underground since'89

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

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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: