Punk's only *mostly* dead. There's a big difference...
January 15, 2019 8:26 AM   Subscribe

After 37 years and 400 issues, the seminal punk zine Maximum Rocknroll is ending print publication. Maximum Rocknroll will continue to exist online.
posted by Slarty Bartfast (38 comments total) 19 users marked this as a favorite
Maximum Rocknroll founder Tim Yohannan also helped conceive and create the DIY nonprofit performance space 924 Gilman Street which incubated the likes of Operation Ivy, Green Day, Rancid, and The Offspring.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:33 AM on January 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

I saw Against Me! For the first time at Gilman with like 20 people in the room. Reinventing Axl Rose had just come out and nobody knew who the hell they were. But damned if they didn't shock us.
posted by East14thTaco at 8:43 AM on January 15, 2019 [3 favorites]

I was only peripherally part of the punk scene in the 90s. I hung out with a lot of punks, and went to a lot of (local) punk shows – but I wasn't really a punk myself.

Point is, I was vaguely aware of MRR – but I never really read it. (It always had a certain...professionalism?...that stretched the definition of the word "zine". Like, there's a UPC on the cover, you know? Not hating; just saying – if MRR was a zine, then it was a different species of zine.)

Maybe now's the time for me to actually check it out. I do sometimes wonder what punk really means in 2019. The world has changed a lot in 42 years.
posted by escape from the potato planet at 8:54 AM on January 15, 2019

Oh god I'm old. Time passes, it really does.

I mean, I remember when I had opinions about Tim Yohannon. I remember when I had opinions about Lookout Records. I think I might have a couple of old issues of Lookout! somewhere. I remember how good old MaxiRocker always made me feel vaguely unsatisfactory because when you come right down to it I just liked a kind of more melodic punk that was Not Acceptable at the time that I was a regular reader because it was mistakenly lumped in with, eg, Green Day.

God, I remember when it was socially acceptable to have a Green Day cassette.

Where did I go wrong? When did I get so old? Why could I never really consistently master the use of my record player?
posted by Frowner at 8:57 AM on January 15, 2019 [26 favorites]

I had opinions too! They sure mattered to me at the time but feel totally irrelevant now.
posted by Dip Flash at 9:24 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

I mean, I'm sure that it's reasonable for people who, like, lived in the same state as Tim Yo to have opinions, or people who knew him personally, or people who knew people who knew him personally. But wow, I look back and I had such a lot of opinions about people who were just famous because of their fanzines and about whom I could not possibly have known enough to form any meaningful judgement. And these weren't actionable opinions, like "this person is a racist/harasser/homophobic, therefore I will not support their projects", they were all just "there's some epistolary conflict between people over, basically, who is a jerk and who is not, and I have feelings". It's like the internet before the internet.

Still, I do feel the rags of my youth tearing away with increasing speed these days.

Oh, oh, oh - remember when it was hotly controversial that Larry Livermore liked Morrissey? And this wasn't because of Morrissey's politics, which would have been totally legit except this was, like, 1994 and we had no idea, it was because Morrissey was not punk rock.

Because I lived in the provinces, people tended to like a greater diversity of things in my real life than in my fanzine life, which made things very confusing for me because I was badly socialized and had trouble balancing the two worlds.
posted by Frowner at 9:36 AM on January 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

It is truly the end of an era. MRR was a lifeline that got me through high school and dragged me all the way to the stage at CBGB's. I'll never forget picking up the issue where every editor had Pee Wee Herman's 'Surfin Bird' on their top ten. I was laughing to crying on the subway.

Buy yeah, they got into some super murky waters and gave a platform to some terrible people and I kind of left it behind.

Luckily Razorcake is still around and can always use more subscribers. (and is run by really great folks)
posted by lumpenprole at 9:53 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

(... it just deserves to die, when it becomes another stale cartoon)
posted by tobascodagama at 9:54 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

The factionalism of the punk scene, the purity purges and such, illuminated a lot of political history for me (eg Trotskyites, the Reformation) in a really tangible way, with thankfully much smaller stakes.
posted by msalt at 10:21 AM on January 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

MRR, in recent years, has had amazing columns & articles by folks like Imogen Binnie, Brontez Purnell, and Osa Atoe, so if you're remembering its bad old bro-y days (which I certainly do as well), it's definitely changed much for the better in the interim.

