age 40...well we all do what we can right, and really I have already gotten to be in a touring-the-world life-changing punk band that meant everything to me. My story is not a sad one. Things have worked out. I can't complain and I actually love my job; I consider it to be meaningful work. I have been lucky--both in art and in life. I can live with the compromises I have had to make, but I still worry about what will happen in the future and I hope that my luck will continue.

But what about those without luck?

The point is, we shouldn't have to rely on luck to get us through. Many of my friends do not have health insurance and this has been a constant source of crisis for years now. Not coincidentally many of them are working class musicians. Some have needed help with drug and alcohol rehabilitation. Others were in car wrecks and had benefit shows. Several have needed to go to the emergency room and not gone. Others are in need of mental health services and medication they can't afford. Many suffer from chronic pain that they are not treated for. A few are surviving cancer patients. Others have had to compromise their art because they have medical conditions that require them to work demanding jobs that provide benefits. Others didn't make it. Many died of drug related and mental health problems. Some died because they happened to get sick without having health insurance.

One of my friends who did not make it is Lance Hahn. You can read about him here. Lance got sick and did not have health insurance so he was not able to get the treatment he needed. Lance was someone I would see if I was on tour or if he was on tour and we were pen pals off and on for the 15 or so years that we knew each other. He interviewed Bikini Kill for MRR in the summer of 1991--this was our first national interview and we hit it off. Lance was a really perceptive person and had a creative, political take on punk. He set up shows for us at the Epicenter and even met us in Hawaii when we played there, hosting a dinner for us with all his old school Hawaii punk friends he knew from growing up there.

After BK broke up we kept in touch--we were both into English punk and he was a big Huggy Bear fan, which I thought was super cool. The Frumpies and Huggy Bear ran into him on tour in Minot, ND one time where we played a totally insane show with kids jumping up and down to every single note of every single band and we stayed up all night talking and laughing and drinking beer on the porch. I always tried to go see him when he was in Olympia and then would run into him in Austin, TX after he moved there. Lance was someone who I would trade zines with, someone who I would be sure to send a demo or 7" to and he would do the same for me. Really sweet, guy with a far-reaching political analysis who liked to read books.

I remember when I started Spider and the Webs and recorded a demo thinking that I had to send him one, that there was a point to what I was doing and that the reason to start a new band was to stay in touch with people like him--to keep things going from one era to the next--to connect on that level of trading shit and sleeping on each others' floors and exchanging ideas and helping each other tour and get our work out there. I would think of him when I had the scissors and glue out, when I was dubbing cassettes and when I was checking my mail box. He was that kind of friend, the kind that made you want to keep making shit and going on tour so that you would have an excuse to hang out in a new place together.

Lance was a writer and he wrote about being sick. I didn't actually know how sick he was until I read that he died. Everything I read associates his death with the lack of good medical care he was able to receive because he didn't have health insurance. Lance could have done anything with his life--he could have had a 'real job' that gave him full benefits and yet he chose to work jobs that meant something to him and allowed him to live on his own terms and focus on his music/writing. I have a lot of respect for that. He spent his life creating the world he wanted to live in via his art, culture, music and politics. He prioritized community and worked hard to make things better. He did not deserve all the debt his medical bills incurred. He did not deserve all the worry and suffering he faced. He did not deserve to die and his friends did not deserve to lose him.

It is Lance who I am thinking of today. I don't want anyone else to die because they don't have health insurance. Not an old lady, not a little kid, not any more punk rockers. Seriously, it's just not right. We need a public health care system. We can't wait any longer. Don't we all deserve to have our basic needs met?

Here's one for Lance, I Remember You by the Ramones

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

o p i n i o n s


So...I have a lot of opinions and am open about sharing them.

For awhile I was sharing them here pretty freely. Then I pissed some people off and I took a step back to think. I spent the past few months thinking a lot and was about to start posting some writing again when a good friend of mine let me know that some younger women are still mad about me expressing opinions here that they disagree with.

You know what I have to say about that?

Disagreement is actually good.


The idea that I should refrain from saying something because it is somehow not the 'correct' feminist perspective someone thinks I should have is TOTAL BULLSHIT.

I have opinions. They probably differ from your own on occasion. This is where I write them down.

SO WHAT? I am not asking anyone to AGREE with me. I am not asking for your approval or your permission. You know that, right?

Jigsaw is part self-expression, part artist statement, part spread-the-word, part incite-a-riot, part asking questions because-I-don't-know-the-answers-to-them-yet, part whatever else I happen to be using it for at any given particular moment.

