Columns

Fin de Siècle Angst

Like many people I was shocked to read that MRR was ceasing publication. As a columnist I am not involved in any of the decision-making nor was I even aware that such measures where necessary or being contemplated. I am sad to see this happen and I feel like some effort probably could have been made to preserve MRR as a publication, my thought being that it is easier to see it through some hard times then to restart it in the future in the event that DIY hardcore punk makes a comeback. However, the choices were not mine to make and I didn’t have any of the information. 

When I started this column much of the issues I addressed where my dismay at the shape of the scene in the mid-’90s and how far it had come from its early ’80s ideals and values. But now I am back to where I started, feeling like a stranger in a strange land looking around me at the form the scene has assumed in the age of the internet. My first draft of this column was filled with bitterness and dismay at the end of MRR as a print zine. After talking to my wife and thinking about it more I realize that is the wrong approach. Instead, this column is going to be about gratitude, positivity, and inspiration. I have been a regular columnist in this magazine since Tim invited me back in the mid-’90s. It is hard to believe that back then MRR had a months long backlog for ad space due to the high demand for ads. Indeed, people’s frustration with MRR having some kind of monopoly on opinion spawned several other zines such as Hit List and Punk Planet which were supposed to offer some sort of alternative point of view but did not last nearly as long. Those days are long gone now. Times change, technology changes, points of view and people change. 

I have stayed at MRR this long for several reasons. Foremost is simply my passion for punk, hardcore, and records. I am still as excited about this music today as I was when I first brought home a Government Issue 7” as a high school freshman. I have been reading MRR since about issue number seven. I used to listen to the radio show every week as a teenager in high school and try to cross reference the bands with the ads and reviews to track down records. I met many pen pals and friends through the old classified section. And in a roundabout way I met my wife through my MRR column. In the days before the internet I photocopied all of the scumpit articles and stapled them together in a notebook as a reference for rare records. In addition to my column I authored a half-dozen scene reports and interviewed several bands. MRR zine and radio played a very important part in exposing me to international hardcore punk culture and radical left-wing political ideas. People my age will understand exactly what I’m talking about, and for the younger generation that grew up with the internet just imagine not having the internet and having something like MRR are being your only access to this kind of information, it was a lifeline to many thousands of alienated bored suburban kids who did not fit in. Therefore, an important reason I have stuck around so long is a feeling of gratitude and respect that someone else put in the hard hours before me so that there would be something as cool as MRR even available as an alternative to Creem, Hit Parade, and mainstream culture. MRR was there for me, so I felt I would contribute what I could so it would be there for someone else to be exposed to as much cool and interesting stuff as I was. I still believe in the power of music and ideas to change people’s lives and I hope that my efforts in this realm have contributed some little bit to creating the kind of bottom up social change I would like to see in the world. MRR, especially with Tim at the helm took no shit and really took a stand for DIY subculture against any kind of rock music business bullshit. Said bullshit is in danger of swamping subculture today as we hand over more and more of our scene to giant tech companies. My greatest concern is that letting the zines and labels die off is putting too much control in the hands of tech companies, this would have been hotly debated in the letters and columns of the MRR of old, and perhaps it is being debated on some platform. But after this month, you won’t be reading about it here. I would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for buying and reading MRR all these years. I would like to thank all of the contributors, shitworkers, coordinators, editors and advertisers who have made it happen month after month. 

I would like to think that I am a more mature, stronger, and more positive person these days than I was when I started writing this column or, even a few years ago. As a result I would like to apologize to those I might have shit talked, offended, or pissed off, with the possible exception of Ben Weasel who I still think is a douche. I have strong opinions, but a diversity of opinions is necessary and I hope no one took anything I wrote in this column too personally or let some dumb shit I said without thinking through get under their skin. I started this column over 20 years ago from a place of anger and negativity. These days there is as much, or more to be outraged about as there was back in the ’80s and ’90s, but I feel more than ever the need to channel that energy into positive change. Creating a DIY subculture was a feat for the generation that got the scene off the ground in late ’70s and early ’80s, let’s not fuck it up just because technology and market forces eliminated our “punk bible.” As for me, my flame still burns, I’m not on social media, but you can find me lingering in the back at the hardcore show or behind the counter at the record store, or carrying a box of LP mailers to the post office. No one really needs old white guys like me telling them about how great it was back in 1984, so I am happy to recede into the background and let younger people try to outdo my generation with whatever it is that comes next.