I've never ID'd as punk, but my older sister did, and I have fond memories of reading hand-me-down copies of bad-old-days MRR as a preteen. It was a nice surprise when it eventually became way less insufferable.
posted by ITheCosmos at 11:08 AM on January 15, 2019 [2 favorites]

Shoot. I actually got to play a set at the Gilman back in the day, and got in a (non-physical) fight with one of the MRR photographers, who was being really goddamn obnoxious about using a flash in people's faces in the dark club.

I never really cared for the magazine, but now I wonder if he used my picture.
posted by aspersioncast at 11:43 AM on January 15, 2019

iirc Flipside was always the cooler journal of punkdom (less PC). Wiki tells me that they ran not only their own record label, but also:
Flipside fanzine put on a Burning Man-style festival in California's Mojave Desert at a location known as Jawbone Canyon for several years during the mid-1990s. It was much smaller and more localized than the actual Burning Man festivals and often featured bands that Flipside released on their own label. Special guests included Fugazi, The Offspring and Hawkwind's Nik Turner.
posted by msalt at 12:14 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

Well, if it's anything like most online magazines, it'll be highly optimized, and have advertising and trackers galore.

visits site...

I don't see any ads, Ghostery reports only one tracker (wordpress tracking), and the site's code is remarkably non-optimized and therefore painful to load in the circa late '90s style.

Okay, Maximum Rocknroll. I hereby declare your web site to be as punk rock as you can expect a web site to be in this day and age. Well done.
posted by davejay at 12:55 PM on January 15, 2019 [5 favorites]

iirc Flipside was always the cooler journal of punkdom

And people who worked for Flipside are the ones who started the aforementioned Razorcake.
posted by lumpenprole at 12:57 PM on January 15, 2019 [1 favorite]

RIP IRL MRR, as I put it on FB.

I stayed at the MRR house in SF the first weekend of 1986, which coincided with the opening or Gilman Street. We were invited to stay by a friend from high school who was living there and writing for the mag at the time, Jane Guskin. We ran into her on the street (on Haight, I believe) while she was out flyering for the opening shows. We missed the very first night, I know, but attended a show that weekend that included Caroliner.

The basement of the house had all the covers of the zine to that time hung up high around the big finished space above a kaleidoscope of posters and flyers from all over the world. I can't recall who the other roommates were but seem to recall the guy that took over from Tim was there, possibly Mykel Board (but I may be mistaken), and Tim.

Tim was understandably distracted by the demands of opening Gilman street and we did not really have a conversation beyond a handshake. Jello dropped by at some point, as you might imagine talking a blue streak. I drew a new header for our state's scene report column, and maybe a couple more for other locales.

I haven't read MRR for years, and I guess I was already moving away from it more toward RE Search (improbably, we met those guys too on this trip, and they graciously invited us to the I-Beam to see Henry and Lydia on an early spoken word tour). But MRR, especially with the release of Not So Quiet on the Western Front, absolutely catalyzed a national subcultural moment. I'm sorry they're dropping print; it only makes sense that they'd go digital only. Thanks for everything.
posted by mwhybark at 1:14 PM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

From 1989-1993 the issues of Flipside and MRR that I bought at the Tower Records in Nashville TN were journals detailing the life I wanted to live. They were the reason I moved to the west coast to go to college. They were the reason I started a band for the first time. They were the reason I got into any kind of radical politics.

I got my HS girlfriend into punk during these years and fast forward ten years later and I picked up an MRR and noticed she'd become a columnist! Pretty awesome all around.

MRR was important to me.
posted by josher71 at 1:36 PM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

Oh! And Book Your Own Fucking Life was absolutely key to booking the tours I used to book in 1995 and 1996.
posted by josher71 at 1:37 PM on January 15, 2019 [7 favorites]

(It always had a certain...professionalism?...that stretched the definition of the word "zine". Like, there's a UPC on the cover, you know? Not hating; just saying – if MRR was a zine, then it was a different species of zine.)

Haha I work for a distributor that carries MRR, for what it's worth they screwed up their UPC no fewer than 4 times this year, the most recent is just completely unscannable. The July and August issue both were dated July. It's a great mag and we're sad to lose them but man I did not think of them as professional.
posted by drinkyclown at 2:56 PM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

Holy Crap mwhybark! In one amazing weekend you met Tim Yahannon, Jello Biafra, attended the opening of Gilman St, met V Vale, and saw Henry Rollins and Lydia Lunch at the I-Beam?

