On Zines (reviewed) and squat raids

Trips to accident and emergency aside, it’s been a fun, clammy month in London. I’m sat in my sister’s flat at the other end of the city on a cat-sitting mission. Said feline belongs to her landlady and is a totally sanctimonious princess, trotting about refusing to eat, requiring four different ‘supplements’ and cream to stop her gums smelling bad, mushed into truly foul smelling mini-tins. To add further insult, the flat is tiny and peppered with strange ‘motivational’ decals stuck to the walls at eye-height, for example ‘To forgive is to set a prisoner free and discover the prisoner was you’ Gross.

To counterbalance this, I’ve been poring over a slew of fanzines purchased from the delightful Don’t Buy Records distro (the name’s ironic dummy, Lammie sells 7” and LPs – which included the latest Ratcharge, Accept the Darkness and Spit on the Major (as well as its sub-zine Alta Intensidaz.) I will admit that in my endless procrastinating on getting the next Modern Hate Vibe out (its been no less than a year, ugh) I had eased off buying zines, because with each awesome page I felt more guilty about my inability to get shit done, albeit sometimes due to tardy responses from interviewees etc, but isn’t that always the way? Similarly, shitting out something reasonable for Maximum has been my priority, because only about four people will read MHV. Either way, I’ve been a foolish, because all these issues are bloody excellent.

Firstly, Accept the Darkness. Shiva is the Tavi Gevinson of Confuse Gai charged-haired teenage bedroom punks! Reading ATD is always fun because you can see new avenues for sonic exploration being found with each issue, and his commitment to reflexivity in regards to what he covers and how, lends a super endearing ‘see what I did there’ness that totally doesn’t need to apologise for itself quite as much! A super self aware punker whose musical knowledge at his age is a bit mindblowing, but kind of cool in that its clearly a digested and pondered exploration, not some kind of intense filesharing cum dump. But you knew this already, right?

Teo gave me a copy of Alta Intensidaz at a gig last week, and Ellie and I spent a woozy drunken train ride back to London reading our copies and quoting him incessantly. Think I’ve got a new manifesto. Teo’s writing is the coolest and most exciting. I think that his descriptions, written in English, lay bare a universal struggle with writing about music, regardless of language ability, which is how to describe something sonic, visceral, corporeal, with something as inadequate as words. I’m ashamed of the stupidly overinvolved metaphors I’ve dreamt up in the past because the words are so direct and well-chosen so that you feel like he is shouting every phrase, spitting in my eyes and maybe spilling beer on my shoes while he does it: “We are living in oppressive reality, in an awful world plenty of authority and its reflex is our noise. The noise is freedom and I never be tired of noise because noise is pure life. The society wants to make you a perfect worker with a perfect family, but the noise, the punk hates the job and family and this boring society. The society wants obedient artists and musicians but we like to shit in the society and its artists and musicians.” In both of his zines, he writes with infectious passion about Iberian, Catalonian and Euskadian raw punk from the past (mostly in Spit on the Major) and spreads the gospel of new bands in Barcelona and surrounds moreso in Alta Intensidaz. In addition to this, the comics are the funniest and most on point I’ve read, and his handwriting reminds me of Aaron Cometbus (rest assured that’s where it ends though.)

I had been familiar with Ratcharge for a while but I think this is the best issue I’ve come across. I was so happy to see Alex is writing for MRR now! Writing that’s world-weary without being jaded, obsessive without being dry. Brilliant use of pull quotes and the content reprinted from MRR on both French singing punk bands and Vaneigem/sketchybros vs. realism were all the more awesome read back to back and in the context of his own zine. Alex is also not afraid to ask questions that don’t implicitly compliment or pander to the interviewee thus making for something staid and overly comfortable, which is something I sometimes struggle with and am working on (expect some downright rude questions in MHV!) A good incident of this is the in the extensive Counterfeit Garbage interview where Alex asks the editors why their zine is ‘such a dudefest [with] pretty much 100% of the bands covered are 100% band?’ I am always interested in these kinds of exchanges in a male context because generally people rarely have cause to question the gender makeup of bands when everyone looks and acts like you do. The first response given to this question is obviously more defensive than the other, which gives the resulting immediate impression that the former has a way bigger chip on their shoulder about this than the latter. May well not be the case, but funny anyway.

There’s some weak ‘inclusion, feminism and anti-homophobia is blown out of my head at the breakdown of ‘World Peace’ and the bass line of ‘Nothing’ retort, which I love because I’ve heard variations on that one thousand times before. In reality, World Peace induces the same brick-throwing sentiment in me and damned near every other Cro Mags fan, lack of possession of a dick to swing about during the breakdown notwithstanding. The next line is ‘All that’s left is blood boiling rage and violence.’ If any dude thinks plenty of women into hardcore aren’t driven to the same rage by the same riffs, they’re dreaming, but I speak only for myself and those I know when I wager the violence in OUR minds comes from the alienation and frustations of lived reality in a rape culture, except the freedom that you feel to mosh, permission to ‘lose it’ implicitly granted by a room full of yous, isn’t always shared by the smattering of women who, quite often, the moment they do express themselves in that context, are suppressed by the weight of expectation to behave a certain way and lampooned for it. Bummer, right? Not always, of course, but often, and often by other women, ugh. Explaining this to someone without direct experience of it is nearly impossible, but the choice to ignore this stuff just strikes me as lazy. Of course this is a massive extrapolation from the original context and I’m sure the editors of CG are neither lazy nor consciously sexist, but the mark of a brilliant fanzine is one that can take you on that mental journey, so well done again Alex Ratcharge. It also touches on something that has been bugging me since time immemorial – WHERE ARE ALL THE FEMALE FANZINE WRITERS? Music fanzines, I mean. I will be addressing that loaded question in full in MHV, but goddamnit if you want to prove me wrong/be the exception to this sad rule, or even tear down my argument altogether with a barrage of awesome printed material, then send your zines to me!

Postscript: Last night, my ‘local’ social centre, Ratstar, a large high street squat, in which several Big Takeovers took place last summer, was raided in a ridiculous pre-Royal Wedding show of force that synchronised with police attacks on other above-ground radical spaces, on the pretext that the lunatic spectacle of gilded horse-and-cart aristocracy would somehow be relevant to those engaged in active political struggle against the government. Despite searching for most of the day for the stolen goods that were supposedly hidden in the building, the only thing they could find to arrest people of (squatting is not illegal in the UK) was ‘abstraction of electricity’, apparently this warranted ten shielded police vans and at my count at least fifty members of the Territorial Support Group. Whose territory is your high street?   

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