Since the early ’90s Erick Lyle (formerly know as Iggy Scam) has published Scam zine and played in tons of great bands, including Chickenhead, Allergic To Bullshit, The Horrible Odds, Onion Flavored Rings, and Black Rainbow. In recent years he has parlayed Scam and his many other DIY zine projects into a bona fide writing career of sorts, with one book under his belt (On the Lower Frequencies on Soft Skull Press), another in the works, a number of articles in the San Francisco Bay Guardian, and just this month a bound, full-sized reprint of the first four issues Scam!
MRR’s Arwen Curry spoke to Erick Lyle for last year’s print media-themed issue of Maximumrocknroll magazine. Black Rainbow photo by Greg Harvester.
Do you remember the first time you saw something that was like a zine or a pamphlet, a noncommercial, underground piece of writing? What did it look like to you at the time?
I thought from a pretty young age that I would become a writer. I enjoyed writing in school even really early on. Like when I was seven or eight, I was always writing stories, but there was a period in my early teens when I was running away from home a lot, having a lot of trouble with parents, and randomly living on the streets here and there. I started to fail out of school, which hadn’t been a problem before, and I started to think that I’d fucked up my life in some way where I wasn’t going to be able to become a writer anymore—because I wasn’t going to finish school, and, that I would need to go to college to “become a writer.” But then somehow I happened upon a Hunter S. Thompson book that I cheerfully shoplifted from the mall, and I was reading this lunatic tale of crime and drugs and stuff, and realized, “Oh, OK, I actually already am a writer. This is awesome.”
That was before I was a punk rocker. It wasn’t until a couple of years later that I was into punk rock and seeing zines. There weren’t a lot of zines coming out of South Florida, but finding a Maximum Rocknroll actually was a pretty big deal, and we found it in a chain store, so that’s something to consider—that sometimes in a small town you gotta find the punk rock in a chain store. This was probably 1988, and me and my best friend Buddha thought that we were among the last remaining punks on earth because there were no other punks in South Florida, and all the bands that we liked, like Black Flag, the Descendents, Hüsker Dü, the Minutemen, they had just broken up right before we got into punk.
We had seen the Circle Jerks, and 7 Seconds, but somehow something was missing, so when we found this Maximum Rocknroll, we were like, “Holy shit, this magazine is full of demo tapes; there’s a whole world out there,” so that was a pretty big deal. But the first zine I saw that really influenced me was a couple years later, probably in 1990, when I left my parents’ house for good and ended up at the Ft. Lauderdale Punk House. My roommate Chuck Loose was making a zine called Get Loose, and it was all about scamming, dumpster diving, bumming around town, graffiti, and stuff, and I was like, “Hmm, OK, this is cool. I can do this.”
When you were a kid did you have books in the house? Did your parents encourage reading, or was it something that came to you more in school?
My parents did encourage reading. They read to me out of the encyclopedia every night before I went to bed. They read to me about the presidents, I remember, pre-kindergarten. I don’t know what was up with that, but I do remember getting to school and in first grade and we all had to read in front of the class. I knew so much more about reading than everybody else in the class that I was completely embarrassed, and I pretended not to know how to read as well for a while because I could tell early on that if you knew things, you were gonna be ostracized, and I probably even knew what that word meant then, so it was a bad scene. At the end of the year I won some “Most Improved Reader” award because I’d been lying the whole time.
But when I saw Get Loose, I was like, “Oh, we can just publish right now! Ourselves!” That didn’t seem like something possible with Maximum Rocknroll—that was some magazine that took place in California that we got in a chain store. Up until that point I was still writing pretty avidly about my experiences, but didn’t know hot to get stuff out. I did have this weird gig at a college newspaper. When I first got kicked out of my folks’ house for good and I was living on the beach in my hometown, all the kids on the Florida Atlantic University newspaper had quit because of some disagreement with the administration and then, off-campus, they had started an independent version of the school paper that they were publishing. They were hiring people who weren’t students. I went in there and got a gig as the music columnist and political columnist, even though I hadn’t even graduated from high school and I was seventeen, homeless, and living on the sand. I got paid some crazy amount, like eight dollars a story, but it was money, and that was encouragement.
I wrote three columns about the Gulf, and when I went to write the fourth one, the editor was like, “Hey, man, you can’t really write about the war again this week, it’s a real bummer,” and I lost my column. I had thought that I was about to be part of the mass student uprising that would rival the Vietnam era, but I could see that it was sadly a different generation that I’d been born into.
When you first decided to do an issue of your own zine, how did you go about it? How did you pay for it?
Buddha and I decided that we would start a zine. We wanted to book shows, do a band, do a label, do a zine…is there some other DIY things you can possibly do? Write a scene report? Make flyers?
We started working on the zine really avidly to document the life of petty crime that we were living there in Ft. Lauderdale, like dumpstering and pasting up anti-Gulf War flyers around town, stealing stuff, just whatever, having fun. Then Buddha kind of dropped out of it. He had wanted to call it Reagan or Scam, and Scam seemed really appropriate, since that’s what we were doing, and it kind of defined the theme a little more too. I ended up just spending a lot of time sitting and working on it. It was real fun just cutting and pasting and stuff, and Chuck stole all his photocopies from Office Depot, which was then kind of a new thing, so that’s what we started doing. The dishonor system. My mom worked for Office Depot for seventeen years and they totally fucked her over. She was completely shit on every second of her life there, so it felt nice to steal from Office Depot. Still does. Read the rest of this entry »