Sigh. SF was a magical place once and I forgot that shit like that was totally possible all in one weekend. No one believes me that I watched Primus playing in the kitchen of my house while on acid back then. I know that definitely happened, meeting R U Sirius that night I’m less sure about.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 7:29 PM on January 15, 2019 [6 favorites]

Point of clarification: we did not go to the I-Beam as I was underage. V. was disappointed as he felt Lydia would be delighted to meet me, something that I only understood the subtext of years later. We were walking downhill from Coit Tower and as we stumbled down the hill a sidewalk frontage displayed the RE Search logo. I just barged in and interrogated the folks inside and yep. They were bemused and welcoming.

I don't think there's a good way to transpose it to another era or place but something something Rolling Stone something something NME. No one was anything but welcoming and inclusive.
posted by mwhybark at 9:46 PM on January 15, 2019 [4 favorites]

MTX is currently touring, fwiw.
posted by mwhybark at 10:33 PM on January 15, 2019

I catch em every time.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 10:35 PM on January 15, 2019

I was never really into MRR but I have a lot of friends who were in the 80s and 90s (like y'all in this thread) and many who are (were?) shitworkers. I think MRR is still doing some great things, and I really hope their next iteration sucks around, but it's also telling (of Metafilter or punk?) that so much of the commentary has been, "MRR was so important to me when I was young." So many punks get old and unpunk I guess, but I also know a lot of people who never left the scene.

(And Larry Livermore and Lookout totally signed not really punk bands that was in itself kind of punk. It's why I liked the label. NB: I own 17 copies of Brent's TV's Lumberjack Days. )
posted by kendrak at 3:39 AM on January 16, 2019

I think the real, underlying reason I aged out of punk scene stuff is that I'm not actually punk. (See, they knew all along!) And that's for better and for worse - got tired of scene stuff/fucked up stuff; am a boring person who likes clean and predictable environments; really only liked some punk bands and a lot of other stuff, so was not as strongly motivated by the music. Also I just don't like shows that much because I'm really introverted. I'm glad I had that experience, but even when I was younger it was stressful.

Now, these weren't my reasons, but:

There's a lot of structural ageism - lack of support for parents, assumptions that older people (unless you already know them) are dumb and boring, lack of support for health stuff which tends to hit as people age.

And because it's really youth-oriented...well, happy is he who in his youth is young. There's all kinds of things that folks are working out for themselves when they're between their teens and about thirty that I have worked out, and those folks aren't in a headspace to be dealing with the whole aging/aging of parents/ health issues/friends' aging thing that you start working on. And there are a lot of literary and political conversations that are fucking revelatory when you're eighteen that you've had about twenty times when you're thirty. You need age peers and they can be thin on the ground.

I think you need to be in a pretty big scene for there to be a lot of space for older punks who are still actively going to shows and so on. I know a lot of older punks/sorta-ex-punks who are around but not really in the scene. Or else you need to be the type of person who enjoys being scene parent/wise elder/doyen/etc. (Or else...you're super creepy!)

It's a trade-off. I do activist stuff and miss the part of the punk scene that meant you were plugged in to all the banner drops and demos and stuff that I just don't hear about. I miss not being the de facto Most Radical One In The Room - I feel like my politics are seldom challenged from the left in real-life spaces and that makes me feel like I'm not growing. I just don't think there was ever tons of space for me, for a variety of reasons, and then there really wasn't any.

Larry Livermore's fanzine was always a good read, nicely typeset with tons of longer pieces. I miss that about both fanzines and online post-fanzine stuff - too many hot takes, not enough personal accounts of dealing with police in the East Bay.
posted by Frowner at 5:17 AM on January 16, 2019 [9 favorites]

Incredible magazine. I remember writing some stupid, stupid things to their letters section and my "band" - John Exxon and the Bodybags - getting a brief mention.
posted by PHINC at 5:58 AM on January 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I own 17 copies of Brent's TV's Lumberjack Days

I am a big fan of anything Quitty related.
posted by josher71 at 8:54 AM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

For me, it’s not about unpunking. At the time you’d see a few aging dudes with their 7 Seconds painted on their leather and their torn jeans and they were ultimately dudes living in a squat in need of a shower and maybe holding down a job in a record store and it was easy for me even as a 16 year old to know that’s kind of a wasted life when you started out with so much energy, so much wanting to absorb the whole universe with eyes and mind wide open, with so much Important Shit that needed to get done. I mean, god bless the bands that are still riding around in vans and have something to say to the kids at the shows, but a scene that sucks you in from which you never leave is pretty much the most anti-punk thing I can think of.