The Jigsaw Underground has ALWAYS primarily been about trying to make something happen by questioning "the way things are", asking, "do things really HAVE to be this way or can we create something different" and trying to figure out a way to do that. I try to ground my critique in an anti-capitalist framework, often bringing economics to the realm of aesthetics. This can be troubling, even to me. Sometimes I just want a pretty picture to be a pretty picture. But other times an aesthetically grotesque indy-rock band (or film, or trend or incident) incites a flury of fury in my heart and I have to go sit in my room and listen to I Hate the Rich by the DiLs until I calm down. This leads to Bad Brains, which leads to Black Flag, which leads to Black Sabbath. Pretty soon it's back to Mecca Normal, The Melvins, Throbbing Gristle, Suicide, Chrome, Flipper, the Raincoats and PUNK ROCK Patti Smith. (YEAH!) On a good day this leads to the practice space or basement or to the typewriter, transforming aesthetic hatred into art-making. On another kind of day it might just lead to a RANT such as the one you are reading now and then that eventually leads to something else--the ripple effect, a message in a bottle, fingers crossed someone finds it and it means something to them.

Doing all this is based on what it meant to me to discover the Rites of Spring record in 1985 or Quadrophenia on tape in 6th grade, or Sharon Cheslow's interview with Nation of Ulysses in Interrobang! before I had ever heard or heard of them. These things, and so many more (See Comet Gain's Ballad of a Mix Tape) prove to me that art matters. Creating beauty out of despair and finding each other is what keeps us alive. Writing Jigsaw is part of how I do that.


So yeah...another thing Jigsaw has always been about is PROCESS.

I don't just write shit when I have it all figured out. I often write shit when I am FREAKING THE FUCK OUT and trying to get a grip on WHY. I guess maybe the interactive nature of fanzines on the internet can make that a little weird sometimes, but, you know, so can ZINES that are xeroxed.

I mean, I met most of the people I am closest to through writing this zine. It led to starting every band I've been in for the past 20 years in one way or another, to every major life event I've experienced. Jigsaw is something I made to share my perspective, to give myself a voice in this world. It's how I wrote myself into existence. How I made the transformation from being an OBJECT that was acted upon into a SUBJECT with a fully realized VOICE...how I became an active participant in the world...I'm not going to shut up. There's too much at stake.


Lately sexism has been bumming me out and I've been trying to talk about that a little and been questioned a lot in a 'please prove that sexism exists kind of way' and I have found myself quoting old Bikini Kill lyrics and looking to old zines. Like "dear idiot, please refer to article 9, page 2 written by yours truly in 1991". I don't want to get stuck trying to explain that, yes, sexism does exist and women are oppressed by virtue of their gender. I don't want to have to make a logical convincing argument to a jerk I don't give two shits about.

I also have been somewhat alienated by the current state of boutique-indy rock or "D.I.Y. culture" that is consumer-driven and into surface-y type concerns. I don't want to just say I like everything that offends me. No. I want to talk about why I don't like shit and what is pissing me off. This is where I want to do that. If you don't like it, please start your own band, i.e. write your own fanzine! Or heck, just write me a letter or a comment and we can have a conversation. Is that really so scary?


A fanzine is just a TOOL. Think of it like an amp you plug your guitar into. It can get you from Point A to Point B, it gives you a platform, a means of amplification, a forum. An OPINION is something to EXPRESS, something to USE for FUEL. Like electricity for the amp.

We don't have to have it all figured out before we open our mouths, right? We are not perfect. We fumble, we fall down, we hurt each other's feelings. This is not A FINAL DRAFT. Why pretend and hide the aesthetic collisions?


I will not tow The Party Line!

On that note, lets hear some old school Olympia jams:

Friday, July 3, 2009

Not Fade Away

In Remembrance of Brian Jones: Godstar

In Remembrance of Brian Jones, who died on July 3, 1969-three weeks before I was born- here is a piece I wrote about him for the Bumpidee Reader last summer:

Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Making The Nature Scene

Going back to these origins
The city is a natural scape
order in the details
Confusion uproar in the whole
In nature reality is selection
the tool of critical intervention
Fragmentation is the rule
Unity is not taught in school
You are an unnatural growth
On a funny sunny street
The city has forgotten you
It's symbols of the past
The meaning of its state
Its order of decay
Stand now in a column
And make the nature scene

Standing now in columns
making the nature scene
making the nature scene
waiting to make their pay
There is no resistance to
the signs along the way
standing all in columns
waiting to make their pay
making the nature scene
Waiting for the day
There is no resistance to
There is no resistance to
Salvation means to count on you
It just means to count on you
Make the nature scene

