Europe: A Beginner’s Guide
I first encountered the Maximum Rocknroll magazine in my teenage years, where copy after copy of new issues and back issues were stacked in the now long gone Repoman Records. I visited regularly after school, scrolling through the records and carefully picking something worth the modest paycheck from my job at the local supermarket. I remember wanting so badly to expand my punk knowledge and fit in with the, in my eyes then, way cooler crowd and their obscure band t-shirts and talk of bands and gigs of the past. Flipping through the MRR issues, I realized that I hardly knew any of the band names printed on the covers and picked out a few back issues that featured the big local bands of the mid-2000 K-town scene. I remember feeling embarrassed to be pretentious enough to read a zine where I hardly knew the bands interviewed and had hardly heard of the supposedly legendary US cities that some of those bands originated from. So, I kept to reading the locally based zines that were floating around in the city as the punk scene grew in post-Ungdomshuset eviction days in Denmark.
Flash forward to 2016, and I’m in the backseat of a way-too-air-conditioned car in Malaysian Borneo, somewhere in the countryside hours from our origin of the town of Kota Kinabalu. Hafiez is in the driver’s seat playing tracks from this year’s hottest US bands. While ping-pong’ing band names that we’ve read about in MRR with the rest of the Kota Kinabalu gang and me and Alex, two slightly sunburnt Scandinavians. You can’t deny that even in the internet era, MRR has had a huge international impact and created an international connection.
It’s part fascinating and part scary that a magazine based in one part of the world has such an impact on the international punk scene, in terms of what’s chosen to be printed or not, who checks off enough of the right marks to be featured on the cover, and the sometimes questionable reviews printed in the magazine. Yes, there are a few handfuls of international contributors such as myself, but the main editorial choices are made by those, no doubt dedicated and hardworking, contributors based in the geographical area around the MRR house.
A DIY media such as MRR is dependent on the labor of the volunteer workers and contributors as well as the support, material and spiritual, from its readers and listeners. There’s no doubt that MRR has received a lot of critique lately, about the editorial choices and of course about the decision to end the printed monthly magazine. And just the recent editorial and ideologist choices are the elephant in the room, which I will now address. In fact, there is no doubt that those choices have made it harder for a good portion of the readers to relate to the content of the magazine. I love the magazine and still at least scroll through the pages of the content that I find irrelevant or dull to me, but I have to agree with the criticism that’s being voiced. The editorial changes were imposed without much further explanation to the reader and it feels like interview questions such as “how do you feel about being an all cis male band?” have slipped into the magazine, without introducing the readers to the reasons behind it. I admire that MRR is trying to include artists and people from different backgrounds, challenging male dominance and actively displaying the diversity in punk. But, if you fail to explain what methods you use, how and why, the effort will be pointless as it’ll fly right over the heads of those readers, who like teenage me are not in a certain loop or do not have the same ideologist focus as the current US West Coast scene surrounding the MRR house.
The mainstream media is reporting that the internet is killing this and that, and millenials like me are killing yet another industry. While those claims are often doubtful, I can’t deny that I see tendencies of punx dropping printed media over the digital medias, especially the mainstream social medias. There are so many alternatives out there in cyberspace, with a convenient portal in your pocket, that makes it easy to say drop a printed magazine if you don’t agree with or understand the editorial choices.
I’m of course curious to see what MRR will bring us on the website based media. I will still insist that bringing reviews and interviews online is not the same as a physical printed magazine. A website gives you the choice to click on a certain article/section— or not. A choice that we make hundreds of times every day in the media buffet that the internet holds. With a printed magazine, you have to at least scroll through those pages you’re not interesting in, with the possibility of a photo, a phrase or name catching your attention and drawing you to read the article anyway. And the myth is that physical things disappear while anything on the internet lives in the cloud forever is false. I bet most of you keep old zines in your house, as punx truly are a nostalgic bunch with hoarding behavioral patterns, and pick some of them to read from time to time. While not a single person has scrolled through a website to re-read a collection of articles published a decade ago on a slow Saturday afternoon.
In a digital age where every punk (no overstatement) has access to a world of media in their pocket, it’s tough and critical for a printed magazine to lose support from readers and contributors. So, this closes the chapter of MRR as a monthly printed zine. Whether you agree with the direction the magazine has taken in the past years or not, this is a huge loss for the DIY punk scene, that’s losing a way to connect, learn, and spread knowledge. Long live the printed Maximum Rocknroll magazine.