For me, it was all about being young, and figuring things out, developing a system of values and how to deal with other people and then taking that with you out into the world to shake things up and create your own scene. So here I am 30 years later, still playing in the occasional band but more importantly I’ve built a life and involved lots of other people in it that is informed by a strong, independent ethos and carefully considered decisions with a big picture in mind. Yeah, I’ve got a house and a big ass TV but it’s not the house and the big ass TV that make you unpunk, it’s the living your life with the sole intention of getting the house and the big ass TV that makes you unpunk. It’s punk to realize I’d be just about as happy without those things as long as I still have my priorities straight. It’s punk as fuck to sit in a board room in a tie and call out the bullshit to a bunch of stuffed shirts who were playing lacrosse while I was sleeping in a van going to the next show.

I hadn’t even seen a MRR in ages but was kind of delighted to find it carried on in print as long as it did. The kids these days are probably doing shit that I can’t even imagine and they don’t need me mucking around their scene.
posted by Slarty Bartfast at 9:21 AM on January 16, 2019 [3 favorites]

MMR was totally the Internet before the Internet for me. The articles and interviews were ok, but the classifieds and ads were more important. Stuck in a very boring small town in high school, I ordered 7” records for the bands I wanted to learn more about (they usually came with a sticker or a personal note!) & I ordered a lot of personal zines by other girls or other cool teenagers. Then in college I started a punk jewelry business and advertised every month. People sent me cash to my PO Box, and sometimes letters. I had a bunch of random pen pal friends from that.

And I love mwhybark’s story. I probably had some good minor celeb encounters, but mostly that sense of just showing up at a punk house to hear a band and hanging out and meeting them and then maybe they slept at your house because you had room, then you all went to brunch, and maybe did a road trip to Olympia or something. It was really fun to be part of that most of the time. I sold a lot of my 7” collection and some of them were really rare and valuable! Like the one from Good Charlotte or something that I only bought because it was a split with my friends band.
posted by rainydayfilms at 3:49 PM on January 16, 2019 [5 favorites]

Which band did a split with Good Charlotte? Also: hi! Superbowl time always reminds me of you.
posted by josher71 at 6:28 PM on January 16, 2019 [2 favorites]

I sold a lot of my 7” collection and some of them were really rare and valuable!

One of my to-do items this year is to go through my box of 7"s (many indeed ordered out of MRR) and see which might have value. I don't even own a record player anymore; they should go on to someone who will enjoy them.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:21 PM on January 16, 2019 [1 favorite]

Tom Guido (former manager of the Purple Onion during its Budget Rock prime) being murdered and MRR announcing the shutdown of its print edition within a week of each other. Throw in Lorna Doom's death and, yeah, 2019 already sucks.
posted by gtrwolf at 8:30 PM on January 16, 2019

It makes sense to ditch the print issues. My store sells MRR, but almost nobody buys it. I think I’ve sold two copies in the last two months. I’d rather have a good website to visit than a print zine no one buys.
posted by shapes that haunt the dusk at 12:59 AM on January 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

In even bigger news, the Forward stopped print production this week too... I hate, hate, hate unexamined nostalgia and arbitrary resistance to change but the slow loss of punk culture is hard to swallow and the loss of print media generally is some fucked up shit.
posted by latkes at 6:38 AM on January 17, 2019

(especially in a climate of increasing surveillance and ever tightening corporate control of online media)
posted by latkes at 6:39 AM on January 17, 2019 [1 favorite]

Hi Josher! This post reminded me of you too. I actually can’t remember either band on the 7” - one of them was previously obscure and then became Good Charlotte level popular, the other was a band we knew that lived in the Bay Area. I hung out with them a few times there, but I don’t think you were on that trip. It’s kind of crazy how few details stay with you 20 years (!!) later. I was just thinking about how close I came to moving to San Francisco/ Bay Area after college and how different my life would be if I had done that. It’s sad how much it has changed, I used to really love it there.
posted by rainydayfilms at 7:58 AM on January 20, 2019

I remembered- Screw 32 and AFI. This is Berkeley, not West Bay. I had a handful from Screw 32, and it must have been the first pressing and therefore rare. I think AFI fans were after them, I sold it in 2006 at the peak of AFI’s popularity and I recall someone paid $50-75 or something insane.
posted by rainydayfilms at 8:33 AM on January 20, 2019

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