Making the nature scene
Making the nature scene
Making the nature scene

Going back to these origins
The city is a natural scape
order in the details
Confusion uproar in the whole
In nature reality is selection
the tool of critical intervention
Fragmentation is the rule
Unity is not taught in school
You are an unnatural growth
On a funny sunny street
The city has forgotten you
It's symbols of the past
The meaning of its state
Its order of decay
Stand now in a column
And make the nature scene

Standing now in columns
making the nature scene
making the nature scene
waiting to make their pay
There is no resistance to
the signs along the way
standing all in columns
waiting to make their pay
making the nature scene
Waiting for the day
There is no resistance to
There is no resistance to
Salvation means to count on you
It just means to count on you
Make the nature scene

Making the nature scene
Making the nature scene
Making the nature scene

Lost in Anothers Dream

"The idea of women empowering themselves by becoming sexual objects is backward. It seemed brilliant at one point, but it had really bad ramifications. Things lose their context so quickly."

-Kim Gordon, 2009

Friday, June 26, 2009

Blame it on the Boogie

a guess at the wholeness that's way too big-d. boon

Political Song For Michael Jackson To Sing

list monitors arrive with petition
iron-fisted philosophy
is your life worth a painting?
is this girl vs. boy with different symbols?
being born is power
scout leader nazi tagged as big sin
your risk chains me hostage
me i'm fighting with my head, am not ambiguous
i must look like a dork
me naked with textbook poems
spout fountain against the nazis
with weird kinds of sex symbols
in speeches that are big dance thumps
if we heard mortar shells
we'd cuss more in our songs and cut down the guitar solos (guitar solo)
so dig this big crux
organizing the boy scouts for murder is wrong
ten years beyond the big sweat point
man it was still there, ever without you coming back around, look! coming together, for just a second, a peek, a guess at the wholeness that's way too big

Stephen Wells on Knitting, Authenticity & Twoi

No, you won't get any Farrah Faucet props from me (what did she actually DO?), but there was another lesser-known loss today-- Poet/Vitriolic Music Journalist Steven Wells died. If you think music criticism is pointless and pretentious then you probably haven't read him yet. I am not saying I agreed with all of his opinions, but I will say he was almost always entertaining, bombastic and spoke his truth heroically.

Here's a link to some of his more recent writing where you will find lucid spiels on Knitting "Has youth culture gone mad?" he asks (as a REAL question!), Authenticity "Why do we insist on authenticity in show business? A basic unwillingness to accept that all culture is artificial lies at the heart of our objection to fake performances"
and --my personal favorite in recent memory--Twoi! "Twoi is what you get when you cross Oi!, a hyper-aggressive, absurdist parody of 1970s English working class youth, with twee; the horribly annoying, faux-posh, passive-aggressive distillation of Enid Blytonesque 1950s English middle classes. And it's real. Very real. I feel your fear."

His last column, sadly, is here.

Read his writing. Think about it. Then start a band that's worth writing about.

Sky Saxon & The Seeds

Remember when Sky Saxon lived in Olympia? True Story. Recognize this guy?

Spider and the Webs does a version of this song:

Cabaret Voltaire does this one:

Check it out:

And of course this is amazing, their "hit":

Got To Be There by Michael Jackson

Got To Be There by Michael Jackson is still one of my all time favorite LPs, given to me in the early 70's by my aunt Priscilla after she watched me dancing & glued to TV screen every time the Jackson 5 came on...I must have been 2 or 3, she was 14 or 15...it's a sad, sad record.

here are a few songs:

Rockin' Robin, the first song i ever loved, just listen to his voice, totally incredible:

Acapella, this is heartbreaking today:

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Turboslut Broke Up

The July '09 ish of MRR also features an interview with Turboslut, an all-female (I think) hardcore band from DC who just BROKE UP. too bad every band that could possibly fit this description breaks up before they tour the west coast...to be fair, most DC bands are like this. I think the 'kids' there have a lot of pressure to get their shit together and turn careerist...or maybe that's a generalization that is unfair to apply here but seems to be part of it for a lot of groups...Joaquin just asked me if I'm still mad I never saw Gray Matter in concert! I think he's making fun of me now.

Anyhow, here is a live song from Turboslut (it's too dark to see) and maybe you'll get to hear some of their recordings if you dig (drink) deep (it's just a taste and it might not come this way again...)

P.S. Whatever happened to Chris Bald?