This originally ran in MRR #291/Aug ’07. The 25th Anniversary Issue which you can order here
All photos courtesy of Martin Sprouse.
OK, Martin, why don’t you start off by talking a little about yourself—tell me who you are and how you first got into punk.
My very first exposure to punk was in 1977. My next-door neighbor was an art student, and he became punk overnight—like crazy Sid Vicious punk—overnight. I had just seen something about punk on the news, and all of a sudden one day he shows up—he’s got a punk rock girlfriend, a Sid Vicious look head-to-toe, messy hair and spiked jacket and harnesses and boots—the whole Vivenne Westwood type of thing. They looked amazing, like the most outrageous thing in the world. He played some music for me; I didn’t understand it at all. I was just a skater kid, and I was just thinking, “That is the most fucked up thing I’ve ever seen.” But it was also cool, because he was the nicest guy in the world. This had to be ’77. So that was my first exposure, and I had a positive impression of it, but I didn’t understand it at all. It was just too crazy. And I was probably just a little too young to get into it, you know? Later on, when hardcore came out in the early ’80s, it all made sense. It was kind of connected through skateboarding. Punk and hardcore kind of fused for me, being young and in Southern California where everything was happening. It was like, “This is it!”
Where did you grow up?
You got into hardcore when hardcore pretty much started, so what was your first show? What was that experience like?
It was a local San Diego show, just San Diego punk bands.
Do you remember who played?
No. I remember seeing Black Flag early on, and that was life-changing. It was crazy. Southern California was really violent at the time, but we were young, so it all kind of made sense, but at the same time it was really sketched-out, you know? So it had this crazy energy, really exciting, really underground, really small, really young, youthful, violent. Rebellious in all the right ways. You know, when you get older, you over-think everything, everything’s theory and process. This was full-on energy, Southern California hardcore punk rock. It was scary too, but in a good way. It just defined you immediately. Everyone that you were friends with didn’t like you anymore, you know, because you were a “punk rock faggot.” I think that was my name for most of the rest of high school.
When did you start Leading Edge zine—how did that come about?
A couple of us who grew up together, we all got into punk and hardcore about the same time. It just sort of happened; it was very spontaneous. We weren’t really the fucked-up kinda kids, we were all skater kids. We didn’t really become the stereotypical early-’80s punk rock asshole guys. We immediately became friends with people that put on the shows, we started reading the little underground xeroxed fanzines, we became friends with the bands. It became a natural extension for us to do something. We’d go to LA and get these fanzines from all over the place and that’s how you’d learn about everything. So immediately, it was like, “We should do it,” once we started going to LA. We started Leading Edge in like ’82 or ’83. It was a while after we’d seen some shows. The first issue must have come out the summer of ’83.
Why did you do it?
Just to do our own thing. It was obvious to us…’cause San Diego had the military there, so a lot of punk guys were in the military, it had the violence, a lot of drugs, a lot of fuck-ups, y’know? It just had a bad reputation. There were a lot of fights in LA, but there were twice as many fights in San Diego. It just sucked. Out natural extinct was not to be a part of that. We didn’t want to be the stereotypical SD “Self-Destruct,” “Slow Death,” fight-starting, maybe shaved-head, junkie thug, beating everybody up. None of that had anything to do with us—but we liked the energy of the hardcore scene. There were also a lot of young hardcore bands that weren’t part of that; younger bands that weren’t doing stupid shit, but still playing really fucking great hardcore. They kind of identified with us and vice versa, and we started a fanzine that would represent that, while at the same time respect all the other stuff that was going on. I wasn’t just focused on skate punk or straight edge punk or positive punk, we were covering bands from all over.